First Published in 2016
A flawed verdict
On September 30, 2010, seventeen years and nine months after the Babri Masjid was demolished through the execution of a carefully planned and publicly acclaimed criminal conspiracy in which senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its parent and sister organisations participated, the Allahabad high court delivered a verdict on the Babri Masjid title suits that legitimised the communal and criminal incursion into the mosque in 1949 and the destruction in 1992 of a place of worship of India’s largest minority, the Muslims.
It is not insignificant that the one judge who hailed from the minority community was alone among three in making even a reference to these criminal acts. The other two, one of whom retired soon after the judgement was delivered, did not only display in their individual judgements a flawed understanding of history. Instead of arbitrating the dispute based on time-tested principles of criminal, civil and constitutional law, Justices Sharma and Agarwal chose to allow their judicial minds to be swayed by personal faith. Thereafter, they legitimised this flawed judicial approach through recourse to prejudicial renderings of historical interpretation and fact. This judgement has in fact re-emphasised the need for a comprehensive and long overdue critique of the Indian judiciary, of its independence, its politics and its ideological leanings.
The symposium, ‘Faith and Fact: Democracy after the Ayodhya Verdict’, jointly organised by SAHMAT, Social Scientist and Sabrang Trust, was an attempt to do just that. This issue of Communalism Combat brings to our readers the results of the deliberations held in New Delhi between December 6 and 8, 2010.
The campaign by the right wing, which spearheaded the movement to mobilise hundreds of thousands for the demolition of a 450-year-old mosque at Ayodhya, employed a widespread propaganda spiel that manipulated and misrepresented history in a bid to legitimise not just the cold-blooded destruction of a place of worship of one section of Indians but also the murder, in the thousands, of innocent and helpless members of India’s Muslim community and the destruction of their homes, businesses and properties. It was a movement calculated to sow seeds of hatred and deep division and reap electoral gains among the majority and to alienate and reduce a religious minority to second-class status.
The flaws in our constitutional governance are reflected in the fact that despite criminal cases against them, two of the masterminds behind this political and criminal campaign rose to become union minister for home affairs (LK Advani) and union minister for human resource development (Murli Manohar Joshi).
That this carefully orchestrated, unconstitutional campaign has infiltrated democratic spaces and found an echo in Indian institutions is reflected in the biased conduct of officers of the law when dealing with communal violence and in textbooks that selectively misrepresent Indian history. The Ayodhya verdict of 2010 is a clear example of how the higher judiciary in India has also succumbed to this brazen campaign. Justices (retd) PB Sawant, SHA Raza and Hosbet Suresh gave detailed presentations on the politics of India’s higher judiciary.
It is within this situation that the failure to criminally prosecute the perpetrators of these criminal conspiracies – the surreptitious installation of the idols in 1949 or the destruction of the mosque in full public view in 1992 – needs to be located. Despite the findings of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry, the Indian criminal justice system has not punished those guilty of these acts. Advocate Anupam Gupta, who was counsel for the Liberhan Commission for over a decade, and journalist Manoj Mitta spoke at length on this subversion of justice.
Detailed presentations at the symposium by the Aligarh Historians Society, Professors Irfan Habib, Shireen Moosvi and S. Ali Nadeem Rezavi, systematically explained how misguided the judicial understanding of medieval Indian history has been. The two judges deliberately seek to postdate the construction of the Babri Masjid from the time of Babar to that of Aurangzeb. The judges have also deliberately discredited the inscriptions on the mosque which indicate the date of its construction. They give full credence to the BJP-led NDA government’s archaeological excavations at Ayodhya in 2003, the findings of which have not so far been made public – not even by the subsequent Congress-led UPA government – thus thwarting independent scrutiny and analysis.
One of the most critical failures of the litigation proceedings conducted in the Allahabad high court was the court’s failure to follow due process in the recording of evidence. Dr Shireen Moosvi eloquently brought out how the Allahabad high court had reduced the process of recording of evidence from expert historians and archaeologists to a technicality. Propositions, often rather complex, of historiography and archaeology that needed to be explained in a couple of sentences were confined by the court to monosyllabic “yes” or “no” answers. This reduced the process of recording expert evidence to a farce.
