The post-liberalisation generation has no memories of the turmoil and bloodshed that the country had to go through in the wake of Ram Janmabhoomi movement culminating in the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid. It is in the interests of this aspirational generation that the country needs to exorcise the ghosts of the past. The painful baggage of the past needs to be offloaded for the sake of a better future. The Supreme Court’s well-meaning advice for an amicable, out-of-the-court settlement of the decades-old dispute must be explored in right earnest. Chief Justice of India JS Khehar’s extraordinary gesture, offering to personally mediate in the matter, is laudable. The petitioners from both sides must seize this moment and restart negotiations in a spirit of mutual accommodation to end the tangle that has already taken a heavy toll on the country. There is, of course, a sense of scepticism in some quarters over the possibility of a negotiated settlement because of the bruised history and failure of similar attempts made in the past. However, much water has flown down the Sarayu bridge since December 6, 1992, the darkest hour in recent history. The mood in the 21st century is one of optimism and hope. There is now an overwhelming yearning among both Hindus and Muslims for a peaceful resolution of the dispute and for putting the bitterness of the past behind them. The dynamics of the New Age calls for fresh approach to heal the wounds and an out-of-the-box solution to the vexed problem.
The Mandir-Masjid imbroglio is not just a dispute over title of the land but extends to a wider arc involving matters of faith. It is precisely for this reason that the apex court’s call for a fresh attempt at negotiated settlement assumes significance. Such a complex case cannot be resolved without displaying a spirit of magnanimity and give-and-take approach from both sides. After six decades of litigation, the Allahabad High Court had, in its October 2010 order, declared the Hindu and Muslim litigants as joint title-holders to the 2.77-acre disputed plot and divided it equally among Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and Sunni Wakf Board. Based on the ‘faith and belief’ of Hindus, it held that the dome, under which the idol of Ram Lalla had been placed, was indeed the birth place of Lord Ram. However, unsatisfied with the verdict, both the parties moved the apex court. Since the neutrality of the Supreme Court is beyond reproach, its mediation can help find a mutually acceptable formula to end the most divisive dispute in independent India. It offers a historic opportunity to permanently bury the ghost of communalism and preserve secular ethos.