Reacting sharply to Kanchi shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati's statement that a majority of Muslims favour construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya, community leaders dismissed the claim as 'wrong' and stressed the matter be left for the judiciary to decide.
Muslim groups also questioned the pontiff's assertion that he was holding talks with the community, saying 'neither he nor the government is talking to any authorised leader or organisation' and flayed him for praising former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao for installation of Lord Ram's idol at the disputed site after demolition of the mosque.
"It is unfortunate that an esteemed religious leader like the shankaracharya is making such a baseless claim," All India Muslim Personal Law Board convener Sayeed Qasim Rasool Ilyas told PTI in Hyderabad.
"I don't know which responsible Muslim organisation or leader has favoured it," he said.
All India Milli Council leader M Manzoor Alam said the assessment of the Kanchi seer was 'wrong'.
"Even if he has conducted some kind of an opinion poll, he must not have reached nine per cent, what to talk about the majority," Alam said.
All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) president Syed Shahabuddin said the Kanchi seer should reveal with which Muslim organisation or individual he was holding talks.
"I can say he is not holding talks with any responsible or authorised Muslim organisation or individual," he said adding, "Agreements reached in dark rooms with unknown people will not resolve the matter."
Ilyaas also criticised shankaracharya's remarks crediting Narasimha Rao for installing Lord Ram's idol at the makeshift temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, saying it was politically-motivated.
"Such statements are made to give political mileage for one political party. It does not suit a person of his stature to issue such a statement in an election year," he said.
The Muslim groups said the matter should be left to the judiciary to decide.
"The matter is pending in court and we should let it decide the issue," Alam said pointing out that the judiciary is respected by everybody in the country.
"Whether a temple should be built at the site should be decided only by the Supreme Court as the title suit is being heard there," Shahabuddin said.
He pointed out that the Muslims have agreed to accept the court verdict even if it went against them, while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has refused to accept any unfavourable decision.
These groups agreed with the observation by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that the Ayodhya issue should not be politicised, but insisted he should 'practice what he preaches'.
"If the prime minister implements what he has said, it will be good. But the fact is that Vajpayee and his party have taken a political stand on the matter and rake it up at the time of elections," Ilyaas said.
The UP convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee Zafaryab Jilani told PTI over phone that their claim over the disputed land was legally, socially and religiously valid and asked the shankaracharya to disclose the names of Muslim leaders who he claimed were in favour of handing over the land to Hindus.