Sri-Sri Ravishankar is on the spotlight again. This time it is because of a special responsibility that has been assigned to the spiritual leader by the Apex Court. After 2010 judgment of the Allahabad High Court in which the court had ordered that the disputed land would be partitioned equally among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akara and Ram Lalla, as many as fourteen appeals were filed against the judgment in the Supreme Court.
A five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogi referred to a three-member panel of Mediators. Sri-Sri Ravishankar is one of those three. The other two members are former Supreme Court Judge FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, and Senior advocate, Sriram Panchu. The panel will carry out the task of mediation in a time span of eight weeks in confidentiality. The court has directed that the sessions will be held ‘in camera recordings in Faizabad, the neighboring town of disputed Ayodhya.
The inclusion of Sri as one of the mediators of the disputed-issue is being questioned by many of the stakeholders as he has previously shown his biases towards a particular side.
In an interview given to India Today last year, Sri had expressed his opinions regarding the disputed case, he said,
“If Ram Mandir is not solved, we will have a Syria in India”.
He further added that “Muslims should give up their claim on Ayodhya as a goodwill gesture……..We cannot make Lord Rama to be born in another place.”
He favored the claim of Hindu groups for the disputed area. He gave a warning that the Hindus would erupt in violence if the apex court fails to make the judgment in the favor of ‘Hindu faith’. “If the court rules against the temple, there will be bloodshed. The Government may not be able to implement the court order. Do you think the majority community will accept such an order?”
In another interview to the website The Wire, he walked out in the middle when the anchor asked him, his comments in the previous interview were similar to Savarkar’s idea.
In 2017, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) held Sri-Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living responsible for the damage to the Yamuna floodplains caused by the holding of the World Culture Festival in 2016. It imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on his organization (Art of Living) for damaging a 1,000-acre area. Earlier, he had said that he will go to the jail but will not pay the fine of 5 crores. However a few days later, he gave a contradictory statement that he will pay Rs 5 crore as ‘compensation not fine’.
He is yet to pay the fine.
Sri welcomed the apex court’s judgment of assigning him the task of one of the mediators.
This move towards mediation by the Hon Supreme Court is in the best interest of the country and all parties concerned. We should not leave any stone unturned in resolving this burning issue amicably.#AyodhyaVerdict
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) March 6, 2019
He further added in his tweet, “We should keep our egos and differences aside and come together with a spirit of honoring and accommodating the sentiments of the communities concerned”.
Some political leaders expressed their opinion on the mediation.
BSP leader Mayawati said in a tweet said, “Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order to constitute in-camera mediation (in Faizabad) in order to resolve the Ayodhya matter seems an honest effort. Hon’ble Court looking for a possibility of healing relationships is an appreciable move. BSP welcomes it.”
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi welcomed the decision but questioned the appointment of Ravishankar when his opinion regarding the matter is in the public domain. He said, “It would have been better had the Supreme Court appointed a neutral person. One of the members of the panel had threatened Muslims that India would become Syria and I hope that he keeps those thoughts out of his mind while being on the mediation panel. We welcome the decision.”
The very neutral 2Sri wrote a letter to Muslim activists seeking a “resolution” of the Babri dispute because of “sentiments”
2Sri wants to make this a religious dispute, while in reality it’s a title dispute. Can we expect neutrality from someone who’s already made up his mind? pic.twitter.com/4Yw2NEIuEK
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) March 8, 2019
All India Muslim Personal Law Board also welcomed the move the board secretary said the board’s secretary Maulana Umrain Rahmani said, “It’s a title suit, not a faith-related case. We accepted the mediation proposal, honoring the Supreme Court. Our stance on the Babri Masjid has not changed at all,”
The Supreme Court’s order of mediation has not been an issue from criticism from political parties, all Political leaders welcomed the decision but question still looms over Ravishankar as one of the mediators.
Why the Mediation looks difficult?
The decision of involving mediators can be really difficult as one of the mediators has already put his opinion in the public, this questions the very ‘Objectivity’ of the panel.
The Sabarimala Temple dispute can be another reason why the Apex Court, is taking the way of mediation than giving a verdict. By stating that “the dispute is not only about property, but it is about sentiment and faith”, it is putting out a message that the court is still cautious about the consequences of giving a verdict against the majoritarian view.
Another reason that can hamper the proceedings of the mediation is that of the Government. The BJP having power in both the state and the center has been an active force in the act of Babri Masjid Demolition. Its position on the matter is very clear from the start which claims it to be the land for the Ram-Mandir. It has been an important part of BJP’s manifesto since 1992. This issue has given BJP the political boost and it is most likely that a huge amount of pressure is mounting in mediation from both, the state government and the center. BJP in its 2014 general election manifesto said that it would “explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution” to facilitate the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site.
The association of faith with the dispute has put more pressure for the justice system to act in accordance with the majoritarian opinion (Hindu population). The time given to the mediation is ‘eight-weeks’ which is a very short time for a dispute that is taking place since 1934.
Former Additional Solicitor General of India, Indira Jaisingh said that the “The Supreme Court seems to have learned from its mistake in Bhopal case while setting terms for Ayodhya mediation. “ In her opinion piece on The Indian Express, she said that victims were ignored in the settlement of Bhopal Gas (Union Carbide) case.
“It seems the Court was of the opinion that certain disputes are not quite easy of judicial resolution and require a ‘healing touch’. After all, no court wants to see its own judgments violated and slandered, as with the Sabarimala judgment. Settlement by consensus is one way of settling a dispute, provided that both parties negotiate on an equal basis.”
The court has not looked upon the fact that the time given to the process is not enough. When one of the mediators is already guilty of contempt of court and how does the Court believe in him? Giving a chance to the suspicion of ‘Bias’ in mediation can further deteriorate the faith of people on the judiciary.