The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ayodhya fresh shot with masjid mediator

New Delhi, Nov. 2: Syed Ahmed Asghar Rizvi is the newest explorer trying to crack the Ayodhya maze, armed with a claim that he already has a roadmap to unravel the age-old tangle in barely two weeks.

For starters, Rizvi has floated an outfit called the Ayodhya Jama Masjid Trust which, he believes, could replace the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Babri Masjid Action Committee on the negotiating table.

Rizvi’s family belongs to Basti, bordering Ayodhya, and is in charge of one of the five Jama masjids in the pilgrim town.

On the face of it, Rizvi’s formula looks simple and conciliatory to the VHP: “Let the government give us land to build a big Jama masjid in Ayodhya since the existing mosques are too small to accommodate all during Friday prayers. In return, Muslim litigants should withdraw cases and hand over the Ayodhya land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas for construction of the Ram temple.”

Rizvi said the Jama masjid of his blueprint would not be close to the “disputed” complex because “that would defeat its purpose. I have called it a Jama masjid because the so-called Babri masjid, which was meant for Friday prayers, was a misnomer. Babur was a conqueror and not a religious person”.

Rizvi said he preferred a site opposite the house of Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the Waqf Board’s plaintiff, for building the mosque.

Rizvi, who met Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav with a nine-point formula, mooted the formation of a state-level Ayodhya cell which could work in tandem with the one in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and have a broad representation of Muslim ministers and the leader of the Opposition, the BJP’s Lalji Tandon.

Envisaging a more interventionist role for Mulayam Singh, Rizvi suggested that the chief minister ask the Centre for a 5 per cent increase in the state budget and use it for the Ram temple and the Jama masjid.

The new “mediator” claimed he was “in touch” with the PMO and the home ministry. Rizvi said he had also spoken to the new convener of the Ramjanmabhoomi trust, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, and the VHP’s working president, Ashok Singhal, “on phone”.

Agencies quoted Nritya Gopal as saying he had asked Rizvi to take the Sunni Waqf Board into confidence before embarking on negotiations. The Waqf Board is the prime litigant in the land dispute case.

However, Rizvi had no luck with the personal law board which, he conceded, was a tough nut to crack. His endeavour now is to show the board up as “irrelevant” to the process.

“Ali Mian, the respected former chairman of the board, had written a letter saying that the body should not get involved in political disputes but concern itself only with the interpretation of theological issues. I, too, request them to stay away from this matter.”

However, he does not take Syed Shahabuddin, counted among the hardliners on the temple dispute, lightly. Rizvi said he had talked to Maulana Syed Hasan Hasnain Abidi, the general secretary of Shahabuddin’s All India Muslim Masjlis-e-Mushawarat, to “persuade” his president to accept the formula.

While home ministry sources said Rizvi’s “initiative” was “a welcome start”, Muslim leaders were sceptical. None went on record, but sources in the personal law board questioned Rizvi’s credentials, saying he always surfaced at the “Centre’s bidding”.

They said he first came in the picture as an aide of the Calcutta-based descendant of Wajid Ali Shah, the late Anjum Qadar, whose services were sought by the government of the day for Ayodhya.

Rizvi said he was part of the abortive negotiations started by former ministers of state for home, Buta Singh and Subodh Kant Sahay.

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