The sudden news that the popular baba, Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation has been approached by Nirmohi Akhara group and All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to mediate the long-standing Ram Mandir dispute between the two. Sri Sri denied any government influence or interference in organising a meeting for arriving at a consensus on the vexed Ram Mandir issue, held at his Ashram on Oct 6th.
With all due respect to Sri Sri and many like him who hang around every government and PM and hog the limelight, Godmen are three kinds. One revered religious gurus like Shankaracharyas and such of various mutts, who confine to Gods and holy books and try and avoid politicking, save Kanchi seer who tried such once, and had to pay a heavy price for the same.
The second are plain scoundrels, spread all over our country with vast empires of luxurious Ashrams and gun-toting commandos around. Asaram, Ram Rahim, Nithyananda, Premananda, Kalki to name a few, and many more would fit into this category. Devotees thronging such fake babas, despite repeated allegations of rapes and heinous crimes like nut-cracking of male devotees, does not seem to discourage the swelling of Baba battalions.
The third group is suave, difficult to understand, talk peace and mother-nature. They are not saints like the Shankaracharyas but gurus, who evoke awe with display of large gatherings in stadiums. A few in them are suave and well educated too. Some have built huge business empires, play cricket, golf, ride bikes and go in for jazzy, flamboyant shows, be it installation of Shiva’s bust or holding obnoxious rallies on Yamuna, with least regard to environmental concerns.
The much-revered Sri Sri falls in the third category and has assumed the role a mediator under the blessings of the government. An exasperated judiciary has virtually thrown its hands up, advising the warring factions to try and settle the problem outside the court, if they can, while setting 3 days in continuous hearing from Dec 5th.
The VP of AIMPLB Syed Umri, has expressed confidence only on court and denies any knowledge of the meeting. There are 13 appeals against the Alahabad HC verdict that divided the 2.73 acres disputed land among Ram Lalla, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.
Though Sri Sri’s claims that the mediating efforts are not government sponsored, it sounds too hollow to be true. Alternative Dispute Resolution is a good attempt, provided it is done by people who possess sound knowledge of the matter and respected by both the parties to the dispute. The AIMPLB members could yield and come to a graceful settlement, but I doubt, if hardliners like Togadia and the various other Senas on one side and Asaduddin Owaisi on the other, would ever yield an inch of space? I am ready to eat a humble pie on this!
After all, 2019 is not far away and Ram Mandir has always been a vote consolidator during each election. It will still do!