Having offered to mediate in the Ayodhya dispute, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Wednesday met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath but said he had no proposal yet to discuss with the stakeholders.
Ravi Shankar, who is scheduled to visit Ayodhya on Thursday, had a 40-minute meeting with Adityanath at his official residence where the two were believed to have discussed the issue.
His offer for mediating in the dispute has received a tepid and skeptical response from key protagonists on both sides, with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad voicing reservations about his role.
In an informal interaction with journalists after meeting Adityanath, he said,"I want unity...I want amity. This is just a beginning. We will talk to all."
When his attention was drawn to comments by some Muslim leaders rejecting his proposal to resolve the dispute, Ravi Shankar said he had no proposal at the moment so any question of rejection does not arise.
"Neither I have given any proposal nor have I got it from anyone," he said.
A top official described the meeting between Ravi Shankar and Adityanath as 'good'.
"As far as the Ayodhya issue is concerned, the chief minister's stand is very clear. The state government is not a party (to the dispute). We welcome any settlement and will honour the decision of the court," he said.
Ravi Shankar met Suresh Das of Digambar Akhada, Janmejay Sharan of Rasikpeeth and Rajaram Chandra Acharya of Nirmohi Akahada today, apparently to explore ways for a reconciliation between the warring parties locked in a protracted legal dispute over the land on which the Babri mosque stood before being pulled down in 1992.
The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court. Speaking on the issue in the national capital, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik said, "This (mediation) kind of effort is being made by those who believe it will help resolve the issue at the earliest. I wish their efforts bear fruit. But the apex court's final verdict will be binding."
Gautam Vig, a representative of the Art of Living founder said Ravi Shankar was listening to both Hindus and Muslims but no formula has been worked out yet.
"The Hindu side is very positive, the Muslim side is very positive," Vig said.
The VHP and AIMPLB have, however, rejected the relevance of mediation efforts by Ravi Shankar.
"It is being said that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is talking to all the stakeholders in the case but he has not yet contacted the top leadership of All India Muslim Personal Law Board which is leading the Muslim side," AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Wali Rehmani said.
He said Ravi Shankar had made a similar move to resolve the dispute some 12 years ago and concluded that the disputed site be handed over to Hindus.
"What new formula he has found this time should be told," Rehmani said.
The VHP too appeared dismissive, saying no dialogue on the issue was needed as courts go by evidence and archaeological evidence was in favour of Hindus.
'There is no relevance of the (recent) clamour for agreement over Ram Janmabhoomi after the archaeological evidences in this regard have been found to be in favour of Hindus... the courts go by evidence,' regional spokesman for the VHP Sharad Sharma said in a statement.
He said ever since the Supreme Court suggested an out of court settlement of the issue, some people who made no contribution to the temple movement had become active.
A bench headed by the then Chief Justice J S Khehar had said in March this year that such religious issues can be resolved through negotiations and offered to mediate to arrive at an amicable settlement.
"These are issues of religion and sentiments. These are issues where all the parties can sit together and arrive at a consensual decision to end the dispute. All of you may sit together and hold a cordial meeting," the court had said.
The state's Shia Waqf Board, which has impleaded itself in the case, has been siding with the Hindu parties to the case, with its chairman Wasim Rizvi saying no new mosque should be built in either Ayodhya or neighbouring Faizabad as part of the formula mooted by it to resolve the dispute.
He said since the Babri mosque was a Shia shrine, the board will identify a piece of land in a Muslim-dominated area for it and inform the government.