The 250 calm faces, deeply immersed in meditation, belie the fact that everyone in this group belonged to armed militancy that has claimed thousands of lives in the North East of India. An amazing transformation is unfolding currently at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore where over 250 surrendered militants from Assam, belonging to various outfits, are undergoing a month-long rehabilitation training programme.
“It’s a new life for me. I find a lot of enthusiasm and determination to lead a new life,” these simple words coming straight from the heart of Shyamanta Handique, 45, met with instant applause and nods of approval from the group of former insurgents during an exclusive session with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji at the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore. The words echoed the sentiments of almost everyone present.
The quick and definite transformation of these men, whose major expression of life was laced with violence, into higher versions of themselves — happy, sensitive, respectful and responsible has been quite dramatic. Surely, the group hadn’t anticipated this kind of turnaround when the government sent them to Art of Living Ashram for a training. A senior intelligence officer, assigned to keep a tab on the trainees, was so touched by the change in former rebels that he has decided to join the Art of Living after retiring from paid service in two years and further this work of inner transformation.
A majority of the former rebels had been baptized into guerrilla warfare in the Kachin jungles of Myanmar and Bhutan. A couple of them received their training in China. The former militants now feel comfortable dropping the guns and explore non-violent ways of resolving the problems of life.
So what is the secret of transformation? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living explains, “Most rebels are good human beings with a lot of dedication and commitment for the country. If they could do a little bit of understanding of spirituality, they could do what others cannot.”
The commitment was palpable, when a few of them shared with Sri Sri that they have renewed commitment for the betterment of their people after training at the Ashram. To quote one of them, “Earlier we were lions. Now we are bigger lions!” Realizing that vested interests used them by putting guns on their shoulders, they vowed to continue working for the betterment of Assamese people not through bullets but through the ballot! 22- year-old Ratul Boras said that he would join politics, win the hearts of people and bring about a development in his district. Amarendra had similar plans. Sri Sri blessed them saying Art of Living would provide full support to such self less endeavors.In the past, he has commended such youth for their strong commitment, which needs to be channelised appropriately to bring about a positive change in society.
It is remarkable that in a few weeks of the training, that ends of August 4th, the youth are ready to return to the mainstream society and are clear about what they want to do. Many of them, who own land back home, want to practise organic farming and dairy farming. A few are looking forward to further training and become yoga teachers to spread the inner peace they have experienced for the first time in their own life. As part of rehab training the group was taught yoga, pranayams, Sudarshan Kriya, meditations, various life skills and vocational training in mushroom cultivation, paper products and electrical maintenance.
Former Ulfa members Maqbool Hussain and Monuj Roy have made a common promise, “We will change our society for the better.” Well they have already started walking the talk. In a heart rending gesture, the group of surrendered militants donated the proceeds from their first sale of paper products to the victims of the current riots in Assam.
“The condition of our life and that of our state Assam, would have been better off had we received this kind of training and met Guruji 30 years ago, ” the group shared. Well as they say, better late than never. Once begun is half done!
Our very best wishes to the new members of the Art of Living family to start a new life back home in Assam