Sri Sri Ravi Shankar As A Credible Mediator

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New Delhi: After a marathon hearing lasting 40 days in the Ayodhya dispute, the five-judge Constitutional bench of the apex court reserved its verdict during the final hearing on October 16 and is likely to deliver the verdict before November 17, the same day when CJI Gogoi demits office.

There were always lingering concerns, that any decision by the court will not adequately address the concerns of both parties, and potentially cause tension between the communities as a result. Recently a political leader was quoted as asking people to buy swords instead of jewelry in the festive season, be that as one off a case as it may be.

While the country waits for the final decision of the Supreme Court, there is also a high likelihood that the resolution might and should have come from another quarter- the mediation panel-an option that large number of Indians are pinning their hopes to. If indeed a breakthrough comes from a mediation led effort, it could set a historic lesson in bonhomie and communal brotherhood signalling India’s arrival as a mature cohesive democracy.

On March 8 this year, the Supreme Court set up a three-member Mediation panel comprising former SC Justice FM Kalifulla, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.

If the mediation succeeds, India will have Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to thank a lot for. People have related to the relentless efforts of the spiritual leader to lock in an amicable settlement in favor of peace, in spite of stiff scepticism, that has shaped the public discourse in this matter. Meeting and deliberating with every stakeholder concerned in the matter from all the three parties, long before he was appointed to the mediation panel, during the course of 2017-2018, Sri Sri laid the groundwork for the possibility of an out of court settlement, visiting the disputed site multiple times, all under intense media glare. Many a time, delegations of senior Muslim leaders met him in Bangalore at his Ashram, other times; he travelled to Uttar Pradesh to meet the litigants.

Long before his appointment to the mediation panel, Sri Sri had been a solitary voice, publically batting for an amicable settlement to the centuries-long feud. He first put forth a peace proposal in 2003 based on foundational principles of faith and compassion; a formula, which might just work now, 16 years later.

In late 2017, Sri Sri set in motion the process for consensus-building between the concerned litigants in Ayodhya, so much so that the Supreme Court of India, deemed it fit to repose its trust and faith in the outcome of a mediation process, rather than its own verdict which would be of a purely legal nature.

As persistently challenging as it has been, this is not the first time that the Art of Living founder has intervened with considerable success in disputes of a sticky, communal and tense nature. The humanitarian leader has globally contributed to resolving conflict situations by building alliances and consensus following persistent dialogue.

Be it addressing a peace gathering of 12,000 Kashmiris from all walks of life, especially women, during a state wide shut down; or bringing together 67 major insurgent groups from seven northeast states on one platform who signed the Guwahati Declaration to begin a new chapter in reconciliation and development; or be it the Colombian civil conflict, calling for a precarious balance between peace and justice, where he is known to have convinced the FARC rebels about the strategic implications of choosing Gandhi’s method of non-violence-for which he received Colombia’s highest civilian honor, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been creating space for dialogue, at times even on the political hotbeds of conflict.

On November 10, 2017 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar hosted Paigam-e-Mohabbat, an unprecedented reconciliation program for the family members of martyred security personnel, victims of cross-firing and slain militants, in Bangalore. The program brought together 200 families that had lost their loved ones to violence in the Valley on one platform to give peace and forgiveness a chance.

In the Northeast, Sri Sri played a key role in bringing to mainstream over 700 guerilla fighters of militant groups who underwent a month-long rehabilitation training in Bangalore in 2013. Today, they need normal lives- some are farmers and others have started cooperatives. Similarly, in Manipur, 68 armed-militants gave up their arms in 2017, and are now being aided in their rehabilitation by the organization.

In the highly tense areas of Syria and Iraq, his organisation has been giving trauma relief and rehabilitation to victims of unimaginable violence staying put in areas which were difficult for even humanitarian organizations. Art of Living volunteers have also been working with the Yazidi community, a religious minority in Iraq that has faced genocide and persecution by ISIS.

He also met leaders on all sides (Shia, Sunni and Kurds among others) of the Iraq conflict during 2008, one of the very few world leaders to have been able to do this at that time. Visiting Iraq thrice, he is the only Indian spiritual leader to have been invited the by the then Prime Minister to visit the conflict-torn country.

Sri Sri’s approach has been that of integrating his lessons with social action in what he calls ‘peace with dynamism’. Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki says about Sri Sri, “There are big powers who have big might, but they are not able to unite the hearts and mind of people. This work can be done only by a spiritual leader.

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