The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seer sets truce hopes ticking

Kancheepuram, June 22: By the day, the Sankaracharya raises expectations about a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute which has riven the country unlike anything since Partition.

After a 75-minute meeting with defence minister George Fernandes and finance minister Jaswant Singh, the Kanchi Sankaracharya said he was hopeful “something can come about by July 7” — as early as that.

A day before, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which is negotiating with the seer, meets to discuss the so-called formula he has sent for a settlement.

“I cannot disclose the contents of the proposals sent by me now as the board working committee is to meet on July 6 to discuss it,” the seer said. Although he was more forthright than the two ministers, the Sankaracharya would disclose no more.

“It will not be proper on my part either, when the board chairman, Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadvi, has himself said he had kept the written proposals ‘safe in his almirah’,” he said with a smile.

There appeared to be reason enough on all sides to sport a smile. Reticent though he was, like colleague Singh, when asked if he was carrying back a message, Fernandes said: “I am only carrying a message of happiness”.

It was time to pick up more than one message — and a happy one, too. “Why don’t you read the cue'” the Sankaracharya replied when asked to comment on Nadvi’s description of his proposals as “positive and sincere”.

Clearly, the seer was saying his initiative had gone well so far. He admitted that there could be hurdles down the road, but “our objective is to give the peaceful dialogue process another chance”.

“We are constantly in touch with the Muslim religious leaders and the process is going on amicably,” the Sankaracharya said. The seer held his patience in the face of provocation by the VHP, which has dismissed his initiative. “In a democracy, everyone has the right to express their views, let the VHP say what they want to say.”

Fernandes also refrained from commenting on the VHP’s attack. “I am not competent to speak on that,” he said. It was a signal that the NDA had left the political management of the VHP’s diatribe against the seer to the BJP.

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