The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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George skirts Ayodhya talks

New Delhi, Feb. 5: With Union ministers Murli Manohar Joshi and Arun Jaitly emerging key negotiators in the Kanchi sankaracharya-brokered Ayodhya temple dialogue, a dispirited NDA convener George Fernandes kept away from the talks.

The Samata Party president left for Bangalore for an air force show last night even as his party said it was against the government moving the Supreme Court on the Ram mandir issue.

The Samata said it would be “extremely unwise” to hand over the undisputed plot to the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust as it would incite communal passions across the country.

A few days ago, government sources had maintained that Fernandes was not against the government getting apex court stay on the 67 acres of acquired land vacated.

But with Fernandes making himself scarce for the talks, there is speculation that the defence minister is not in agreement with the way negotiations are being carried out.

Party sources fear the BJP may force the government to move a Bill in Parliament just before the general elections to acquire land. Either way it helps the ruling party in the polls — whether the Bill is passed or it is defeated because the allies did not play ball. The BJP has a major Hindutva plank ready for the elections.

Samata spokesperson Shambhu Shrivastwa said: “The government should not go to the Supreme Court for getting vacated last year’s stay on any change in the status quo regarding the undisputed land till a larger bench disposed of related petitions. Let us await the Allahabad High Court verdict or a negotiated settlement between the Muslim leadership and the VHP.”

Last year, Fernandes had brought leaders belonging to the Muslim Personal Law Board to the negotiating table. He even managed a dialogue between Syed Shababuddin, a hardliner, and the sankaracharya. But then communal carnage broke out in Gujarat and the defence minister had to rush to the troubled state, abandoning his initiative mid-way.

In it, Ram Lalla is placed in the disputed portion of the land. A corridor was to be provided for Muslim worshippers in the event of the court finally disposing of the case in favour of a mosque.

But this time, the Muslim clergy and leadership declined to meet the Sankaracharya saying that they would talk only if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee or the PMO invited them.

Asking the Centre to leave the matter at that, Shrivastwa said if the stay was vacated, an executive order would be passed to hand over the undisputed land to the Trust, which would incite communal passions across the country.

Once the undisputed land is handed over to the Nyas, it would start construction work and serve a fait accompli to the Muslims, rendering construction of a mosque (if and when the apex court allows it) virtually meaningless as it would be surrounded by temple buildings.

“If the government hands over the land through an executive order but the Supreme Court rules that a mosque should be built in the disputed area where Ram Lalla is now kept, it will also pose a peculiar situation where the temple will be ready but the Lord will be out,” Shrivastwa said.

Stating that the problem should be solved safeguarding the rule of law, the Constitution and the honour of the country, he said the government should mediate with both the communities for an amicable solution or wait for the court verdict.

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