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Seer letter on Lucknow table
Hawks caged on either side

Bhopal/Lucknow, June 20: The fate of the Ayodhya dispute now lies in an envelope that arrived in Lucknow today from Kanchi containing what is believed to be the Sankaracharya’s formula for a negotiated settlement.

“The sealed envelope cannot be opened because Maulana Rabey Nadvi is out of town and is expected to be back tomorrow. The envelope will be opened on Saturday,” a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said.

Nadvi heads the board and had a meeting with the Kanchi seer who visited Lucknow a couple of weeks ago. Maulana Sajjad Nomani said the Sankaracharya had sought confirmation of receipt of the envelope.

He did not say how soon the formula would be put before the board. “The future course of action would be decided by the board’s president.”

The board finds itself in a stronger position now to deal with the Sankaracharya’s proposals, having succeeded in isolating the hawks.

Board office-bearers claimed two key achievements. First, the country’s most influential Muslim organisation has kept its unity intact. Second, the so-called gang of four lawyers — Syed Shahabuddin, Zafaryab Jeelani, Yusuf Hathim Muchala and Abdul Raheem Qureshi — which has openly attacked efforts at a negotiated settlement has found itself in a minority.

“Our vision is clear and we want the issue settled either through court verdict or negotiations,” Nomani said.

Jeelani, the most outspoken of the hawks, continued the shrill tirade, arguing that the seer’s effort was a cover-up for the VHP’s unwillingness to accept an adverse court verdict.

Unlike in the past, the moderate Muslim voice is coming out strong. Maulana Kalbe-Sadiq dismissed Jeelani’s charge: “I believe that a religious head like the Sankaracharya will have no mischief to play.”

For, perhaps, the first time, hardliners on either side are finding themselves marginalised and on the same side — opposed to a negotiated settlement.

VHP leader Giriraj Kishore today rejected the move altogether. “Any formula that gives Muslims a right to Mathura, Kashi or any premises under Archaeological Survey of India’s supervision is unacceptable,” he said.

For the hawks on both sides, an end to the Ayodhya dispute — possibly with a Ram temple at the site with a mosque nearby, Kashi and Mathura settled and handover of 100-odd mosques to the Muslims — represents an existential crisis, stripping them of any purpose in life.

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