As settling the emotive issue is beyond the capabilities of the judiciary, legislature and executive, interventions into the Ayodhya dispute by voluntary mediators like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and other leaders of civil society with large followings are imperative for reconciliation

By the nature of a national issue, it does not remain the intellectual property of the organisation that raised it first. While some akhadas (congregation of hermits) may be fighting in the court for the construction of a temple dedicated to Lord Rama in Ayodhya and while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad might have led a nationwide movement for the purpose, they should not object to the intervention of anybody from the nation — particularly since they claim this is a national issue. The uncouth manner in which some akhadas and the VHP have been attacking Sri Sri Ravi Shankar since the day he evinced his interest in mediation between the parties to the dispute is unfortunate. So what, if the head of the Art of Living is “business-minded” or “political” — as some mahants alleged on Thursday? For the past one year, more and more Muslim bodies have been speaking up in favour of the Ram temple, with the Shi’ahs now wholly behind the idea of moving the so-called Babri mosque away from the controversial site. And Mughal invader Babar’s commander Baqi Tashqandi alias Mir Baqi, who had built the mosque that was eventually razed on 6 December 1992, was a Shi’ah. Yesterday, not only MPLB executive member Maulana Syed Salman Hussain Nadvi but also Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board chairperson Zufar Ahmad Farooqui, Maulana Wasif Hasan of Teelay Wali Masjid in Lucknow and retired IAS officer Anis Ansari met with Ravi Shankar, where even the Sunnis conceded there was indeed a provision in Islam that allowed relocation of a mosque. These are positive developments that take the nation closer to a social resolution, which will indeed last longer than a measure proposed by the judiciary, legislature or executive.

The mindset of the people of this decade is remarkably different from the sharp divisions in the polity one witnessed in the build-up to the demolition of the Babri structure in the period 1988-92. Reconciliation is in the air. Society is no longer debating the thousands of years’ old archaeology of the disputed plot in Ayodhya or the few hundred years’ old history of Hindu-Muslim confrontation over it. Yet, outside the court, the akhadas and the Babri Masjid Action Committee are not quite on talking terms. A mediator or a host of mediators are, therefore, necessary. In all probability, the Supreme Court will neither uphold the strange Allahabad High Court judgment proposing a trifurcation of the property nor can the apex court find in the statutes any clause that deals with the sentiments of the two sets of believers. It has, in a way, admitted it is incapable of dealing with the issue beyond the aspect of land ownership (the judges have themselves prejudiced the court). In Parliament, members are constitutionally bound to not present or pass a Bill dealing with a religion, on which the executive ought to take an action. The three pillars of the democracy being handicapped, even the arrival of the final verdict is unlikely to satisfy either side. Or, rather than let the case conclude, the judges might ask the litigants to settle the issue between them outside the court. It is imperative that spiritual leaders with large followings come forward to address what is essentially a concern of society. Who claims the credit for the patch-up is secondary.