TAMIL NADU

Hands off mosque, Thangal tells CM

MALAPPURAM MAY 22. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) State president, Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, has made it clear to the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, that he expected the Government to hand over the Marad mosque to the Wakf Board.

Mr. Thangal reiterated the demand when the Chief Minister called on him at his residence at Panakkad. The IUML State committee also made the same demand at a recent meeting. ``Do not hold on to the mosque for too long,'' Mr. Thangal said.

Mr. Antony's visit was widely perceived as an attempt to smoothen the IUML feathers ruffled by his handling of the Marad massacre case. Besides Mr. Thangal, the Industries Minister, P.K. Kunhalikutty, the Education Minister, Nalakath Soopy, and the Public Works Minister, M.K. Muneer, were present. The Chief Minister was accompanied by the KPCC president, K. Muraleedharan.

Later, talking to presspersons, Mr. Antony said there was nothing unusual in his meeting the IUML president. The UDF Government had completed two years in office. He had come in search of Mr. Thangal's advice on governance, since he was acknowledged by all in the UDF as a leader. The IUML help and support were vital for maintaining peace in the State, he said.

The KPCC president said he came to brief Mr. Thangal on the meetings of the UDF, which the IUML leader did not attend.

Asked about the Marad situation and reports that the IUML leadership was sore at the way the Chief Minister had been handling the case, Mr. Antony said peace should be restored in Marad. All should strive for peace in Marad, he said.

Mr. Thangal said that those who left Marad should be able to return home. The League leader also pointed out that his party had demanded that mosque at Marad, which has been taken over by the Government after arms were seized from there, should be entrusted to the Wakf Board.

About the happenings in Marad, the Chief Minister said murders, even when committed in revenge, could not be justified. Punishment of the guilty should be left to courts, he said.

The decision that the IUML Ministers need not accompany him when he had visited Marad was taken collectively by the UDF Ministers present at the Kozhikode Government Guest House, he said. Among the parties to the decision were the Finance Minister, K. Sankaranarayanan, and Mr. Kunhalikutty. The Chief Minister said there was no basis in the charge that the Chief Minister did not allow the IUML Ministers to accompany him to Marad.

Mr. Kunhalikutty said it was decided that IUML Ministers need not accompany the Chief Minister to Marad after it became known that the visit of the CPI(M) State secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan, to Marad ignited tension.

The Chief Minister's visit is at a time when a section of the IUML leadership is sore at the way the Marad case is being handled. The IUML is under pressure to assert itself as the true protector of Muslim interests.

The takeover of the Marad mosque had caused strong resentment. Complaints are rife that the IUML had been indifferent to the predicament of the nearly 300 Muslim families which left Marad after the massacre fearing reprisals.

The IUML leadership is also worried about the possibility of militants exploiting the situation to widen its mass support. Mr. Antony now has the tricky job of going ahead with tough measures in Marad without antagonising the powerful IUML leadership.

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