BANGALORE: He has trod two divergent paths: after years of crime and violence in the Assam hinterland, Rakesh Singh (name changed) chose peace.
He travelled with 240 others -- all belonging to different militant outfits of Assam -- to Bangalore to change everything about himself.
"I felt so useless. There was fear, tension and stress all around me. My family had almost disowned me for taking to the path of militancy,'' Rakesh told TOI on Thursday, after completing one exercise of Sudarshan Kriya at the AoL campus in Kanakapura, 40km from Bangalore.
Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore has been chosen as a place for rehabilitation, where these 240 former members of militant outfits are undergoing a month-long training programme. Realization has taken them back to the mainstream. "All of them have been enrolled for AoL course-1, which includes meditation, pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and yogasanas. The approach is to give holistic training to prepare them to become willing partners in the process of sustainable and peaceful social development,'' said Sanjay Kumar, course coordinator.
According to him, some of the militants surrendered while some were nabbed by paramilitary forces. "They are also being trained in some economic activities so they don't take to the war path when they go back from here. Our objective is to teach them the bigger meaning of life and conflict resolution,'' Kumar said.
The training is part of the government's initiative to give them skills and soft skills. Learning from past experience about the process of rehabilitation and integration, the government has opted for a holistic approach by involving the Art of Living.
The ex-militants are up at 5am every day and taught advanced meditation, first thing in the morning. Their diet is strictly vegetarian. "They are from different backgrounds and have seen the worst. Initially, when they came here, they had a lot of anger, doubt and fear. There was conflict in their minds. But all that has changed. I see a lot of difference in each one of them," says the AoL teacher.
And when they pack up on August 4 after their 35-day programme to leave for Assam, all of them will be changed individuals.
My fight was for the people. So maybe I have no regrets. But I realized that violence is not the path. I am now determined to build a strong harmonious community. I want to go back and resolve conflicts in my region, now that I am at peace with myself.
Sukhinder Sharma (name changed)
It's a new life for me. I find a lot of enthusiasm and determination to lead a new life. I had a lot of physical and mental strain but just after two days of pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and Ram Dhyan, I can sit on the ground, and sleep soundly at night. I have a new zest to live life.
Shivaram S (name changed)
Coming here, I felt a lot of belongingness and respect for others. It is because I was given the same respect and welcomed with belongingness. I now recognize the struggle I was going through mentally. It seems I have found a tool to solve my problems. I can now see a way ahead. I have some land back home. I would like to take up organic farming.