The Ayodhya dispute appears headed for the Supreme Court (SC). A day after Hashim Ansari, 90, the oldest Muslim litigant, and Akhara Parishad president Mahant Gyan Das initiated talks for a negotiated settlement, Sunni Central Waqf Board counsel Zafaryab Jilani dismissed the move on Monday, saying Ansari spoke as an individual, not as a representative of any Muslim body.
“Ansari has been speaking with sants-mahants of Ayodhya. But as regards talks aimed at reconciliation, no one has been authorised,” he said.
Jilani said the matter would be discussed at an All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) working committee meeting on October 16.
“Talk of a negotiated settlement at this stage is rather premature,” he said.
Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, an important party to the title dispute, also said there was no point in initiating talks at this point. “Three major parties to the dispute — Hindu Mahasabha, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board — have decided to challenge the high court order. I don’t see any meeting point,” state Mahasabha president Kamlesh Tiwari said.
Mahant Bhaskar Das of Nirmohi Akhara said he would support the move initiated by Ansari, but was sceptical of the outcome. “Talks can continue even after the case goes to SC,” he said, hinting that Akhara was all set to challenge the high court verdict.
But, regardless of the loss of hope, efforts at reconciliation were on. Sources said retired IPS officer Kishore Kunal, who was OSD in PMO’s Ayodhya cell during the tenures of three prime ministers, including Narasimha Rao, had become active again. He is reported to have met people on both sides since Saturday. The officer has been in touch with most parties to the dispute to arrive at a negotiated settlement, which he claims is a “personal initiative”.
Another important development was the meeting of Vishwa Hindu Parishad “special messenger” Trilokinath Pandey with Bhaskar Das on Sunday. The meeting surprised many in Ayodhya as VHP and Akhara have been at loggerheads.
The Muslim side also did not seem to have given up hope. Senior AIMPLB member Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali told reporters a negotiated settlement could be reached if the prime minister stepped in.