Opinion: Yet another opportunity to amicably resolve Ram temple tangle

At least three Prime Ministers, several Shankaracharyas, priests and a high-profile godman have evolved formulas since the demolition of the disputed shrine in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.
A model of Ram Mandir, to be built in Ayodhya showcased at Kumbh Mela festival 2019, in Allahabad(PTI)
A model of Ram Mandir, to be built in Ayodhya showcased at Kumbh Mela festival 2019, in Allahabad(PTI)
Updated on Mar 07, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySunita Aron

The Supreme Court has given yet another opportunity to the parties concerned to amicably resolve the emotive issue of Ramjanmabhumi/Babri Mosque that has literally haunted the country’s psyche for over a century.

It was in 1853 when the first communal conflict was reported over the contentious issue while the first petition was filed in the local court in 1885. Since then, there have been umpteen twists and turns in the legal case with all the dialogues and formulas coming to naught.

At least three Prime Ministers, several Shankaracharyas, priests and a high-profile godman have evolved formulas since the demolition of the disputed shrine in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

Late godman Chandraswami had started negotiations in the late ’80s, former prime minister Chandrashekhar had set up an Ayodhya cell in his office which remained active in the PMO even during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to negotiate a settlement. Several rounds of parleys, many behind the scene, were held in Delhi, Lucknow and Ayodhya.

Former high court judge late Palok Basu even launched a signature campaign in Ayodhya while Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had also pitched in to hammer out a solution, only to be snubbed by the Nyas.

The Art of Living founder held dialogue with stakeholders Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board and had also met chief minister Yogi Adityanath before travelling down to Ayodhya in mid-November last year. All appreciated his efforts but refused to adhere to any formula.

The formulas have ranged from construction of a temple where a makeshift one exists today on the debris of the demolished shrine while shifting the mosque elsewhere in the temple town to building a mosque and temple side by side.

The issue is where the mosque should be built as any compromise on shifting the temple appears impossible and this even the minority community agrees. Thus, some of them agree to the construction of the mosque within 67 acres of land but Nyas wants it reconstructed outside the 84 kos parikrama route.

Even the protagonists of the temple movement are divided. Some agree to rebuilding of the mosque within the 67 acres of acquired land, the hardliners wanted it to be shifted out of Ayodhya.

VHP’s Ayodhya-based spokesman Sharad Sharma said, “The mosque has to be out of the 84 kos parikrama route, the cultural boundary of Ayodhya.”

The 84 kos parikrama route touches five districts bordering the temple town.

As both the parties stubbornly held to their ground, the

litigants as well as the political parties started preferring a legal settlement of the dispute.

WHY RAY OF HOPE NOW?

However the apex court’s mediation move has once again raised hopes for a negotiated resolution of the prickly issue.

It is for the first time that the Sunni Central Waqf Board has shed much of its intransigence by agreeing to come to the negotiating table. Its chairman Zufar Ahmed Faruqi had told HT that he would represent the board in mediation.

The Shia Waqf Board has consistently favoured building of a temple at the same site with its chairman Wasim Rizvi even offering to donate their share of land, when granted by the courts.

The All-India Personal Law Board has throughout preferred legal settlement. However, it has no direct role to play in the dispute as it is not a party in the ongoing case.

However, throwing the spanner in the efforts are the Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and Ram Lalla Virajman.

While the Hindu Mahasabha has opposed mediation in the courts, the BJP-VHP supported Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (RJN) that had spearheaded the temple movement, also rejected the move.

RJN head Mahant Nritya Gopal Das said they disfavour mediation in the Ayodhya dispute even if it was conducted by a Supreme Court mediator.

Triloki Nath Pandey, who represents Ram Lalla Virajman in the Supreme Court, said: “I am against any form of mediation in the case at this stage. In the past, all efforts for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute through mediation have failed.”

Thus, the BJP and the RSS will have to use their persuasive skills to bring them to the negotiating table for last-ditch efforts to resolve the tangle.

And the discussions will have to be fresh, breaking from the past formulas.

The Supreme Court had first stirred the pot in August 2017 by suggesting a negotiated settlement of the emotive issue with the Chief Justice of India even offering to act as a mediator between the two sides laying claim over the historic site in the temple city.

An expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “Perhaps the settlement is buried in the pages of history. The Gyanvapi Mosque was built after destroying a Hindu temple, the remnants of which exist on its walls even today. Kashi Vishwanath temple was built adjacent to the mosque. Similarly in Mathura, temple and mosque co-exist at the Krishna Janma Sthan.”

Interestingly, both Mathura and Kashi are protected under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991.

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