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... and the view from Lucknow
Muslims sceptical about Vajpayee remark
By Obaid Nasir

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dropped a bomb shell in Raj Bhavan when he declared that the Ayodhya tangle will be solved by March 2002. The entire journalist community covering the press conference was stunned and for a moment forgot to take down notes when the prime minister said this in reply to a question about the VHP threat to start construction of Ram Mandir as per the announcement made during the Kumbh mela.

Though the prime minister did not go into the details, his statement boosted the morale of Hindutva forces while the entire Muslim community and the secular elements of the society expressed their displeasure over this statement.

Acharya Giriraj Kishore, the general secretary of VHP, has welcomed the statement and expressed hope that the VHP will be able to start the construction of Ram Temple as per its declared programme. He, however, did not forget to declare that the VHP will go ahead as per its programme no matter what the government. or courts say. He said that only Dharmacharyas (religious heads) could take any decision in this regard and that decision will be final.

Muslims and secularists have, on the other hand, reacted sharply to the prime minister's statement. Vice President of Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, while talking to MG asked ‘Why Mr. Vajpayee declared that the matter will be solved by March, why not by April, or February?’ He clarified that since VHP has announced to start the construction of its Ram Mandir in the month of March so Mr. Vajpayee too declared his programme of solving the issue (perhaps in VHP’s favour). Maulana Sadiq, who is also a member of Babri Masjid sub-committee of Muslim Personal Law Board, said that as per his information no talks to solve this issue are going on with any responsible Muslim organization and since the matter has been taken over by the Board no other Muslim organization will come forward to discuss the issue.

Legal advisor of Muslim Personal Law Board and a prominent advocate of Allahabad High Court, Mr. Abdul Mannan, said that he could not understand as to what prompted Mr. Vajpayee to make such a statement, but as far as the legal position is concerned a judgement in the case is not possible by March 2002, and if he is hinting towards a negotiated settlement, it is for the Prime Minister to clarify as to who is talking to whom. However, Babri Masjid Action Committee is not involved in any such clandestine talk, he said.

Maulana Burhanuddin Sambhali, a prominent scholar and teacher in Nadwatul Ulama, who is also the member of Muslim Personal Law Board, told MG that he is surprised to know that this contentious issue will be solved by March 2002 and that this claim has been made by none other than the Prime Minister. ‘I don’t know with whom the prime minister has indulged in parleys, he should at least clarify it,’ he said. The Maulana further asserted that All India Muslim Personal Law Board and its sub- committee on Babri Masjid is the only competent authority and the prime minister or any other representative of the government has never contacted the committee in this regard. Then with whom the parleys are going on is a mystery.

Maulana Sajjad Nomani, another member of the Board, termed the Prime Minister’s statement as a political gimmick to increase the falling popularity graph of the BJP. However, he added that this is very sad that the prime minister has given such an irresponsible statement. Not only this, he is not ready to disclose with whom the talks are going on regarding such a serious and emotive issue. It seems as if all the allies of BJP and the Indian Parliament have been taken to ransom by the saffron brigade, he added.

Mufti Manzoor Ahmad, the Shaher Qazi of Kanpur, also expressed his surprise at the statement of Mr. Vajpayee. He added that ‘imams’ who have been assured of salaries may come to the rescue of the prime minister, otherwise no responsible person or organization may think of bypassing the Muslim Personal Law Board to discuss the Babri Masjid issue.

Mr. Nehaluddin of All India Muslim Forum strongly criticized the statement of the prime minister and termed it as an attempt to misguide the people. He said that only Muslim Personal Law Board is the competent authority to take any decision in this regard. Any other organization, howsoever important, does not have any locus standi in this issue.

Qazi Abdul Sami, an ‘alim of Kanpur, clarified that during his meeting with Mr. Vajpayee in Lucknow he did not discuss the Babri Masjid issue. In a statement Qazi Saheb clarified that he has only expressed his support to the Kashmir policy of the government and has congratulated the PM for the Agra summit.

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