“Ayodhya is where there is no conflict,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “and Ram is the inner radiance, the Self.” This very same city with such a beautiful name has been the center for innumerable conflicts claiming hundreds and thousands of lives in the past few centuries.
Ayodhya has been an issue capable of violently stirring people’s emotions and sentiments, across the nation; recognising this Sri Sri had said, “if the court pronounces any one community as the winner, it is going to cause heartburn to the loser. The winner cannot enjoy in peace. There cannot be harmony between the communities.” Perhaps this was the main reason why the issue spent a long time in courts without a conclusion in sight.
Finally, last year, the Supreme court gave a unanimous verdict for the construction of the temple and also for the allotment of a separate piece of land in Ayodhya for the construction of a mosque. The key points of the verdict bore a remarkable resemblance to the proposal for out-of-court settlement that Sri Sri had first presented in 2003. One can’t help but wonder how much communal turmoil could have been saved over the past fifteen years, if this thorn in the fabric of our society had been removed at that time itself. However, there were hardliners who refused to accept the solution at that time. They were keen to take it to court. They wanted a winner.
This is where Sri Sri’s untiring and pragmatic approach made this phenomenal acceptance possible.
It was 2001. Sri Sri landed in New Delhi after addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. He had a meeting with the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. At this meeting, Vajpayee ji requested Sri Sri to help resolve the Ayodhya dispute through dialogue leading to an out-of-court settlement.
Sri Sri proposed that he would have the Hindu saints come together and express their regret for any hurt caused to the Muslim community and in turn the Muslims could gift the land, the small piece of land which has caused so much turmoil in the country. His presence and his words made a shift in the whole atmosphere. In the end before leaving, he gave a hug to each one of them. The same evening Sri Sri met with the VHP people and was trying to convince them to drop the demand for Kashi and Mathura.
He continued meeting leaders from both communities over this issue.
Two years later, in 2003, Sri Sri placed a 3-point proposal for an out-of-court settlement to both communities. At that time, it was not accepted.“I have met different members of the AIMPLB separately on various occasions. Individually they may agree to this solution but collectively they are hesitating to take a step,” said Sri Sri . A few who were hardnosed and dogmatic opposed the proposal and said that they preferred a judicial verdict. A one-sided victory can never bring brotherhood. A peaceful settlement between both was essential. Without criticizing anyone, Sri Sri persevered to make them understand the truth.
“You have to keep trying till you succeed, “ shared Sri Sri in an interview with NDTV, “You have to keep on finding new ways, because as time changes strategies will have to change. And at the same time, when there is a give and take tendency between both communities it can do wonders. We have to find a solution that will bring people together.”
What is the difference between judgement and mediation? Sri Sri gives the example of two parties fighting for an apple. He says, “Judgement is when you cut the apple and give half to each.They may still compare and doubt if the judgement was biased. Mediation is when you give the knife to one and the right to choose to the other. This way they are responsible.”
For the next fifteen years he repeatedly met leaders from both communities highlighting the need for harmony more than anything else.
One evening, in early 2018, over six thousand people were waiting in pin-drop silence in the amphitheatre at the Bangalore ashram for over half an hour. The singing normally begins at 6:30 pm but it was well past 7:00 on this day. In a small room adjacent to the amphitheatre over eighty Imams from Bangalore were huddled around Sri Sri who was keenly looking into a laptop where several other Imams and prominent Muslim leaders from Lucknow were connected. Ayodhya, India, Peace – was still the topic.
A few weeks later, Maulana Syed Salman Husaini Nadvi, Exec. Member of the AIMPLB, Shri Zufar Ahmad Faruqi, Chairman, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, and religious leaders and intellectuals from multiple organisations met Sri Sri in person following the skype call in the previous month. Several newspapers carried their statements saying that they extended their full support to Sri Sri’s proposal for the settlement. It was unanimously concluded that there can be no better way to resolve the issue than that all parties agree to a mutually-agreeable settlement. They decided to meet again on the 15th of March in Ayodhya to take the issue forward.
The mindsets of those involved would swing back and forth , but Sri Sri patiently gave time, consolidated the scattered and diverse views of people and focused them towards brotherhood and a peaceful solution. He met and spoke to over five hundred Imams and several hundred Hindu leaders in 2018 alone.
When you give a new point of view to a person, they need to be given time to adjust to it. Sri Sri knew this very well. He is a Master of the human mind and knows how to guide it delicately towards decisions that bring long term happiness for everyone.
In March 2019, the court appointed a three-member mediation panel including Sri Sri. Several meetings with all the parties were held in utmost confidentiality in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Mediation can be successful only when all parties feel a sense of belongingness, that you are there for them. This is what a person who comes to Gurudev feels and this brings about transformation in subtler levels in the person.
Many times people have commented that the efforts have failed in the past years. I would wait to hear what Sri Sri would say about it. He looked at it as one step forward. Communication was opening up. The settlement was coming closer.
Finally, on the 9th of November 2019, the thorn in the hearts and minds of the people of India was delicately removed by Sri Sri’s sustained efforts.
A case that has been repeatedly going into review without a solution finally came towards a verdict that was welcomed by one and all, a verdict that draws from Sri Sri’s proposal. His solutions always keep in mind the long-term benefit of all involved. Over the years, leaders of both communities had softened and were prepared for the settlement.
Mediation between 25 different strong-minded groups with religious sentiments representing millions of people on an issue of long-standing national impact is unheard of in history.
The Supreme Court also appreciated the efforts of the mediation panel in coming close to this historic settlement. The critical role of mediation and meditation is undeniable.
The European Parliament in Brussels invited Sri Sri to speak about the very same topic of meditation and meditation. They wanted to hear about his role as a mediator.
Upon meeting Sri Sri , the Former Prime Minister of Slovenia and member of European Parliament, Alojz Peterle said, “Very few people believed this was possible but it happened because someone (Sri Sri ) came with a different light. It happened from the heart. Only people who have peace in themselves can influence peaceful developments around the world.”
“We can find roots of cultures of peace in many countries but we need new ways to rediscover it and we need new leaders to help us do that. And we have found one in your personality,” said Dace Melbarde, MEP (Member of European Parliament) and former Minister of Culture, Latvia.
When the media gave credit to Sri Sri for the verdict, he said” it is the prayers and sentiments of 1.3 billion people of our country that have been answered by the verdict.”
Another impediment on the path of the progress of this country has been finally removed. He wholeheartedly welcomed the historic judgement of the Supreme court and said, “This has brought joy and relief to people of both communities from a long-standing dispute.”
One of the toughest challenges for an individual is to forget a personal grudge from the past. Here Sri Sri has enabled innumerable leaders from both communities to drop the past and move on, to embrace brotherhood and harmony.
Once again, he has led by example and shown the way for bringing about peaceful long lasting solutions.
When truth is honoured and celebrated, nature rejoices. This article is my attempt to celebrate the truth.