IN NOVEMBER 2017, when he visited Ayodhya in a bid to mediate in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said that “if this issue has to be resolved forever, the only solution is that a grand temple is constructed with cooperation of both communities”.
He made this statement after meeting all the stakeholders in the case.
Sri Sri began his visit by meeting Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow on November 15, 2017. The next day, he went to Ayodhya, where he met Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas head Nritya Gopal Das, plaintiff in the land dispute case Iqbal Ansari, sants of Nirmohi Akhara, and Haji Mehboob, a litigant in the case. He also met RSS pracharak Mahirajdwaj Singh, Mahant Suresh Das of Digambar Akhara, representatives of several Muslim organisations, Raja Ramachandracharya of Nirmohi Akhara and Swami Chakrapani of Hindu Mahasabha during his visit.
Speaking to reporters after these meetings, he said: “After 100 years, one particular community could think justice was not done. The same issue could be raised again. If this issue has to be resolved forever, the only solution is that a grand temple is constructed with the cooperation of both communities. This dream could be made true. There is generosity, love and bhaichara among people of communities and youths in the country.”
He said that “Muslims, by and large, are not opposing Ram temple.” While saying that he was not offering any solution and had not come to Ayodhya with a formula, Sri Sri said: “I am visiting Ayodhya with an open mind to give a platform for everybody to come and discuss their strategy. I have come with the hope that this could be done through dialogue”.
Sri Sri and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas head Nritya Gopal Das had held a meeting with sants, where the general opinion was that a temple should be constructed under the Nyas’s leadership. “He (Sri Sri) said an agreement should be reached in an atmosphere of harmony,” Das had said.
Ansari had maintained that the issue could not be resolved through dialogue and only the Supreme Court could come up with a solution.
“I told him I am not against his initiative and the temple. But the disputed site should be left for a mosque and the temple should be built elsewhere,” Haji Mehboob had said.
The next day, Sri Sri met Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali in Lucknow. “We both agree that we have to build bridges. There is really no conflict between the communities. We have been living together for centuries and we have to create an atmosphere of friendliness and togetherness,” Sri Sri said after the meeting.
“We respect the courts, but courts cannot connect hearts. After 50 years or 100 years, the judgments of courts will remain as such. But if a solution comes from our hearts, it will be recognised for ages,” he had said. He had urged Mahali to speak to other Muslim clerics and members of the Sunni Waqf Board to find a way to hold a dialogue of all stakeholders.
Denying any agenda, he had said: “This is not an issue that has to be discussed with two or 10 people. Many people, responsible and religious persons, will meet and a discussion will take place”.
At a meeting of the All India Sant Samiti in Delhi in November last year, Sri Sri had reiterated that people want a grand temple in Ayodhya. He said there were three possible ways forward: a dialogue, an appeal to the Supreme Court for an early verdict, or a request to the government.
Sri Sri’s mediation bid in 2017 was unsuccessful. “His attempt faced opposition from both the Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya. He did not contact any sant in Ayodhya after that visit,” Sharad Sharma, VHP spokesperson on Ayodhya, said on Friday.
“Sri Sri met me… but there was no discussion on the Babri Masjid dispute. He never contacted me after that. His idea was not acceptable to anyone, because he suggested that a mosque be built in Lucknow,” Iqbal Ansari told The Indian Express.