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ARVIND JAIN

The smlllng salnt

The Kanchi Sank ar acharya is eminently

suited for the peacemaker's role

By FAIIYA IMAM ALl/Kanchi

anchi

Sankaracharya

Jayendra Saraswati is a

gentle but tenacious person.

The gentleness aids him in being

persuasive and the tenacity goads him to try and try again. FIe will need both

these qualities in abu.ndance as he

makes yet another effort to solve the Ayodhya problem.

The Kanchi mutL officials privately term it the Ayodhya match. (The seer,

it

is said, likes cricket.) The

Sankaracharya, however, must know

by now that it is a rather sticky wicket. That is probably why he is being very careful this time. His previous

effort was bogged down in

fundamentalist sloganeering. Since

then he has not talked about 'formula

Ayodhya'. But he was in constant touch

with religious leaders of both the

communities. The latest proposal, which he has forwarded to the All

India Muslim Personal Law Board

obviously emerged from these

confabulations. All he would say, a

month &Bo, was that he "was

working

in tand.em with leaders of both

religions." Last time, the seer managed to get

the Viswha Hindu Parishad to the

negotiating table. The Muslim leaders

were a bit reluctant. This time, the

\IHP has scaled up its rhetoric and has

made critical remarks on the

Sankaracharya but the Muslim leaders

have responded positively.

TheVHP leaders queeredthe pitch

by statirrg that Kashi and Mathura

issues

would be taken up. (In a

previous interview to The Week the

Sankaracharya had expressed the hope

that'Ayodhya-like" issues would' not

be raised again.) Probably the

organisation is smarting from the last experience. The Sankaracharya had

persuaded the VHP leaders to agree to

abide by the court verdict. In return,

he promised, he would tryto persuade

the Prime Minister to allot them the

Tho sssr har astrnnf",ally tm Uqipryso

whf;r supports hir rscolrfiiliatlnrt iltorre.

40 FJTi?!7Jil Jury 6,2oo3

tTHEl{ D0UES MEET: fhe Sankanacharya giving an anTawa tpamto Pnime

Minister Atal Bihari Vqipayee

land next to the disputed site for puja.

This did not work out .

There is much speculation-on the seer's proposal. But those close to him

say there are two'solutions' which will

not have his blessings. One, a court

settlement and two, the building of a

structure. A court decision, he

neutral

' has maintained, would hurt the

sentiments of

either of the

communities. The disputed site is sacred to both Hindus and Muslims

and so a neutral structure is also ouL

of the question.

B

The Sankaracharya has beeri

r

r

secretive this time because he does not

want the initiative to be destroyed in

the beginning itself. Journalists are

welcome to seek blessings,'but my lips

are sealed until July 7l' He too has

learnt lessons from his last experience.

Some Hindu and Muslim

organisations have questioned the

seer's right to intervene in the issue.

But he remains unfazed. "Politics must

be delinked from religion if the

Ayodhya issue is to be solved," he has

said. But politically speaking, his

strength comes from having a hopeful

ally in Prime Minister Atal Bihari

Vajpayee, who has encouraged

(actuallypersuaded, many say) him to mediate.

The Sankaracharya has studied rffi issue in detail. He has received inputY

from former bureaucrats, diplomats

and top politicians who visit the mutb.

'Also, he has read up alot onAyodhya,"

said a mutt official.

He has also done much for the temple town, focusing on the socio-

economic uplift of the Ayodhya

populace. The seer set up the Kanchi AyodhyaNagara Development Trust a

year ago with five trustees (two Hindus

and two Muslims from Ayodhya and one official from the mutt).

The trust

promotes self-

employment of members of both the

communities. It

embodies the

Sankaracharya's ability to balance

religiosity with the neeos of the

conlrlrunity. The exact'balance' which

is needed to resolve the Ayodhya

rssue.

I

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