The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muslim board in meet stand-off

Lucknow, June 18: As they wait for the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s latest proposals to resolve the Ayodhya dispute, members of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board find themselves dogged by another row.

Led by Zafaryab Jilani, the hawks in the board have strongly opposed vice-president Maulana Kalbe-Sadiq’s demand to postpone the meeting of the board’s Babri panel scheduled for June 21 in New Delhi.

Kalbe-Sadiq, a Shia cleric, had written to the convener of the 11-member panel, Qasim Illyas, saying the “Kanchi seer’s new proposals were on the way” and suggested that the meeting be held after they were received.

Opposing the demand, Sajjad Nomani, a board member, said it was wrong to link the June 21 meeting with the Kanchi seer’s proposals. “The meeting was fixed much in advance and there are many other important issues on its agenda besides the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s latest peace initiative.”

Caught between the doves and the hawks, board chairman Rabey Hasan Nadvi said he had not received any written proposal from the seer till date. “If at all it comes, it will be taken up at the board’s working committee, which is the only authorised forum to take a decision on the issue.”

Nadvi added that there was no move to postpone the June 21 meeting. “In any case, the committee has no authority to discuss the seer’s proposals and formulate the community’s response,” he said.

The board chief said when the Sankaracharya had called on him 12 days ago, he had asked the seer to send his proposals in writing. “We are open to talks and unless we get a proposal from him, we cannot proceed.”

Technicalities apart, members of the Muslim Personal Law Board are locking horns over the board’s approach to the Sankaracharya’s proposals.

Speaking for the hardliners, Jilani, who is also the convener of the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee, said: “The board and the awam have taken a clear stand that we will not give up our claim to the Babri site. If the Kanchi seer’s formula seeks any concession on that count, it must be rejected at the outset.”

The other group, led by Kalbe-Sadiq, wants the board to hold talks with the Kanchi seer without conditions. “All I want is that if any proposal for amicable solution to the vexed problem comes, we should not look at it with jaundiced eyes but discuss it respectfully and thoroughly,” he said.

Sadiq had resigned from the board’s Babri panel in protest against the “premature rejection of the seer’s proposals” by the hawks. However, Nadvi persuaded him to withdraw his resignation with the assurance that “the doors for talks would not be shut”.

Nadvi and other moderates find non-communication on the part of the Sankaracharya to be a stumbling block.

“He had made a similar beginning last year but when we sought some documentary evidence to make up our mind, he failed to deliver it and the talks ended inconclusively. This time, too, there is no word from him despite his assurance to the board president 12 days back,” said Nomani, a board member considered close to Nadvi.

Nomani said though the board was not averse to the Sankaracharya’s initiative, it wanted the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to be kept out of it.

“We are open to a dialogue but we can only talk with those who speak in civilised language and not with those who say that they will not accept the court’s verdict and go ahead with construction of the Ram temple at any cost,” he said.

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