Statement on Excavation in Ayodhya

The Archaeological Survey of India’s excavations at the site of the Babri Masjid, Ayodhya are now drawing to a close , though the ASI has sought the High Court’s permission to continue the work till the end of this month, apparently to enable them to excavate two or three trenches in the so-called “ Sanctuary” where the Ram Lalla image is now placed. By this time the ASI has dug up and destroyed what the karsevaks had not  demolished, namely the floors and foundation-walls of the Masjid. In any archaeological operation elsewhere such treatment of monumental remains would be deemed totally unprofessional and impermissible.

All this has been done in the expectation, enflamed by the earlier Tojo-Vikas International’s geo-physical survey report ( undated), on the basis of which the Allahabad High Court ( Lucknow Bench) was pleased to order the excavation. This Report spoke of “anomalies” and “ pillars” below the Babri masjid, and so suggested that structural remains would be found beneath the mosque. It may be recalled that SAHMAT issued a statement on 8 March doubting the credentials of this Company , questioning its surveying methods and finally its interpretation of its data. SAHMAT pointed out that the Company itself provided for a wide range of possibilities from its data, but selected for specific mention only such of these as might please their employers. It was, on the face of it, a thoroughly unprofessional piece of conduct on their part.

In pursuit of Tojo-International’s predicted pre-Masjid structures the ASI dug up 82 trenches by 5 June 2003. Except for a small area around Ram Lalla the entire area of the Masjid Complex including Ram Chabutra has been dug up to depths of several meters. The ASI submitted its first progress report to the High Court on work done till 24 April 2003 when as many as 52 trenches ( 4x4 meters each) had been excavated. SAHMAT in its statement on 6 May, showing that the only structural remains the ASI had actually found were those associated with the construction of the Mosque or of the period of Muslim habitation. The pervasive presence of animal bones with cut marks and Muslim glazed ware, and the entire absence of even a trace of anything that could indicate structural remains of a temple. The ASI report seemed only to clutch at straws, which on close scrutiny could be seen as contrary to the details it had itself provided.

Matters have become definitively clear with the ASI’s latest progress report that deals with the latest period, 22 May to 5 June, covering 30 new trenches, so that now the entire Mosque complex and much of the surrounding area has been covered.
In trench after trench, no structural  remains below the Mosque’s floor level have been found at all. The structural remains found in some trenches


are all of construction associated with the Mosque, viz., brick walls, Mosque-floors, lime mortar, etc. The “ structural bases”, which were mentioned with some enthusiasm in the first Progress Report, but were, alas, found to be uniformly of brick-bats and so neither load-bearing nor in any way associated with any known tradition of Hindu temple architecture, are now termed “ pillar bases”. Only seven have been claimed to be found in six trenches , only out of the thirty excavated. No alignment or uniformity of level is claimed for them.

The ASI’s report also lists finds yielded by the excavation. It needs to be noted that in trench F3, the “ 1.61 metre high decorated black stone pillar ( broken) with Yaksha figurines on four corners” is one of the black pillars which had belonged to the Babri Masjid and was broken up when the Babri Masjid was destroyed by the karsevaks. It has been retrieved from above the Babri Masjid floor, and is, therefore, no new discovery and has nothing to do with any possible temple remains below the Mosque. On the other hand, all other finds suggest either Muslim habitation ( “ Arabic inscription of holy verses”, glazed tiles) or ordinary medieval occupation.

In view of all this, the VHP and its supporters are now falling back on “ faith”. But they are unable to produce any scriptural authority or any document to show that Lord Rama was really born exactly at this spot. In other words, the “ faith” they are talking about is only faith invented by them.

Others, of the BJP camp faced with the debacle that the excavations have placed them are speaking of a “ compromise”. The conditions of this “ compromise”, so far appearing in the press, are that (1) Muslims can build a Mosque 10 k.m. away from the Babri Masjid site, and (2) the Hindu claims on Mosques at Varanasi and Mathura will not be pursued.

One does not understand whom these proposals are expected to fool. The present main mosque at Ayodhya is itself barely 1 ½ km from the Babri Masjid site, and there are other mosques in the town. Any one who owns land can build a mosque at any distance from the mosque : so what is the sense of the 10 km restriction?.

Secondly, any change in the religious status of a place of worship from what it was on  15 August 1947 is barred by an Act of Parliament, 1991. What the proposed compromise suggests is that this too is an open issue, which it is not.

Finally, what is forgotten is the heinous crime carried out on 6 December 1992. No talk of compromise has any meaning when the perpetrators of that outrage walk not only free, but are in control of the state itself. They must, above all, be first brought to book.