The three-member mediation panel appointed by the Supreme Court met with stakeholders for the first time in Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad town today. The Supreme Court had last week referred the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for court-appointed and monitored mediation and expressed the view that the proceedings should be conducted with "utmost confidentiality" to ensure its success.
At the Faizabad University, the venue of the mediation process, the Uttar Pradesh police had put up barricades on all roads that led to a guest house where the meetings are taking place. No one was allowed to go inside the campus without proper identification and a thorough security check.
"There always is hope and one should make use of the opportunity. If the Supreme Court has said we should talk, we will talk and who knows a solution will come out," said Avi Mukhteshwaranand, who was representing the Sharda Peeth, a stakeholder in the dialogue process.
Ten kilometres away, in the temple town of Ayodhya - home to the land that is the genesis of the dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid, almost everyone welcomed the mediation but said neither side should be stubborn.
The family of 55-year-old Sita Devi - the custodians of a decades-old but crumbling temple said they want the construction of the Ram Temple at the disputed site, but only through a dialogue. "There should be no ladai-jhagda (fighting). There is hope from the mediation process. If the people want, a temple will come up. If they don't, then it won't happen," Sita Devi said.
At the over seven-centuries-old Syed Mohd Ibrahim Dargah, caretaker Mohd Junaid Qadri said the renovation of the Dargah and the adjoining mosque was paid for also by Hindus in the area a few years ago. People here largely believe that mediation is a good idea but things should now be settled.
"It's a very good thing. But the condition is that both sides should try to hammer out a solution. The intent should be right. There should be no politics. Then it is possible. But if politics creeps in like in every aspect, then nothing will happen and we will have to wait for the court judgement," said Mr Qadri.