Today world-renowned archaeologist D. Mandal faces contempt proceedings initiated by the very bench that delivered the Ayodhya verdict. Professor Mandal was served with a contempt of court notice for his critique of the 2003 excavations in two volumes, Ayodhya: Archaeology after Demolition and Ayodhya: Archaeology after Excavation. The deliberate move by the higher judiciary to curb independent academic thought bodes ill for individual rights and freedoms. All in all, the verdict of September 30, 2010 has ominous implications for Indian democracy.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154-Editorial
I am a journalist and given the timing of this meeting, I should probably first mention a disclaimer. Though I am from the English mainstream media, I don’t figure in the Radia tapes. You may therefore hear me with a degree of indulgence. I don’t take dictation from any corporate lobbyists. I don’t toe any government line. If I travel with anybody, it is more with activists like Teesta Setalvad and I’m very proud to say so because I see no contradiction in this. I don’t feel compromised when I speak or when I espouse public causes. And Ayodhya is one such. And if I may extend the Radia tapes metaphor, Ayodhya has been a bit like the Radia tapes of our claim to be secular. From 1949 onwards, Ayodhya has been a major challenge which showed how hollow our pretensions are, right from the way in which the establishment responded to the 1949 episode.
I am very conscious of the fact that I am the third speaker here and that I come after Anupam Gupta who gave us such a comprehensive account of the systemic response to the 1949 and 1992 episodes concerning Ayodhya. So I will try not to tread over the same ground. I will try to deal with the few gaps that have been left in an otherwise very comprehensive exposition. One that comes to mind offhand is the reference made to the 1994 judgement of the Supreme Court, given during the follow-up to the demolition, on the law (the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993) that the Narasimha Rao government came up with. What the Supreme Court gave to the nation smacked of a Hindu bias and this was underlined by the fact that it was a split verdict. The three judges who gave the majority judgement, and this is probably no coincidence, were all Hindus and the two who gave the dissenting opinion were non-Hindus, one was a Parsi and the other a Muslim.
The reason I make reference to this is because the Allahabad high court in 2010 likewise delivered a split verdict in the Ayodhya case. Much of the truth about the 1949 episode is reflected essentially in Justice Khan’s judgement even though it was absolutely central to determining who this disputed site should be given to. The whole basis for the claim arose from the illegal act that took place on December 23, 1949 and yet it was given short shrift in the two judgements delivered by the Hindu judges. And this should be a matter of great concern to us. There is a need for our judiciary to appear more assertive in displaying our secular commitment.
Another issue that has not been dealt with in great detail and which I will therefore take up concerns the criminal proceedings that followed after the 1992 episode. The manner in which the state responded to this crime was as strange as the manner in which it responded to the crime of 1949. The crime of 1949 was a turning point in the history of modern India; yet though a first information report (FIR) was formally lodged, it has never been investigated. This was an episode unlike any other in our history, an episode that has led to so many subsequent crimes; it has polarised the nation and continues to dog us even today. There has been no judicial finding on the illegality of what happened that night in 1949 or on culpability, on who was responsible for it.
Similarly, with regard to the 1992 episode, there have been FIRs – not one but as many as 49 FIRs – and the proceedings are still going on, there has still been no judicial finding on what happened on that fateful day, December 6. Of these 49 FIRs, only two really matter in the immediate context because the other 47 relate to attacks on journalists so I will dwell a little longer on these two. The first one, FIR No. 197/92, deals with the demolition per se, the run-up to it, the conspiracy that led to the demolition, the people who were involved in that demolition. The other FIR, No. 198/92, deals with the inflammatory speeches that were delivered by eight main leaders of the sangh parivar from a makeshift dais, Ram Katha Kunj Manch, erected not very far from the Babri Masjid as it stood that morning. The FIR dealing with the demolition did not name any accused persons at all. The police were probably justified in doing so because their focus was on the kar sevaks (who had been actively engaged in the demolition) and so this FIR, which was registered on the evening of December 6, names no names at all. FIR No. 198 names eight sangh parivar leaders. This is not the strange part. The strange sequence of events begins thereafter.
