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Demolition squad strikes again
Seer shock after board progress

Lucknow, July 5:Sab khatam” (everything over), muttered Maulana Rabey Nadvi minutes after late-night prayers on the eve of the meeting to discuss the Sankaracharya’s Ayodhya formula.

The 67-year-old president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said there was little point in hoping for an early out-of-court settlement if there was no unity of purpose on the other side of the table.

The day saw several shades coinciding with prayer timings. At the morning Fajir, the mood was one of optimism and at the afternoon Zuhar, it changed to studied silence with a debate on deferring the meeting. At Asar in the evening, a member’s move to question in public the board’s ability to negotiate vitiated the atmosphere.

By the sunset Magrib, the RSS resolution and the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s comments cast a long shadow. After Ishan in the night, rivals cracked jokes and thanked God aloud that the community’s dignity and the board’s unity were intact.

The shadow lengthened when reports trickled in that the Sankaracharya had told a television channel the people of Ayodhya do not need another mosque. “It (the mosque) should be built where it is required…. It is not required in Ayodhya where people are already worshipping…,” the seer told the channel.

Nadvi was more surprised by the Sankaracharya’s remarks than that of the RSS. Perhaps, pressure from the RSS and other hardliners would have forced the pontiff to make such remarks, if he did make them, the scholar wondered aloud.

Sources said Nadvi had sought a few clarifications from the seer this week. They suggested that some of the questions could also have prompted the remarks on television.

The Sankaracharya appeared before cameras along with Sachin Tendulkar in Chennai today but did not make any public statement to clear the air.

Earlier in the day, Nadvi had got almost everyone around to “consider” the Sankaracharya’s proposals. There was an air of nervousness among the hawks, led by Syed Shahabuddin, who shuffled uncomfortably when senior board officials stressed that they were dealing with a person who was not a “mosque breaker”.

Another scholar quoted a book that allowed scope for negotiations on a demolished mosque to end what he described as a “greater shar” (clash).

By early evening, G.M. Banatwala, a hardliner, lost his patience. The Indian Union Muslim League MP defied Nadvi and held a press conference challenging the board’s ability to take up Ayodhya when successive resolutions stressed on the primacy of a court verdict.

At Sunday’s meeting, what remains to be seen is how the board will formally respond to the Sankaracharya’s proposal in the light of today’s developments.

Nadvi is flooded with advice that the board should summarily reject it but those close to him are advising caution. They want the board to sound reasonable, nail the RSS and the VHP as spoilers and ask the Kanchi seer and the government to rein them in.

On the pragmatic side, even the most optimistic members said it would be a tall order to restart the negotiations that saw unparalleled efforts, including from abroad, to bring the two sides together. “It will be difficult to recreate the same degree of goodwill,” a member said.

Attributing the setback to infighting among some leaders from the majority community, Muslim opinion-makers said it was unfortunate that a few individuals looked capable enough to thwart the overwhelming opinion in favour of a settlement.

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