The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mulayam builds Ayodhya bridge

New Delhi, Dec. 21: The Ayodhya cauldron is hotting up again with Mulayam Singh Yadav doing a somersault and rooting for an out-of-court settlement.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister, conventionally perceived to be close to Muslims, has reportedly advised members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board to consider avenues for a negotiated settlement.

During an informal interaction, Mulayam Singh cautioned the leading lights of the drive to restore the Babri Masjid against targeting deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Mulayam Singh has reportedly offered his offices for an “honourable” out-of-court settlement, saying a protracted legal battle would yield little.

The Samajwadi Party chief is believed to have told the Muslim leaders that a confrontationist path resulting in unfortunate incidents like the Godhra massacre and the riots that followed would not help the Muslim cause.

Muslim law board leaders said the chief minister was clearly averse to the idea of tightening the legal noose around Advani as it would further vitiate the atmosphere.

The board stands sharply divided on Mulayam Singh’s suggestion. Hardliners led by Syed Shahabuddin, Zafaryab Jilani, Sultan Salauddin Owaisi and legal experts like Yusuf Hatim Muchala have not taken kindly to his “volte-face”.

Some of them sniff a “conspiracy theory” and feel Mulayam Singh is a “changed man” who has ceased to be a saviour of the Muslim community. They also view the chief minister’s stand on Advani as a sort of “quid pro quo”.

However, another section of the law board, represented by loyalists of its former chief, the late Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam, see a great deal of merit in Mulayam Singh’s remarks. This group is lobbying hard to prevail upon the rest of the board to project the Samajwadi leader as a “negotiator”.

Given his political stature, the group believes, Mulayam Singh would be the best bet for resuming the Babri campaign where the Kanchi Sankaracharya had left off.

Some board members are wary of attributing motives to Mulayam Singh, saying the chief minister should not be permitted to go the “Chandrababu (Naidu) way”. They feel that Muslims, in general, and the law board, in particular, should avoid dubbing politicians “untouchables” for their proximity to the BJP.

“First it was Chandrababu (Naidu) who was seen hand in glove with the BJP. Then came Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa, M. Karunanidhi. This way, the secular space would shrink further. It would do more harm than good,” a member of the board said.

Maulana Rabey Nadvi, the board’s president, is maintaining a studied silence. “No formal or informal proposal has come. As said before, we are for a judicial pronouncement on the dispute. However, we are also open to the idea of any principle that would resolve the vexed issue amicably. We are all for it… provided it is based upon the concept of justice, fair play and constitutional proprieties,” he said.

Sources said the churning within the law board would continue for another couple of months and a lot would depend on how much the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Centre are willing to offer to Muslims for an out-of-court settlement.

The board’s demands include a mosque near the disputed structure in Ayodhya in exchange for Muslims forgoing their claim on the Babri Masjid and an undertaking that no other dispute, including those on the Mathura-Kashi shrines, would be raked up.

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