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The Rediff Interview/Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati

July 17, 2003

In this, the second part of an exclusive interview with Managing Editor Saisuresh Sivaswamy, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal explains how the Ayodhya issue could be resolved.

Part I: 'Did Allah tell them to fight all the time? 

Archaeological excavations have been going on at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, but indications so far are that a temple was not pulled down to build the mosque. Doesn't it puncture Hindu claims that Ram's temple was razed to erect the mosque?

Listen, Lord Ram was born hundreds, thousands of years ago. In matters of faith you cannot consider such stuff as proof. To give you an example, if your father died after you were born who is to say you were born to your mother and no one else? Because people around say she is your mother you believe she is. Or your dad has gone away, and returns after 10 years. Your mother knows him but you don't. Yet you believe her when she tells you he is your father, don't you? Isn't that faith?

To give you another example, you believe that you will get paid after working for 30 days -- isn't that also faith? Setting out to prove faith is an impossible task.

Faith is faith, proof is proof. Can you prove there's god? That is faith. Can we prove Allah exists? That is faith? Can we prove Ram exists? That is faith. Because we believe in the Quran we believe in Allah; we believe in the Ramayan, so we believe in Ram. Faith is not to be tested and proved.

My question remains. For long the case was built up that a Ram temple was demolished to build the mosque. Now it may so happen that it wasn't the case.

The question is not whether a temple existed there or not. The question is of the site's sacredness. We have faith that he was born there. What gives us that faith? We could claim many other sites in Ayodhya, but why are we saying this is the site?

Exactly. There are other such sites too in Ayodhya.

Where? Nowhere The sites you are talking about are like 'the place where Ram played, Ram's kitchen, the place where he slept' etc. No other place claims to be the janambhoomi, our faith is this particular site is where he was born.

Second, it was the custom to build a mosque on our holy sites. In that sense they seem to be the cause behind our faith (laughs). We know that they had built their mosques on sites important to us. They thus indirectly contributed to our faith growing.

You had said there are enough mosques in Ayodhya, so there is no need for another. Conversely, isn't it true that there are enough temples in India and there is no need for another one?

Of course, there are many temples, including in Ayodhya itself. But is there a temple on the spot where Ram was born? We say there are many mosques so we don't need another one. You say there are enough temples so we don't need another one. But we are not building a temple for the sake of building it. This is janambhoomi! Show me another one and we will go there (laughs heartily).

My earlier question remains. Are further talks possible?

If one can abandon ego, not think of a prestige issue, and think instead of communal harmony, talks are possible. Otherwise, no chance.

Will there ever be a solution to the Ayodhya problem?

If it is solved, the country can prosper. Otherwise everyone will die. There will be violence, war, many people will be killed. It will be the poor who will suffer. The ones with brains will get away.

What is your impression of AIMPLB President Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadvi, with who you have been interacting?

You won't find another good human being like him. He is very spiritual (satvik) in nature. He is the nephew of Ali Miyan [Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadvi, a respected Muslim leader and rector of the Nadwatul Ulama], who had come here twice and thrice when Periyavar [the late Kanchi Parmacharya Chandrasekharendra Saraswati] was around. Nadvi is just like his uncle, and possesses all the qualities essential for a tapaswi. The others around him are different, poor fellow, what can he do by himself!

There are many people like him among Muslims, they must come together and overcome the negative forces. Such people are not there among Muslims alone. They need to be overcome. The good people must stand up and do it, for the sake of communal harmony, nation, unity, for the good of everyone.

There is no point being adamant on a point and calibrating your replies on that basis. If you want to, then better to do it face to face. Let's talk about it, and not through the media.

But why have you been communicating through letters, why not face to face?

They asked for a letter, we gave it. They said we need to place it before their committee, so we gave them the first letter. They had clarifications, we gave explanations. If they didn't ask why would we give? We had been talking all along.

They could have formed a subcommittee, decided on a face to face, done that, and then asked for a letter. They could have done that also, but did not. Or, they could have said on receiving the second letter that some points have been raised, let us seek clarifications, talk face to face. If their intention was above board they would have done that.

What about reports that the next round of negotiations have begun?

The effort is always underway. My doors are always open. Just as their doors are open. Someone has to do the talking.

Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj

Part III: 'We erect memorials for Nehru, Indira and Kamaraj, and we can't have one for Ram?'

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