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Board smiles, keeps seer letter in wraps

June 21: Hope of an end to the Ayodhya dispute brightened today, with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board reacting positively to the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s formula for a negotiated settlement.

Board chairman Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadvi, who opened the envelope containing the proposals on his return to Lucknow, refused to reveal details but said the seer appeared to have made a “sincere effort”.

“I have read the two-page formula written in English but will not disclose its contents. I have kept it in my cupboard but will not speak on the issue because my views could affect the thinking of other members of the board,” Nadvi said.

The proposals will now be put before the 51-member working committee of the board, scheduled to meet in Lucknow on July 6.

The envelope finally arrived last evening after Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati’s Kanchi office called to find out if it had reached. The board was told it had been sent four days ago and was given the courier details. “We found that it had been kept undelivered since the complete address was not written,” board spokesperson Maulana Sajjad Nomani said.

Sources said the formula includes allowing Muslims to worship in mosques now under the Archaeological Survey of India, settling Kashi and Mathura and promising land for a mosque in Ayodhya within 8 km of the disputed site in exchange for a temple at the site.

“The Sankaracharya had told me the Ayodhya issue could be sorted out if religious leaders took an initiative,” Nadvi said.

In a snub to hardliners Syed Shahabuddin and Zafaryab Jeelani, who are opposed to talks, he said: “We must not forget that if reasonable men sit together, everything under the sun can be solved.” Nomani echoed him: “Let’s hope and pray that this is the beginning of the end of a dispute that has created tension and distrust between the two communities.”

Asked why the proposals were not sent to the board’s Babri committee, which met in New Delhi today, Nomani said the panel had a different agenda.

“The working committee of the board is the only forum authorised to take a stand on the seer’s proposal.”

The Babri committee today assessed how the war of words between the VHP and the Centre would impact a final solution. Officially, the meeting was called to discuss the Liberhan Commission’s proceedings and the results of the Ayodhya excavations.

Members felt it was time the Centre placed its Ayodhya cards on the table instead of just leaving it to the Sankaracharya to carry forward the process of settlement. “So far, there is no evidence of any government role. Why is the government keeping silent'” asked a source.

“The VHP has the RSS’ backing. Though it may appear that the BJP is with the government, we wonder if it will antagonise the VHP and the RSS before elections. If the BJP backs out, will the government have the moral courage to go ahead and support the Sankaracharya'” the source asked.

A prominent cleric of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and a member of the VHP’s marg darshak mandal, Swami Vishvesa Thirtha, today appealed to the Centre to adopt a “policy of consensus” and involve the VHP and leaders of other prominent mutts apart from Kanchi.

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