July 1: On a day the VHP noiselessly laid down its conditions on the Ayodhya initiative, an optimistic Kanchi Sankaracharya said he was “enthused by the feedback” he was getting from all sides.
After talks with Union culture minister Jagmohan who had come calling at the Sankara mutt, Jayendra Saraswati said he was “happy” that things were beginning to fall into place. Representatives of the Muslim community had been “quite responsive” to his proposals, he said.
Yesterday, the RSS had spoken for the VHP, saying the parishad had no “real difference” with key elements of what is being called the Sankaracharya formula. There were only minor differences on details, it said.
“For the good of the country, I am praying that this effort should succeed,” the seer said today. He is scheduled to leave for Andhra Pradesh on Friday to consecrate some temples.
But before that, he might have to meet two more visitors. Late tonight, there was speculation in Chennai that foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao might call on him tomorrow.
Jagmohan today spent about an hour closeted with the Sankaracharya. Although the minister insisted he was not carrying any specific brief, his visit is believed to be significant in light of the VHP demand that the mosques under the Archaeological Survey of India should not be opened for namaz. The ASI is under Jagmohan.
In Delhi, the VHP today formally laid down the sticking points it has been crying hoarse about all along. It said it would abide by the seer’s formula provided Kashi and Mathura were kept out, the ASI-controlled mosques were not opened for namaz and quotas were not granted to backward caste Muslims.
But Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas president Ramchandradas Paramhans added a rider: he warned the seer against being party to any “give and take” formula as it was against the faith and belief of the Hindus.
“The Kanchi Sankaracharya does not have the support of about 90 crore Hindus of the country,” he said in Ayodhya. He said the dispute could not be resolved without taking the sants and the VHP into confidence. The parishad echoed him.
Senior VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore said in Delhi the parishad was surprised at the quota demand by some Muslim leaders. He said religious quotas could not be granted under the Constitution.
Kishore said the VHP wanted L.K. Advani to handle the Ayodhya issue because A. B. Vajpayee had never supported the cause and had even said in Parliament (the Babri demolition) was a sin.
Analysts said the VHP insistence to avoid talks on Kashi and Mathura was a ploy to keep the Hindutva agenda alive. At some later stage, it could then demand that they be handed to Hindus.
Government sources said that under a law enacted in 1993, status quo had to be maintained at places of worship. But the VHP is hoping it will be able to cajole a future BJP government into changing the law.