Much of the truth about the 1949 episode is reflected essentially in Justice Khan’s judgement of 2010 even though it was absolutely central to determining who this disputed site should be given to. The whole basis for the claim arose from the illegal act that took place on December 23, 1949 and yet it was given short shrift in the two judgements delivered by the Hindu judges
For some reason the centre, which had taken over the administration of Uttar Pradesh through president’s rule soon afterwards, chose to refer the demolition FIR, No. 197, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while the FIR dealing with the inflammatory speeches delivered by sangh parivar leaders, which is probably a more sensitive issue, more politically sensitive at least, was referred to the Crime Branch, Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), of the Uttar Pradesh police. There was really no reason for the two to be separated. Both pertained to the same crime; there was a link, an organic link, between them. These inflammatory speeches were made not very far from the scene of the crime, where the demolition was going on, and they were addressed to kar sevaks who were gathered there while the crime was taking place simultaneously. And there were witnesses to all of this. It is very logical to infer that inflamed as they were by these speeches, those kar sevaks were encouraged to indulge in that crime. The two cases were linked yet for some reason the Congress government of Narasimha Rao – I mention this because there’s this rhetoric about the Congress being a secular party and so on and so forth – did this very strange thing, of separating the two cases. They were given to two different agencies. (While FIR No. 197 was handed over to the CBI, FIR No. 198 was to be prosecuted by the state CID in a special court in Lalitpur, later moved to Rae Bareli.)
Then a few months later it wakes up to the incongruity of this duality and it clubs the two cases together and gives them to the CBI. And then it also refers the two cases to one special court (a special CBI court set up in Lucknow). The reason I mention this is because it was in this special court that the CBI in 1993 first filed a joint charge sheet related to both FIRs, wherein these leaders, Advani and company, were named, in the context of the demolition, as conspirators. They were very much a part of the conspiracy and there was ample evidence of this. After all, in the run-up to the demolition there were the two rath yatras that converged in Ayodhya, one led by Advani, the other led by Murli Manohar Joshi, inviting people to come to Ayodhya in large numbers for the alleged kar seva; and on the eve of the demolition there was a secret meeting at the residence of Vinay Katiyar, the then MP from that area – which the CBI charge sheet refers to – where the finer details of this conspiracy were probably discussed. This charge sheet was filed in October 1993, nearly a year later.
In 1997 Judge Jagdish Prasad Srivastava of the additional (special) sessions court, Lucknow, frames charges. He passes an order prima facie accepting, taking cognisance, of all the charges made by the CBI so now there is a judicial stamp on these charges. A lot of the CBI’s findings were endorsed by this judge and he was poised to call each of the accused persons before court to read them the charges. It was at this stage that this legal process was interrupted. Some of the persons named in that charge sheet (a total of 49 persons were named in the charge sheet – somehow the figure 49 keeps recurring in this context!) went to court, the Allahabad high court, and got a stay order on proceedings.
This stay order was finally lifted in 2001 by which time the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power at the centre, by which time Advani was sitting in North Block as home minister and, if I am not mistaken, was probably even deputy prime minister of India. Whether he was, whether he had acquired that designation by then or not, he was very much a powerful leader. The Allahabad high court, speaking through Justice Jagdish Bhalla, said, look, there was a flaw, a procedural flaw, in referring the political leaders’ case, the inflammatory speeches case, to the special court at Lucknow but the saving grace is that it is a defect that can be cured. Now all that the then BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Rajnath Singh, had to do in terms of the high court order was to issue a fresh notification so that the reference of that case, No. 198, was made in a proper manner.
After that, for weeks on end Rajnath Singh would keep saying, he would mystify it: “Oh, we are looking into it, we have referred this to our legal experts, they will do the needful.” And sure enough, they did nothing of the sort. That vacuum allowed the special sessions court in Lucknow, a sessions judge called Srikant Shukla, to separate the two cases completely. He said that the leaders, Advani and company, would no longer be tried for the demolition in this special court. They would be tried separately, if at all, for the lesser offence of inflammatory speeches.
