It is a known fact that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been negotiating the vexed Ram Mandir issues with various stakeholders from both Muslim and Hindu society. In the past few months, Sri Sri met with more than 500 prominent members of Muslim community.
The most recent round of these discussions on 8th February in Bengaluru saw a significant breakthrough. Widely respected cleric and theorist of Islam, Maulana Nadvi, Sunni Waqf Board chairman and members of broader civil society held deliberations with Sri Sri. The meeting took place in a secret location 1.5 hrs. away from Art of Living International center.
The Feb 8th meeting ended with the unanimous agreement by Muslim leaders to Sri Sri's formula to build the temple in Ayodhya and have a mosque at a mutually agreed place. Within a few hours, Nirmohi Akhara came forward to donate the land to build a Mosque anywhere else other than 67 acres area around Ram Janmabhoomi. All of this happening in the space of few days does make an observer feel that resolution is one step closer.
Nadwi has since resigned from AIMPLB after two days of the much-televised brawl between him and hardliners of AIMPLB. Nadwi in his talks with Sri Sri may still be representing the thoughts of his uncle Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadvi, who is currently the president of AIMPLB. Nadvis trace their lineage back to Prophet Mohammed. Late Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi also known as Ali Miyan, grandfather of Salman Husaini Nadvi and uncle of AIMPLB president is one of the founding father of AIMPLB. He was a major Islamic theorist of the 20th century. Nadvis are a force to reckon not just within the Islamic community in India but abroad as well. It's a matter of time when other members of AIMPLB and Muslim clergy will come around the proposal of shifting the Mosque. Quite significantly, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, Vice President of AIMPLB is also known to be a moderate on such issues. Often in the past, he has supported a temple in Janmasthan only to later back down under the influence of hardliners in the community. Nadvi's exit from AIMPLB is a sign of greater democratization within Muslim clergy which till now has behaved hawkish and herd-like under the influence of its politically aligned members.
To Sri Sri's immense credit, he has been able to take the jigsaw out of the puzzle of Ram temple issue and resolve it bit by bit. The claim and counterclaim on the disputed Janmasthan site is nothing more than a matrix of parallel realities. And each of these realities presenting a group of stakeholders who feel they have been wronged. It would never have been possible to take one shot at this issue and solve it. In the past one year Sri Sri has met 500 odd Muslim scholars from all parts of India. Also, he has had conversations with the Hindus saints and Akharas who want an out of court resolution to the issue.
Sri Sri is an astute negotiator. His credentials have been established through his track record negotiating with Ulfa, Bodo militants, Gujjar reservation agitators and of recent vintage peace between Columbia and FARC. Despite the possibility of the breakdown of peace talks by vested interests in Columbia, Sri Sri kept an eagle-eyed vigil and ensured that the peace deal is honored. To ensure this, Sri Sri visited Columbia and Cuba many times. The result is for the world to see. Columbia is peaceful after many decades. Was negotiating peace with armed communist rebel FARC easy? As an ideology, communism has killed more than 60 million people post world war II to establish a classless society. Sri Sri has been showing similar tenacity and ruggedness in pursuing the peaceful resolution to Ayodhya matter. In his talks, Sri Sri has been able to have a connection with negotiators and stakeholders beyond the veneer of ideology.
Simon Sinek, the marketing consultant and TedX speaker often remarks that a business deal between two natural partners despite 1000 commonalities may not go through if both decide not to shake hand post signing of a business deal. Despite all our similarities, disparities and commonalities, complex negotiations boil down to the fact if negotiators can strike a conversation in an environment of mutual trust. Sri Sri does bring in his wealth of experience in the space of conflict management and moves towards a solution.
As a nation, it's time to repose our faith in a negotiated solution for few reasons. If court verdict allows construction of the temple, it may remain in constant threat from militants who would like to venture in trouble water. There are multiple fissures in the society, and the last thing we may want is a continued deployment of 1000s of police personnel to safeguard Ramlala temple. Likewise, a mosque on the disputed site may cause continued grief to majority community who is fighting the battle for 400+ years. In Sri Sri, we have someone who has been trusted and accepted by stakeholders across the spectrum. The current round of effort may be our last opportunity before the court gives out a verdict with the potential of deepening the divides.
(Vijay is an engineer by profession and writer by passion. He is Singapore based and has keen interest in Indian politics and foreign affairs of the region)