The Supreme Court of India on Friday ordered a court-monitored mediation in the religiously and politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to arrive at a permanent solution. The court appointed former apex court judge FM Ibrahim Kallifulla as the head of the panel and asked to complete the process in eight weeks with full confidentiality. The other members of the panel include spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
The name of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has brought the attention of so many personalities to this case and their disagreement is visible too. In a statement in 2018, Ravi Shankar said that the Muslims should take back their claim of the Ram Janmabhoomi land or India will become Syria. In the same year, he was also reported saying that if the court rules against the temple, there will be bloodshed and he also asked ‘do you think the majority community will accept such order?’
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved that order after hearing various contesting parties. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment that stated the division and transfer of the title in three equal parts of the 2.77 acres of disputed land to three principal claimants, one-third to Muslims, another third to Hindus and remaining to the Nirmohi Akhara section. However, Hindus got the main disputed piece of the land to which Muslims objected and filed an appeal against it in court. Moreover, the Supreme Court suspended High Court ruling after the Hindu and Muslim groups filed an appeal against the 2010 verdict by the Allahabad High Court.
Actor and President of Nagpur Indian People’s Theatre Association Vira Sathidar asserted, “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s thoughts towards this disputed case are well-known to everybody. He has hardcore Hindu beliefs. Muslims are used for political mileage in this country. The SC has the power to take all the decisions on its own but in today’s circumstances, all the independent organisations are under the control of the central government and that’s making the job tougher. Don’t think that the selected panel will be able to take the correct decision.”
The Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid is a controversial piece of land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, where Lord Ram (as believed by Hindus) was born. In 1989 – Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) heightened its campaign and laid the foundation of Ram Mandir alongside the Babri Masjid. In 1990, the VHP supporters damaged the Masjid partially inviting the then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar intervention who tried to solve the issue through negotiations between the Hindus and the Muslims but failed. The BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 1991 and in 1992, the Hindu Karsevaks, the supporters of VHP, Shiv Sena, and BJP demolished the Babri Masjid that led to nationwide communal riots that killed around 2,000 people.
The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) began a court-ordered survey in 2003 to find out whether a Ram Temple existed at the disputed site and found evidence of a temple to which Muslims objected. Meanwhile, the lawyers of Hindu parties opposed the idea of mediation saying that such attempts had failed in the past, whereas Muslim party’s lawyer voted for the negotiations if a regular hearing on the matter goes on simultaneously.
Retd Justice B G Kolse-Patil spoke to Afternoon Voice and stated, “The three-member panel appointed by the SC for Ayodhya land dispute case is not capable of imparting justice. The panel must be impartial but the chosen members are not. The SC should have given verdict itself. It seems that the SC is not acting as responsible as it should be in the Ayodhya case.”
“Having one Muslim member in the panel won’t have much impact. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam was a Muslim and incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit; however, Dalit and Muslim killings have not stopped in our country,” Justice added.
After the Supreme Court decision to form a three-member committee, comments from people across the nation started pouring in. Questions were raised whether the mediators will do their job fairly, objectively, and properly? Would they leave their political and personal ideology behind to solve the decade-long communal dispute that has damaged the harmony and unity of the country? While there are many political leaders who have welcomed the SC decision, many have objected too. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath welcomed the move by the Centre seeking the Supreme Court’s permission to return the 67 acres acquired land to disputed Ram Janbhoomi-Babri Masjid site to its original owners. “We have been saying that we should permission to use the undisputed land,” CM Adityanath said.
However, the CPM expressed strong disapproval of the petition moved by the central government and said the status quo must be obtained. This move by the Centre is clearly aimed at appeasing the Sangh Parivar. All these moves are orchestrated keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Meanwhile, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that it would have been better if the Supreme Court had appointed a neutral person instead of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Moreover, taking to Twitter, Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision calling it an honest effort by the court looking for a possibility of healing relationships. Justice (retired) FM Ibrahim Kallifulla said that the committee will make every effort to resolve the Ayodhya dispute amicably.
There are many who believe that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would do partiality as he has been a hardcore supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 2014 elections as he actively supported the then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi during his political campaigning.
Hindu Mahasabha national Spokesperson Pramod Pandit Joshi expressed, “We respect the SC for selecting a three-member panel which is capable of taking the decision faster. Decisions taken by the panel must be accepted by both the Muslim and Hindu community respectively.”
Is the appointment of FM Ibrahim Kallifulla, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sriram Panchu committee going to end the decade-long tension, communal politics, or the dispute will be again used as the hen that lays the political golden egg?
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA Waris Pathan said, “I think Sri Sri Ravi Shankar does not fit in the three-member panel selected by the SC as he has many times hurt the Muslims sentiment with his speeches. However, if the SC proves of the decision taken by the three-member panel, we will accept the final judgement.”