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Kanchi seer's proposals have hardened stands
Sheela Bhatt and Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi | July 07, 2003 00:12 IST
Instead of softening stands and hearts, Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati's proposals seem to have had the opposite effect with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad hardening their respective positions on the Ayodhya issue.
Though the Prime Minister's Office never officially acknowledged it, the visit of heavyweight ministers like George Fernandes and Jaswant Singh to Kanchi kept no one in doubt that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was supporting the peace moves of the Kanchi seer.
Vajpayee paved the way for the seer at a function in New Delhi when he said politics should be kept out of religious matters.
The perceived backing of Vajpayee to the formula had given an additional hope, which has apparently proved false. The Kanchi seer, however, insists that all is not lost yet. Lending credence to the Shankaracharya's claim is the AIMPLB's statement that it will still resolve the issue through talks. The Board also said that it will abide by the court verdict.
Even though hardliners from both sides were not taken into consideration, Kanchi seer's formula created media hype.
Sheshadri Chari, editor of Organiser and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's member told rediff.com: "Shankaracharya himself is responsible for the rejection of the formula by the ALMPLB."
Chari thinks the seer should have taken into confidence the VHP, Babri Masjid Action Committee and Dharma Sansad.
The seer also, according to Chari, never revealed to the government whom he was talking to.
Muslim community observers feel the Board has 'fallen into the trap' of Hindutva forces within the government who have revived the Ayodhya issue 'via the Kanchi seer'.
The so-called proposal, they said, was aimed at consolidation of Hindu votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Ayodhya card, they contended, was overused by the BJP but now, thanks to the hype and hoopla over the formula, it has helped recharge the Ayodhya card for the BJP.
Shahid Siddiqui, Rajya Sabha member and editor of Urdu weekly Nai Duniya, said: "The Board has fallen into the trap of the PMO. The PMO knew very well that the proposal was bound to be rejected. There was nothing in the proposal."
"By involving a Muslim body into the negotiations, the PMO was basically trying to make it a Hindu-Muslim issue to garner votes in the forthcoming assembly and Lok Sabha polls. It (PMO) has been successful in its efforts. It got what it was looking for," he said.
Political scientist Zoya Hasan, who teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, echoed similar views.
"How can you go even for an out of court negotiation when the two sides are so unequal? The VHP is backed by the BJP and the Muslim Law Board is a weak organisation. A just negotiation is not possible," she said.
"The Board has done a mistake by entering into the negotiation mould. The trap was laid by the forces of Hindutva in and outside the government who want to bring back the agenda of Hindutva aimed at the elections," she said.
In the past one month many Muslim leaders have raised questions on the credibility of the Kanchi seer in the negotiations.
"I don't think the Kanchi Shankaracharya is a neutral man. He is in league with the VHP on the issue of Kashi and Mathura. He said no to a mosque in Ayodhya. He played an active role in the demolition of the mosque in 1992. How can you trust him?" Siddiqui said.
Muslim leaders and scholars feel that it would be better to wait for the court's judgment.
Hamid Ansari, former diplomat and vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, said, "Negotiation can take place only if people come to a common ground. The law of land should prevail. The better way would be that we wait for the court's verdict."
Hasan contended that now the Board has rejected the proposal, it would be projected as fundamentalist.
Togadia has already done so. While talking to rediff.com he said the formula was rejected also because it was offered to a 'fundamentalist' organisation like the AIMPLB, which did not 'even respect the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case'.
Congress party leader Salman Khurshid said the rejection of the proposal was in fact the rejection of the efforts of Vajpayee.
"It (the rejection of the proposal) was inevitable. Even before the proposal came to light, it appeared to be a precarious one. It (the proposal) did not enthuse people. There was unnecessary hype," he said.
"There was an assumption that the Muslims would agree to give up their long-standing position on the issue. This was unfair," he said.
"There is no real chance of an out-of-court settlement so it should be left to the courts," he added.
The Ayodhya Issue: The Complete Coverage