Shri D. R. Kaarthikeyan, farmer-turned, lawyer-turned, senior police officer-turned, Human Rights activist-turned, promoter of Inter-faith Harmony and environmentalist—expressed his prodigious work in one phrase: Saving the planet. He held high positions in the Government of India including Director General of the National Human Rights Commission, Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force. He has visited over 150 countries participating in and addressing Conferences relating to various subjects of human welfare including fighting violence, crime and terrorism, and promoting Environment, Human Rights, Spirituality and Inter-faith Harmony. His commendable services have been recognized and honored by the Government and Non- Governmental Organizations. He was awarded by President of India with Medal for Meritorious Service and Medal for Distinguished Service, the Padmashri and has received numerous other awards both in India and abroad, such as the INTERNATIONAL CARTAGINE AWARD 2010 by International Medical Corps, and the Red Cross Garibaldina, International Peace Force-was granted at a special ceremony in Rome, Italy for distinguished service in the areas of Universal Rights, democracy, freedom, security and peace between the people. He is currently associated with several organizations promoting spirituality, value-based education, health for all, welfare of rural people and farmers, environment and clean and Renewable Energy. He has edited and published several books, articles, and a comprehensive newsletter on various subjects.
Interview by Usha Akella (2022)
"Wherever I go – in any country- I ask my hosts which is considered the most sacred place there. I go there and meditate. I find the energy is the same." -- DRK
Usha Akella: Thank you very much Sir for making the time to share your worthy work with the-pov.com. It is impossible to reference all the noteworthy work you have done in so many avenues. When we first, spoke you succinctly and movingly put your whole vision in one phrase- “saving the planet.” What do you think is the first priority of need to be addressed in India, and what are the projects you’ve been involved with in that field?
D.R. Kaarthikeyan (DRK): There are so many fields, in which I have been associated from my younger days, even apart from my official duties – which are of paramount importance to me. As I am born in a rural atmosphere and grew up in a green farm, I have always been fond of raising plants/trees wherever and whenever there was an opportunity. That way I can claim without any exaggeration that about hundred thousand trees have come up, in various parts of the country directly and indirectly due to my initiative and encouragement. Two years back an organization Vanam India Foundation devoted to greening the Planet has voluntarily planted 2,400 plans in my ancestral property in my native village. They said it is their contribution to acknowledge the services that I have rendered to society and particularly the welfare of the farming community over the decades.
They have already grown to 20 ft. I propose to plant 2,000 more trees in the
current year. The idea is to make it an example for other farmers to follow and
allocate a portion of their farm to grow more trees as only by growing more and
more trees all over the world, we can save planet earth, our only home from
self-destruction and global warming. The climate change is already causing havoc
all over the world – storms, untimely floods, droughts, faster melting of glaciers etc.
have caused enormous destruction. Even food production is going to be affected
badly within the next few decades causing starvation of massive populations in
many countries. The rising level of oceans may submerge many low lying island
nations and flood coastal cities. Hence apart from many other measures to bring
down global warming and pollution, the most important and most effective
remedial measure is stopping cutting of trees for purposes like animal agriculture
and raising quality of soil and massive plantations.
UA: Who are the people, and what were the incidents in your personal life that spurred you onto a work of public service?
DRK: I would not like to name anyone personality, who spurred me and inspired me into undertaking my numerous activities for the good of the individuals, society, the nation and our planet. After all we all – whatever may be our nationality/race/colour/religion and belief, we are all citizens of this beautiful planet called Earth. That is the only home we have. So, whatever an individual or a group of people may do, affects everyone positively or negatively. Hence my intention and effort is to create this awareness. Ultimately it all starts with the individual. Our thoughts create our reality. When individuals are good and healthy, the family is healthy, the society is good and healthy. It is only collection of such positive, healthy societies create healthy and peaceful nations. It is a collection of such peaceful prosperous nations that can create a wonderful world with health, harmony, peace and prosperity. So let us begin at the very beginning – namely the individual.
UA: What are some of the inter-faith work highlights of your life?
