Opinions

The Babri Mediation: How suitable is Sri Sri?

Lucknow: The Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid issue has bogged the nation for the last seven decades and is now in its decisive phase. In the same context, particularly after the SC order of March 8 for a solution through mediation, there has been an on-going debate in our national newspapers in which grave­-concerns have been expressed over the credibility of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, one of the mediators between the Hindu and Muslim sides of the case. The mediation committee is headed by retired SC Justice Khalifullah and eminent lawyer Sriram Panchu. The process has started with a total ban on reportage on its proceedings. Even the dates on which meetings have been held are not made public. In their first phase, the meeting went on until May first week.

There can be no doubt about the wisdom of SC on Sri Sri appointment but it beckons for sure that SC might not have been knowing Sri Sri’s past efforts for mediation in the same dispute. Since the order, there have been views-abound on the veracity of Sri Sri and his purported partisan role vis-à-vis the Ayodhya dispute, as it may be mentioned here that his efforts had in fact started in 2003 when NDA was in power.

His postulations for temple are more than visible for his series of stands against the Muslim side in the case. All of his arguments have been heavily loaded against Muslims to surrender the Babri Masjid site in favour for a Ram Temple on it. Last but not the least is his letter, in Hindi, which he dispatched to Muslim individuals and Muslim Personal Law members in December last year calling for a Ram Temple on the disputed site. Sri Sri says in his letter that the issue of Babri Masjid has been pricking-like-a-thorn for the past 500 years, and that it is not only  religious but has become a political issue too and has thus resulted into the increase of chasm between the two communities. In his third paragraph, he expresses his desire that Muslims should gift the land (Babri Masjid site) to Hindus. This, according to him, will make the ‘majority community’ to gain confidence that their sentiments have been adhered to as Muslims will thwart the perception that they would never relent a place for a temple. He said the time has arrived that this notion may be put to rest. He would seek that if the 15 claimants withdraw their claim, it would expeditiously result into construction of the Ram Temple to help enable thousands of elderly mahatmas to see it become a reality in their lives. With this more than apparent inclination for temple can any neutrality be construed from Sri Sri?

It may be put on record that in his earlier public posturings, Sri Sri had likened India (Indiatoday.in, March 5, 2018) to be turned into Syria if the issue is not solved amicably, which he later claimed was not a threat.  In the same interview, he emphasised that no government can remove Ram Lalla from where he is placed now (at Babri Masjid site) even if SC say so, the implementation is not an easy task and that even if Muslims win the case they will be the greatest loosers, in the sense,  of the sentiments of majority community. In his another stance he said that “We (Ravi Shankar) cannot make Lord Ram to be born in another place” (Telegraph India, March 9, 2019).

In the light of past stances of Sri Sri, it becomes clear that he personally mandates for the site of Babri Masjid to be the place of birth of Lord Rama based on Aastha (belief) of Hindus and that even if SC finds it otherwise Ram Lalla cannot be removed, hence the mediation-process looses its relevance. It may be mentioned here that for any institutional-mediation, there is a provision of a corrective-measure by cancelling the appointment of any such mediator, in case if the concerned parties indicate the mediator’s partiality or bias. But none of the parties have stated it so as yet.

Sri Sri’s consolation that the site in dispute has been where temple existed earlier is so ill-founded, even a person of his stature can be swept by misinformation. He takes his cue from the ASI report which does not mention any artifacts found in the layers of Mughal period or prior thereto showing the existence of any temple, much less the so-called temple of Ramjanambhumi either in the period of Vikramaditya (1 BC) or any other subsequent period.  When Mehmud Ghaznawi demolished Somnath temple in 1026, it was reported through-out the world by contemporary historians but did any historian report when a grand Vikramaditya temple was destroyed by Mir Baqi in 1528, nearly five-centuries later?  There is no such reference from any contemporary source of any such temple destruction.  Baburnama mentions Babur having mutilated idols but it makes no reference to the demolition of any temple and construction of masjid on it in Ayodhya. Akbarnama or Jehangirnama too do not refer to it.

Goswami Tulsidas, during the reign of Akbar, wrote the entire literature including Ramcharitramanas and it does not have a single couplet about the alleged incident of demolition of Ram Temple at Ayodhya and construction of Babri Masjid on it. He has not even indicated anywhere in his books, including Ramcharitramanas, that the site of Babri Masjid was the place of birth of Lord Rama as per Hindu belief/Aastha, while he has written substantial part of Ramcharitramanas at Ayodhya after the construction of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. As such, the Aastha of Hindus for it first appeared in 1885. In the travelogue accounts of 1608 and 1773 of William Foster and Tieffenthaler, there is no specific mention about the Babri Masjid site being the birthplace of Lord Rama or any belief/Aastha of the Hindus of that period about the demolition of any alleged Ram Temple or construction of Babri Masjid on the site of the said temple.

The writer has written extensively on Ayodhya issue, is a lawyer and former UP State Information Commissioner.  

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