By Ravi Valluri
The intractability of the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid has lingered for close to seven decades now.
While hearing on the dispute commenced towards late February, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, enquired from the litigants whether mediation could be a sound mechanism for the final resolution of the dispute, acting a springboard for permanent peace between the respondents. The principal appellants in the case are the Sunni Waqf Board, the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha and the Nirmohi Akhara.
A five-judge bench proposed the idea of appointing mediators who would strategise a mechanism to resolve the discord upon an extensive discussion with the representatives of the claimants.
Thus on 8 March, the five-judge bench headed by the CJI, in their perspicuity decided the Ayodhya land dispute to be a singular case for mediation stating, “the case was not about property, but about the mind, heart and healing-if possible.”
Consequently, the Supreme Court (SC) appointed a three-member body of mediators which would be headed by a former SC Judge Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla. Eminent Spiritual Mentor His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and acclaimed advocate and mediator Sriram Panchu are the other two members.
The Honourable Supreme Court of India has asked the mediators to initiate the process of mediation (slated to begin on March 13) and necessarily complete it within eight weeks.
Guruji among the pack of legal luminaries
H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who has cognated the unique rhythmic breathing technique called “Sudarshan Kriya” (proper vision process) is the founder of the Art of Living which has a following in 155 countries across the globe. He established the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) in the year 1997. The centre piece of this organisation is resolution of conflicts and trauma relief in a peaceful manner. This aspect would have certainly swung the pendulum in the favour of Guruji to be part of the negotiation team.
The IAHV has strikingly carried out trauma relief operations in the war ravaged country of Iraq. Volunteers imparted stress relief techniques without caring for their own safety to child victims of war who, were succumbing with chronic pestilences and injuries in sparring Afghanistan. The volunteers of this NGO under the inspirational leadership of Gurudev marshalled relief supplies and healing workshops for trauma relief in Kosovo. Several conflict resolution programmes were organised by a dedicated band of AOL teachers in Cote d’Ivoire (West Africa). Gurudev has interacted with ultras and separatists of Jammu and Kashmir and the North-Eastern states to eschew violence, give-up arms and return to mainstream (where even angels would fear to dread).
Relief operations were carried out by AOL volunteers after the devastation wrecked by an earthquake in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).This ‘salvation’ army swung into action to alleviate the misery to provide care and relief after the earthquake in Sichuan, China.
In order to terminate caste-based discrimination, Gurudev convened the Truth and Reconciliation Conference in New Delhi. The body convened the Peace and Reconciliation Conference at Oslo, Norway to assuage conflict in South Asia.
Thus Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has always stood for truth, honesty and peaceful resolution as in the architecture and geometry of his mind there is no place for terms like violence, conflict or terror. He has no personal agenda except for the establishment of peace and harmony. With this pedigree, there can be none better than H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, (who only spreads waves of Happiness to assuage frayed nerves) to resolve this Gordian knot of the land dispute.
Story Behind the History
At the heart of the dispute is the land where once stood the temple of Ram Lalla, revered by millions of Hindus. This is referred to as Ram Janmabhoomi.
The place of worship of Lord Rama
As per the treatise of Garuda Purana, Ayodhya is one among seven sacred sites where one attains moksha. The Ayodhya Mahatmya, described as a “pilgrimage manual” of Ayodhya,] composed and collected from the 11th century onward has traced the growth of the Rama cult in the second millennium AD. The original recession of the text is dated to the period between 11th and 14th centuries, which mentions the janmasthana (birthplace) as a pilgrimage site. A subsequent recession has added several more places in Ayodhya and the entire fortified town, has been categorised as Ramadurg or Rama’s Fort.
The Masjid of Babur
Babur hailed from Afghanistan and founded the once impregnable Moghul dynasty. It is universally believed among historians that one of his generals, Mir Baqi, constructed the Babri Masjid (Babur's Mosque) in 1528. The belief gained currency since 1813–14, when the East India Company's surveyor Francis Buchanan reported that he found an inscription on the walls of the mosque which attested to this fact. He also recorded a local tradition, which believed that Emperor Aurangzeb, (1658–1707) built the mosque after demolishing a temple which was dedicated to Lord Rama.
Significantly, it may be mentioned that between 1528 and 1668, no text indicates the presence of a mosque at the site. The earliest historical record about the existence of the mosque comes from Jai Singh II, a Rajput noble in the Mughal court, who purchased the land of the mosque and the surrounding area in 1717.
His documents reveal the presence of a three-domed structure resembling the mosque, which is however labelled the “birthplace” (chhathi). In the courtyard there exists a platform (chabutra) to which Hindu devotees are shown circumambulating and worshipping.
These finer points were corroborated by the Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler half a century later. Tieffenthaler also explained the reason for this; stating that “that once upon a time, here was a house where Lord Vishnu was born in the form of Ram”.
Both the Hindus and Muslims have worshipped at the “mosque-temple”; Muslims inside the mosque and Hindus outside the mosque but inside the compound. Once the British usurped the State, they erected a railing between the two areas to stall any altercation. In 1949, after India's independence, an idol of Ram was placed inside the mosque, which triggered the present dispute.
The turning point in the wrangling match was the demolition of the structure on 6 December, 1992. A subsequent land title case was lodged in the Allahabad High Court. A verdict in the case was pronounced on 30 September, 2010. In the landmark adjudication, the three judges of the Allahabad High Court ruled that the 2.77 acres of Ayodhya land be divided into 3 parts, of which one-third was to be transferred to Rama Lalla, represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha for the construction of the Ram temple, another one-third of the property was to be given to the Islamic Sunni Waqf Board while the balance of one-third disputed property was to be handed over to the Hindu religious denomination Nirmohi Akhara.
However this division was totally unacceptable to all three parties.
While the three-judge bench was not unanimous in its arbitration that the disputed structure was constructed after demolition of a temple, it did however come to an important conclusion that that a temple or a temple like structure predated the mosque at the same site, based on the evidence provided by the Archaeological Survey of India. The excavations of the Archaeological Survey of India were utilised as authentication by the Honourable Court that a structure mirroring a massive Hindu religious building once upon a time existed at the site.
The entire exercise of the mediation committee is to ensure that no party feels aggrieved. There are no winners or losers, the Constitution of India remains supreme and both communities of Hindus and Muslims agree to ensure give and take and live peacefully.
“I tell you, if all countries divert even .01% of the expenditure that they incur in the field of defence towards spreading peace and harmony, the entire world can change,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.