Ayodhya dispute: In the audacity of hope lies the success of mediation efforts
To quote Barack Obama from his book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream: “We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart.”
In our own country, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya is a centuries old issue which has proved to be a source of religious and political conflict. The first recorded violence in Ayodhya dates back back to 1850, and over time this long standing dispute has taken form, escalated and confounded any lasting resolution over the years:
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s mediation initiative is a mighty step in getting the stakeholders to have a meaningful dialogue.
In 2015, post discussions with FARC leaders who were engaged in 5 decade long war and conflict in Colombia which inflicted 2 lac fatalities and displaced more than 6 million people, Sri Sri had outlined the steps for conflict resolution in his article for Huffington Post – “Conflict arises in the first place because both sides stick to their stand, yet to resolve the issue, both need to be made to rise above and look at the larger picture. Breakdown of communication is a major cause in escalating the dispute and thus, dialogue is an important tool in resolving it.” His mediation eventually led to FARC agreeing to shun violence and to resort to peaceful methods of protest. He has found similar success in find resolution to many smaller conflicts.
In Kashmir, from pro Pakistan leaders to stone pelters, sufi saints and intellectuals, every section of society has found a confidence and comfort in sustained dialogue with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. His followership across religious boundaries places Sri Sri in the unique role of a leader who has built reputation of being able to engage with all sides of a conflict- leaders, victims and rebels.
While some quarters question the intent and timing of his initiative to mediate in the protracted Ayodhya dispute, they may do well to remember that Sri Sri’s intervention is nothing new. Since past 20 years he has been part of the sane voices that have made attempts to resolve the conflict amicably and permanently. His latest round of mediation seems to be the only chance of a peaceful resolution between the two communities in a friendly atmosphere.
It is ironical that the diabolical criticism against the momentum gained in Sri Sri’s mediation efforts is essentially from people who have themselves not been able to arrive at a peaceful resolution or lost hope or the ones who intend to keep the fire of discontent burning to fuel their political, social and financial ambitions. The ordinary majority of people from both communities have been quick to rally behind the initiative mainly because in the current scenario his complete neutrality makes him a natural choice to mediate with integrity and sensitivity.
A dispute which has brewed for so long and which has implications far beyond what is evident needs an extra-ordinary effort for conciliation. Our judiciary has on numerous occasions taken cognizance of difficulties in passing a judgement in the case. Former CJI Justice Khehar had remarked that issues of sentiments and religion are best decided jointly. Even after best of judgements, vested interests will keep the fire of discontent burning and no lasting peace can be achieved.
Notwithstanding that resolution of dispute is not easy, the time to engage with every stakeholder is now. One hopes that Sri Sri’s latest initiative not only leads to a peaceful, harmonious resolution of the dispute but also builds lasting bridges between two communities that have a long history of co-existence. In this audacity of hope lies the success of such initiatives.
Anup Agarwal is an independent thinker and a close observer of political happenings around the globe. Send your comments and views to Anup Agarwal on Twitter @Anup1009