Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has spoken exclusively and at length to Republic TV about his mediation and views in the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, which has run for almost seven decades, but is nearing a critical phase.
With the Ayodhya case set for its next hearing in the Supreme Court on March 14, and a massive 'Ayodhya meet' planned to work towards a consensus in the matter, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has outlined the various possibilities and potential outcomes, as well as the ramifications, some of which, he describes as "grave", and others, positive.
"The first one is that they'll say there was a Mandir was there before the Masjid was built. Archaeological evidence shows... so let's give it to the Mandir, let's build a Temple there. What does the Muslim community gain from this. Nothing. A defeat. And it can also cause damage to their faith in the judiciary.
The young generation may lose their faith in the judiciary. If not now, down the line in 50 years, in 100 years, they say 'injustice has been done to us and our community' by the court.
Second possibility is they say: 'Ok Babri Masjid was there, it was demolished, it should be given to Babri Masjid.' Suppose Muslims win the case here, they'll still be losers, because 100 crore people of this country's faith which is associated with Ram Mandir will have such bitterness of losing this case... this battle... which they've fought for 500 years. You think the country will take it easily? People are going to take it easily? Losing this battle on Ram Mandir? And you think, even the Ram Mandir, anyone will be able to implement it, take out the Ram Lalla from where he is now? Give up the Ram Janmabhoomi forever? You think Indian Hindus will give this up? Not possible. It'll create tension right from the village level. There could be a civil war also on the issue. The possibilities are there, we should never rule out these possibilities. And what do the Muslims gain? Winning the place as Babri Masjid. That's all. But there will be such a distance developed at the village level between the communities. Bitterness will be there between the communities.
The third solution is court says, like what Allahabad court has said, 'you build the Mandir also and you build the Masjid there.' In 60 acres there's a big Mandir and in 1 acre there's a Masjid inside. Let's see this possibility. They'll have to keep 50,000 policemen there all the time to maintain peace. You think there'll be peace? Moreover, Islam doesn't permit to do Namaz in a place where there is contention. So nobody's going to go and do Namaz there. It's un-Islamic to do Namaz in a place of dispute.
So looking at all these situations, the court judgment that would come is not a solution, not a permanent solution. It's going to be chaos, more heartburn, more disappointment. See one community wins, one community's losing. Celebration of one community will cause heartburn in the other, and the beautiful fabric of the country will in toss for this.
The consequences are very grave of a court judgment.
If the court says government should bring legislation. What do the Muslims get from that? Bitterness, lack of faith in the government, in the fairness of judiciary. Do we want to push the young people of this country into this sort of chaotic situation? And those who are dissatisfied, nothing will stop them from taking to militancy. Those who feel defeated, they will go the line of militancy.
The consequences can be grave, very serious. So that is why I appeal to people, 'come together, let us plan, that one acre you give as a gift to the majority community, and the majority community, in-turn, will give 5 acres, 10 acres, as a gift. Not as a deal, but as a gift... as a goodwill gesture.'
This is a golden opportunity for both communities to cement their relationship, come together and create a wave of harmony in the country. If we don't make use of this, we'll be fools. We'll be at loss. Instead, we make this a point of contention forever... keep this country divided and burning all the time. And some people want this, that's why they're opposing."
"They would like this conflict to be kept burning, to be kept alive, because their existence is on conflict. I wouldn't like to say the names of people, but some people want to keep this problem alive because conflict is their basis, their existence... and we cannot afford this to go on in this country. We don't want one more conflict. We're seeing in Kashmir what's happening every day. We're seeing in Naxal-hit areas what's happening every day. We don't want this Ram Mandir issue to be another problematic thing in the whole of the country. So the best thing is that both communities come together with the sense of goodwill. You know, all intelligent people, sensible people agree on this. We're saying, 'This is a win-win situation', see not one community is celebrating their victory, we're giving both communities a chance to celebrate victory.
I go to the extent to state that we put a plank there that says "this Mandir was built with the cooperation and goodwill of both Hindus and Muslims"... and this conflict is put to rest forever!
There are always some people who would like to create disturbance in the society. In both communities, there could be. I would like the youth of this country to wake up. The leaders, responsible people of this country to wake up, and come along and create a harmonious environment and to protect this country from being pushed to extremism, or into chaos, or violence. We don't want civil war in this country. I've seen too many of them in Iraq, Syria. You know, the state of affairs is very scary. It is dangerous and of great concern. It is such a burning issue and it touches the hearts and minds of the people, so it needs to be resolved out of court."
"I am also wondering why they are saying... why they want to tread the path of defeat instead of coming on to the path of 'win-win' situation. I don't understand. There's no sense in rejecting out-of-court settlement. There is no sense in asking for a defeat for either community in a court."
On the expulsion of Maulana Salman Nadvi from the AIMPLB following Nadvi's meeting with Sri Sri:
"It's his personal thing, he had some personal issues with his family. His uncle is the head of the personal law board, he health was not good. So on his request, he's taken back, but in his heart, he understands the consequences. He very much understands that out of court settlement is best for the Muslim community.
There are lot of people in the board who are well-meaning. They are intelligent people. They wish good for the country. There are lot of patriotic people in the board. I'm sure they will realise this. I don't see any sense in not wanting to come to a talk.
