Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today dismissed the opposition’s allegation that the government was playing a role in the negotiations to resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Mosque dispute in Ayodhya. Naqvi, however, said it would be an “ideal” situation if the issue was resolved through peaceful deliberations among parties to the dispute. The minister’s remarks come in the wake of Art of Living Foundation head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar offering to mediate in the matter through out-of-court talks, to which the Supreme Court is not averse. The spiritual leader said yesterday that he would visit the Uttar Pradesh town on November 16 to meet all the stakeholders.
The Congress earlier dubbed the spiritual leader as a “government agent representing its interest” in the dispute. “The government is not involved in it (dispute), nor is it playing any role in the negotiations. If the issue is settled among the parties through peaceful discussions, nothing like it,” Naqvi said.
He added that the court would decide the matter in case the talks did not work since the matter was pending before it. Replying to another query, the minister said that the government has decided to increase private tour operators’ (PTOs) Haj quota from current five per cent as several devotees have expressed interest in going for the annual pilgrimage through private players. He, however, did not specify the number.
“Haj subsidy is being slashed gradually (as per a 2012 Supreme Court order) and several people want to go for Haj through private tour operators. So, we have decided to increase their quota,” Naqvi said. The minister said his ministry has strengthened regulation of PTOs to ensure that devotees “are not exploited”. India has an annual Haj quota of 1.70 lakh pilgrims.