July 13: Both sides are picking up the pieces of the Kanchi Sankaracharya’s Ayodhya initiative barely a week after it ran aground.
Signals emanating from the Muslim leadership confirm the Kanchi seer’s statement yesterday that contact has been re-established.
Developments over the past two days suggest both sides are still keen on a negotiated settlement despite the jolt earlier this month when the All India Muslim Personal Law Board rejected a Sankaracharya formula that went through a dramatic last-minute revision.
A three-point counter proposal was drawn up and presented before the board’s July 6 executive meeting when it expressed its inability to accept the seer’s proposals, the key among which was that Muslims should gift the disputed site to Hindus.
The three elements are:
§Muslims will give a no-objection certificate to Ram temple in the undisputed area provided the disputed 2.77 acres are barricaded. This formed part of the Sankaracharya’s first set of proposals that he withdrew on the eve of the board’s meeting.
§Both sides give an undertaking to the Supreme Court that they will abide by the court verdict.
§Ram Lalla, the deity currently at the disputed site, can be placed in the temple in the undisputed area but shifted back if the verdict in the land’s title suit goes in favour of Hindus.
If this set of proposals has not made its way to Kanchi yet, it is because a small segment within the board prevailed upon the moderate Maulana Rabey Nadwi, who heads it, to put it on hold.
Those who bitterly opposed the idea of sending a counter-proposal included G.M. Banatwallah, Syed Shahabuddin, Zafaryab Jilani, Abdur Raheem Qureshi and Yusuf Hatim Muchhala, all known hawks.
The counter-proposal makes no reference to Kashi and Mathura. In the letter accompanying his revised formula, the Sankaracharya had said Muslims should “prepare” to one day give up their claims to the two sites where followers of both religions offer prayers.
Board sources said the shrines were protected by the 1993 Places of Worship Act.
They said they had received feelers from Swami Jayendra Saraswati on July 5 evening — after his revised proposal arrived — not to take cognisance of the second letter.
Nadwi declined the request on the grounds that it would amount to playing with the community’s sentiments.
“There were indications that the seer was having second thoughts hours before the July 6 board meeting. First, the mediators asked us to probe the possibility of deferring the meeting. We said no. Then they urged us not to take cognisance of the second letter. We said it was not possible as it was too late,” said a member privy to behind-the-scenes deliberations.
Board members said these events showed that “all was not lost”. Nadwi, these sources said, is still open to the idea of a negotiated settlement.
Although Nadwi will not go on record, sources close to him said if the seer withdraws his second letter, talks can resume.
“A number of well-meaning persons are trying to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table. They are well-known, well-meaning persons who have larger national interest in mind,” a board office-bearer said.