One concern will be 'oh it will be like a defeat giving away the land'. You're not giving the land to an organisation, you're not giving to VHP, you're not giving to one organisation or an individual, you're giving to 100 crore people of the country!"
"Even they themselves say, 'you build a Hospital, we'll give you.' They say they're ready to give the Masjid for a hospital or a school or a park, but not for a Mandir. This is not fair. Also, there are so many Masjids in Punjab, in Haryana, all over the country, where nobody is going, where goats are roaming around, nobody's taking care of them. Why aren't they concerned about those Mosques? It's just a lack of understanding. It's just a lack of common sense, I would say - insisting on something which is not going to in any way bring any good result to anybody."
"There are just a few people who don't see the sense, or even if they see the sense, they don't want to accept it because of some personal gains. But I see the Muslim community is large-hearted, very intelligent people, and they're forward-thinking in this country and they'll definitely agree on this win-win situation. I'm so confident of it. I'm pretty sure that both communities will come together and we'll have a happy ending to this story."
"I cannot predict a time, but sooner (than later)."
On the fact that court hearings are going on:
"Ya, let it happen. On other side, we're also talking to many organisations, individuals, people on both sides. Both are agreeing for it. I'm very hopeful, because any project I've taken up so far, we've succeeded. So I don't see why I would not succeed here when it makes all the sense. It makes all the sense in the world! It creates a bonding, it's a golden opportunity for both communities to cement their relationship, their bonding, otherwise there'll be a gap between the communities, there'll be a heartache, and burn and hurt, that will be caused to both communities."
"I would say that... Islam doesn't permit Namaz to be held where there is conflict. So since that place is of conflict, even as per Islam, that place is not suitable for a Mosque. So holding on to it just out of grudge, want to build a Mosque, is nonsensical. And that place is considered as Sri Ram's birthplace. For centuries, for 500 years, people have been fighting. As a goodwill gesture, gift that land to the Hindus and build the Mosque anywhere other than that property, outside where there is land, 5 acres, 6 acres, 10 acres available, you build the Mosque there."
On whether the Nirmohi Akhara is willing to give land:
"Everybody's willing to do. All the saints are willing to raise money to build the Mosque for them. Hindu saints are ready to do. And I am telling those people who feel... it is not an acceptance of defeat, you're not defeating yourself. It's a win-win situation."
"It is not any place. Because it is Sri Ram's birthplace and it has such an emotional and spiritual significance for Hindu community. It's not the case (on whether it is significant for the Muslim community)."
"Suppose it was a sacred place for Muslims as well, such as Haji Ali, or Ajmer Sharif, or Nizamuddin Dargah , or something like that, it would have been a very difficult thing. Since that is not the case since for 70 years no Namaz has been offered there, what is the difficulty in giving up? When you are ready to give up for a hospital, why don't you respect the sentiment of the majority community and give it for a Temple?"
"I don't see any sense in this logic. Again I assure them, 'you aren't giving the place for an organisation. You're giving to the country, to the people like this land.'"
They say 'It's no point in talking to Sunni Waqf board, or Personal Law board.' They say it is useless, "they're not going to agree, you will only be insulted and if they insult you, it's not only a personal insult, but an insult to the Hindu community. So we don't think you should go and talk to them, we're pretty sure they're not going to agree, they're going to fight this tooth-and-nail". This is their contention. I don't believe in that. I believe that people are sensible and they're considerate. There is so much more belongingness among the community. So they will agree with what I'm saying, with this hope only I'm talking to them.
"Well, it is for the Muslim community to speak up on that. But i'm speaking to many Imams and organisations and youth -- they're all in agreement. All intellectuals are agreeing with this proposal."
"On the ground, well-meaning people are there who want peace and progress and want a sense of brotherhood and togetherness to continue. They're all coming together and working."
"It will. Just the date has been postponed. We've moved the date a little further but we're going to do that. We may do that in Lucknow itself and then go to Ayodhya."
"I can't predict a date, but I'm sure we will. Sense will prevail. I can't predict the date, but I can say it will happen."
"I don't mind whatever they say. I have clarity in my mind, I know what I'm doing. Why I'm doing is a long-term good for both communities, for our country as such. I'll continue doing. I'd request people opposing me to look into the logic. Don't see from the old glasses you were seeing from 25 years ago. Situations have changed now, things have changed. See it from a broader perspective. What you are thinking will be a gain from the court won't be. It'll be an illusion."
"They have to see for themselves and analyse if the steps they are taking are for the good of the country, for the community."
On whether his efforts are working:
"I'm very confident. In this country, fortunately, we have lot of sensible people in this country. We have well-meaning and good-hearted people in this country, so definitely we'll succeed."
"No need for politics to interfere. It's a matter of faith. Nothing stops politicians from bringing a legislation on this. But it'll leave a section of society to feel left out. I would want everyone to participate and take credit for this."
"It's a centre of people's faith. It's a faith issue. I'm sure when people realise that it is going to be for the good of both communities, and create a very happy situation in the country. My dream is, once this dispute is settled, in 10 lakh Ram Temples of this country, we'll invite Inams of local Masjid and honour them and they honour the priest and create a celebration which both communities can participate in. The entire country will be taken over by a wave of celebration, rather than one community celebrating and the other sulking. That is my dream. We should put this to rest. There's a lot more to do in this country -- poverty, illiteracy. There's a lot to do. "