The Supreme Court’s decision to explore the mediation route in the decades-old Ayodhya dispute is a historic step that has the potential to heal the wounds of the past and find an amicable solution. The choice of the mediators — former Supreme Court judge FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and a senior advocate well known for his work in the conflict resolution area Sriram Panchu — is heart-warming and raises hopes of ending the prolonged imbroglio. A negotiated settlement to the highly sensitive dispute is what the country needs in the present divisive political environment. As mandated by the apex court, the panel of mediators will hold in-camera talks with all the stakeholders in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case over the next eight weeks at Faizabad, the twin town of Ayodhya. Since the mediation process coincides with the electioneering, the parties are well advised to desist from politicising the issue and using it as a campaign theme. The case is less about the land and more about healing the wounds, bridging the hearts and restoring communal harmony. Though the right-wing groups, rooting for fast-tracking the temple construction through an ordinance, wanted an early verdict so that it could be exploited electorally, the court rightly exercised the mediation option to find a mutually acceptable solution. Any verdict favouring one of the litigants would have resulted in raising the political temperature and widening the rift. All the parties to the dispute must seize this moment and sincerely work towards an amicable settlement.
The apex court needs to be lauded for taking a decisive step forward and making an honest attempt to bring all sides to the negotiating table. The country has seen a lot of bloodshed over Ayodhya and endured deep wounds that are yet to heal. While some Hindu groups have steadfastly opposed mediation on the ground that similar initiatives had failed in the past, the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara, the petitioners in the case, have favoured giving mediation another chance. The positive mood generated by the court’s latest move must be carried forward and the mediators must be allowed to complete their task in an atmosphere of mutual accommodation and goodwill. As many as 14 appeals have been filed in the top court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. India cannot hope to meet the aspirations of the post-liberalisation generation if it continues to cling on to the painful baggage of the past.