DRK: Having seen disharmony, hatred, and violence being perpetrated in the name of God and religion, I studied the core principles of various major faiths. Wherever I go – in any country- I ask my hosts which is considered the most sacred place there. I go there and meditate. I find the energy is the same. The basic principles are the same compassion/kindness/caring/ sharing/forgiving / forgetting/respecting each other and the environment. I had been to many places considered most sacred by various religions – twice to Mt. Kailas and Mana Sarovar considered holiest by Hinduism/Buddhism/Jainism/Sikhism etc.; thrice to Jerusalem/Bethlehem/Israel considered holiest by Christianity/Judaism/Islam; Akko/Haifa considered holiest by Bahai religion; the mosque in Lahore, Pakistan etc., I am able to respect and feel the sanctity of every such place of Energy on the planet. After all there is only one divinity – the creator. We may call by different names and practice different rituals. By all means everyone is entitled to reach/realize divinity and peace in one’s own way. Why fight?
In an interfaith dialogue in Karachi, Pakistan on Sufism, I quoted an eminent Islamic scholar – a true believer in his/her religion should accept the Divine of his concept – by whatever name is called – is all-powerful and merciful. If that is so, how can you find fault with practitioners of any other faith - as they are also created by the same one Divine. If you think you should change them or hate them, that
means you do not have absolute faith in your own creator. I added that like the beautiful bouquet that was presented to me had flowers of different colours and shapes, variety is the spice of life. A gardener plants various plants of different colours and shapes to make the garden more beautiful. So also, we should learn to respect the various other traditions, that came up in different times in different places and in pursuit of the same noble objective of peace, harmony and prosperity.
UA: You’ve addressed the International Day of Yoga in Lisbon; Yoga has become an international practice in the last 2-3 decades. Do share your insights into why Yoga has taken the world so overwhelmingly. Swami Vivekananda said India would always be a beacon of spirituality to the world, in your opinion, from an understanding of your vast work, what does India offer the world.
DRK: Yoga is of immemorial antiquity – practiced and perfected by the Rishis and Saints of several thousand years. Each of the yogasanas are actually inspired by the movements of various animals, birds, reptiles etc. By attaining perfection of health of the body, mind and spirit, they have been passed on from generation to generation. There was a wrong perception that yoga is part of the practice of Hindu religion. Even in India it was practiced only by a very few privileged sections of society. It was in the year 2002 I was invited to participate in the International Day of Yoga Celebrations at Lisbon, by the learned Portuguese yoga Teacher Jagathguru Amrita Suryananda. It was he who first declared Yoga belongs to entire humanity for their good health, of the body, mind and spirit. Thereafter many attempts were made to persuade the UN to declare 21 st June as International Day of Yoga.
I remember that in December 2011 we had even a major conference at the headquarters of Art of Living campus at Bangalore under the inspirational leadership Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar ji. Eminent Yogacharyas including Dr BKS Iyengar, Baba Ramdev participated. We all passed a resolution addressing Secretary General United Nations to declare 21 st June as International Day of Yoga. Nothing happened. But only when an ardent practitioner and devotee of yoga Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India addressed the UN General Assembly on 11 th December 2014 and appealed to all the nations in the World, the world as a whole – including Islamic countries accepted the resolution. Now we see every nation-almost every city in every country – promoting, practicing Yoga on a wider scale everyday – not only on the 21 st of June.
UA: What is the source of your energy and ability to attend to the enormous amount of work, service and travel?
DRK: I should confess that I had more than my quota of trials and tribulations – not a very smooth life-hailing from a small remote village-no claim of formal educated ancestry – very poor quality of basic panchayat school primary education, - mediocre higher educational institutions – tough competition against students of high quality education-later challenges in my official carrier – always entrusted with challenging assignments throughout my service – facing even threats to my life in service – tragedies in my family life etc. Yet if I have survived with reasonable health and without making any compromise to my basic values and attitudes – I should give credit to my wonderful parents who imbibed me with values, my dear wife Kala who was a source of strength and moderation, and the many spiritual masters who have taken great liking for me—to sum it up I credit
spirituality, yoga and meditation for my will power. Now at 83, I will not claim that I enjoy perfect health, but I do accept invitations extended with love and respect and if the cause is good, I do travel even during pandemic times.
DRK With Sadhguru