Ayodhya issue: Sri Sri has a tremendous track record of conflict negotiation

By: Vijay Dwivedi
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The past few weeks have seen the building up of a momentum for an out-of-court settlement for the 500-year-old Ram Mandir - Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya.

Art of Living's Sri Sri Ravishankar

Ayodhya in Sanskrit means a place where no war has happened. But if one looks closely at the last three decades of Indian politics, one would reckon that Ayodhya has become a battleground of India's most tricky political battles. Many elections have been fought wherein a grand temple in Ayodhya has been in contention. In a sense, the power battle has shifted to those who are for building a temple, and those who are against it.

In the center of the current round of negotiations is Sri Sri Ravishankar. Sri Sri has moved with alacrity in the past two months and has met many of the stakeholders and litigants. Since the temple
the movement has been such a central theme in virtually all general elections over the last 30 years, it is no wonder that the mediation move has met with mixed reactions by political parties and vested
interest groups.

One needs to understand what is causing this immense rundown even before the various round of conversations have begun towards the resolution of Ayodhya dispute.

The stakes in the current round are high. If there is a mutual resolution, it may wrest away the raison d'être of many far-right Hindu and Muslim bodies. Let us assume for a moment that Sri
Sri's efforts have no steam in them, then why are these right-wing bodies vehemently opposing them? Is it the fear that if there is a resolution, there would not be any more avenues to polarize the
country on religious lines? These groups continue to be seen stuck in a specific era by younger members of their respective communities, and that's where Sri Sri and his Art of Living find maximum support.

Detractors, in the meantime, are trying to play down Sri Sri's tremendous track record of conflict negotiation and resolution across the globe. Be it the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan, or working through the Bodo crisis in Assam or bringing peace to North Eastern states like Manipur, Arunachal, and Assam or getting militants from Kashmir Valley to surrender and join the mainstream. Above maybe just a few instances which the author is aware of.

Far from home, we have the example of the Colombian government's peace treaty with FARC (the rebel guerrillas who waged an internal war in Colombia that took 2 million lives and left 7 million homeless) in which Sri Sri played a significant role. The FARC resolution was no mean feat and had a far-reaching impact. Just a few months into the peace process initiated by Sri Sri, FARC has decided to lay down arms and join mainstream politics and is now looking forward to supporting
democracy after a five-decade armed revolution in Colombia.

In all the above instances, the warring groups came together in negotiation knowing fully well Sri Sri's reputation as an impartial negotiator, and that the agreement reached would serve both
sides. In the current round of Ayodhya negotiations, the litigants are relying on the same fairness and impartiality which Sri Sri brings to the table.

Earlier this year CJI Khehar, while hearing Ram temple dispute at Supreme court suggested an amicable out-of-court solution to the conflict based on negotiations. While the naysayers continue to hope that there is no resolution to the vexed issue, the Apex court's wisdom on this matter needs to be viewed with more seriousness.

The Apex court understands that the issue has created fissures in society and any judgment passed by any number of judges would not settle the discord at the emotional level in the two communities. And a decision which does not heal the wounds of any community is a seed for further unrest and conflict between communities. Sri Sri has said that we should stop looking at this problem in the time frame of a few years. If there is a court-mandated solution, first of all, it will create profound emotional grief to one of the communities, particularly at the grassroots level. Secondly, it will keep the option of future legal and legislative review open, if not now, in few decades from today.

The Supreme Court will soon start daily hearings of Ayodhya issue from December 2017. The whole hearing and the ruling process may take us up to 2019. The year of the election. Unfortunately, a court ruled decision would once again turn Ram temple into an election issue.

In the 21st century India, we must look at having development as an agenda for election rather than polarizing ones. In this context, Sri Sri's mediation is at the right time and place.

As for the silent majority, it is time for us to be vocal and lend a supporting hand to the voices of peace and reason. 2018 may be a new dawn for us if we can leave behind the Ayodhya temple issue with an amicable resolution.

(Vijay Dwivedi is an engineer by profession and writer by passion.He currently lives in Singapore and continues to keep a keen eye on Indian and regional political and foreign affairs.)

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