Close on the heels of the initiative taken by 90-year-old Hashim Ansari for a negotiated settlement on the Ayodhya issue, the Nirmohi Akhara too has expressed its inclination to talk and resolve the dispute once and for all.
"I welcome the initiative taken by Mahant Gyan Das and Hashim Ansari and will be only too glad to be a party to the move for bringing the dispute to an amicable settlement and avoid another unending court battle," Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das said on Tuesday over telephone from Ayodhya, about 130 km from Lucknow.
Significantly, while Ansari was the first Muslim to stake a legal claim to the Babri Masjid after it was usurped by Hindu mobs on the night of Dec 22-23, 1949, it was the Nirmohi Akhara which sought legal right to offer prayers at the disputed site way back in 1885.
It was Ansari who took the first step towards initiating a process of reconciliation instead of proceeding straight to the country's apex court in appeal against the Sep 30 order of the Allahabad High Court.
The court split the disputed land into three parts - one going to the contending Muslim group and the other two to be shared by two Hindu groups involved in the legal battle.
Ansari's talks with Mahant Gyan Das, president of All India Akhara Parishad and head of Ayodhya's Hanuman Garhi temple, on Sunday helped in breaking the ice.
And what followed Monday was yet another positive move, with Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das too expressing his desire to join the reconciliation bandwagon.
Bhaskar Das, 81, said he was confident that very soon many prominent holy men of Ayodhya would join the dialogue process with local Muslims and other contestants in the case.
While he declined to divulge the names of those with whom he claimed to have got in touch, sources close to him confirmed that he had mooted the idea to a few leading Ayodhya holy men.
They include Mahant Nrtiya Gopal Das, who heads the Ram Janmbhoomi Trust, the body entrusted with the task of building the proposed temple.
The move is likely to witness much opposition from the Sunni Central Waqf Board, whose counsel and Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) convenor Zafaryab Jilani has taken serious affront to Hashim Ansari's initiative.
"Ansari is just an individual litigant; he is no authority on behalf of the Waqf Board which is the key contestant," he said.