The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal opens talks door on temple
- Call to free process from politics

New Delhi, June 8: With a little over a year left for the Lok Sabha election, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee turned the spotlight back on Ayodhya, saying his government wanted an early settlement of the dispute either through a court verdict or negotiations or both.

Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam at the Siri Fort Auditorium today, Vajpayee said: “We want to see an early solution to the Ayodhya issue. How long will this issue linger'”

He said the involvement of political parties and leaders made a negotiated settlement difficult. Therefore, it was imperative that they rise above “party politics” and stop scoring brownie points against one another.

Rajneeti se mukt honi chahiye. Na laabh na haani dekhni chahiye (It should be above politics. Nobody should look into gains and losses),” he said.

Vajpayee proposed that the issue should ideally be resolved between religious and social representatives from both sides.

Pointing towards Kanchi Sankaracharya Swami Jayendra Saraswati, who shared the dais with the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi, Vajpayee said he was still mediating.

“Initially there have been some difficulties, but efforts are on,” Vajpayee said.

The Sankaracharya earlier told reporters that a draft appeal was being jointly worked out between Hindu and Muslim representatives and it would be unveiled during his next visit to Delhi in July.

Saraswati claimed that the Muslim leaders he had talked to were keen on a solution and even went to the extent of saying that they were ready to hand over the contentious land in Ayodhya to Hindu religious heads but not political organisations.

He added that Muslim leaders were prepared for an agreement involving representatives of organisations like the Kanchi Mutt. The seer said their only concern was getting something in return for giving up their claim on the Ayodhya land.

His suggestion was that the “hundreds of mosques” taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should be restored to them so that they could offer namaz there. “The demand is reasonable,” he said.

However, members of the two main parties involved in the dispute — the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) — denied knowledge of any such appeal. Neither did the Sankaracharya contact them recently, they said, adding that the last time they met him formally was in 2002 when the VHP wanted to perform shila daan at the site and he worked hard to broker a truce.

S.Q.R. Iliyasi, convener of the board’s Babri committee, said on phone from Hyderabad: “I can state with authority that no Muslim organisation or individual of any standing met the Sankaracharya recently. Nor is there any such proposal. If, by leaders, he means persons like Shahnawaz Hussain or Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (of the BJP), the community knows neither has a base or locus standi.”

VHP sources said they had “no idea” what the Sankaracharya was doing. “At least we have not been approached by him,” said the sources.

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