The term ‘legal fiction’, so often used, has acquired a very perverse meaning in the context of Ayodhya. The legal fiction here is that we are today confronted with a situation where, even as we speak, proceedings are going on in the Lucknow special court dealing with the Ayodhya demolition while the special court in Rae Bareli deals exclusively, wearing blinkers, with the issue of inflammatory speeches. The fact that the two are linked is totally overlooked. The fact that you can’t talk about conspiracy without bringing leaders into it is overlooked. Look at the joke that is being played on us. I am not talking about the September 30, 2010 judgement of the Allahabad high court. I am talking about the related issue of criminal proceedings and the farce that is being perpetrated on us even today. There is so much hype about our being a rising power in the world and so forth but look at the manner in which more and more people are able to mock at all notions of the rule of law, of secularism.
The continuing joke is that in the Lucknow special court, accused persons whose names you have never heard of, whose faces you would not recognise, some anonymous kar sevaks, are being tried for the crime of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid all on their own, without the knowledge or involvement or instigation of any of these sangh parivar leaders, of the VHP, the BJP, the RSS, etc. That is the implication of their being tried in isolation, of only these unknown persons being tried for the demolition. And in Rae Bareli, you have the sangh parivar leaders being tried and being tried for what? Only for delivering inflammatory speeches which, as far as the courts are concerned, have nothing to do with the demolition because they will look at the issue of inflammatory speeches in isolation. And if that were not farcical enough, we must also bear in mind that we witnessed during the NDA’s reign a glaring instance of how the judiciary often does the bidding of the executive (just as, in the context of the Radia tapes, you have heard that journalists do the bidding of corporate lobbyists). So much for the independence of the judiciary.
We have seen how in 1986, in the context of the Shah Bano case and all the flak Rajiv Gandhi was getting for what he was doing to allegedly appease Muslim fundamentalists, he came up with this brainwave of doing a balancing act and got his administration to take the necessary steps to get the locks of the Ayodhya shrine opened. The Babri Masjid, which was kept under lock and key from 1950 onwards to keep the dispute under control, was suddenly opened. We have heard about the manner in which the then district judge, KM Pandey, referred to some divine inspiration that he got from a monkey, which he even mentions in his memoirs. This was an instance of courts doing the bidding of the government.
Similarly, in the NDA’s time when the inflammatory speeches issue was taken up and charges were to be framed, what does the court do? The Rae Bareli court? It discharges the person who for all practical purposes was the face of the Ayodhya movement, the so-called Ayodhya movement. The 1986 incident, of the locks being broken open and Hindu devotees being allowed to have darshan of Ram Lalla inside the Babri Masjid, gave momentum to this movement. And the face of this movement – especially after the BJP’s Palampur resolution in 1989 (openly supporting the VHP’s demand for building the Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya) – was LK Advani. Minus Advani, minus his genius, his political skills, it would probably not have acquired these proportions. This leader was discharged. He was there on the dais but he was discharged while other leaders were still going to be prosecuted.
We have little evidence, documentary evidence, of the demolition. The 47 other cases that were registered by the police along with the two cases I have been talking about involved attacks on journalists. Why were these cases registered? Many of these journalists were there to do independent work and they were inconvenient to the kar sevaks, to the sangh parivar types. So while part of the telltale evidence of a conspiracy was the manner in which they stealthily removed the Ram Lalla idols before the demolition, further, very clear, evidence of it was the orchestration of events. It was not as if some people got carried away by their emotions and started attacking the Babri Masjid. On the contrary, while one section of kar sevaks was engaged in the demolition, there was another section that very systematically attacked journalists. As soon as they saw a camera, they would smash it, they would scare the journalists away, they would intimidate them, they would beat them up – there were actual instances of this nature. That is how those 47 cases of attacks on journalists arose. In spite of all the demolition, you only have little bits of evidence here and there, like the photograph of Uma Bharti hugging Murli Manohar Joshi, which have survived those attacks. This is because of the kind of crime it was, the mass crime that took place in Ayodhya, when even journalists were not spared.
Advani was discharged on the testimony of his security officer, one very upright young Indian Police Service officer called Anju Gupta. And what does her testimony say? In her testimony, and this is something that anybody who reads it will know, she is nailing his claims, his much touted claim that December 6, 1992 was the saddest day of his life. The author of this movement, the man who did whatever he could to bring things to that stage on December 6, had the gumption to say that that was the saddest day of his life. But she gave us a ringside view of what was happening on the dais, what the conversation was, how he was very much a part of the jubilation.
This lady goes on to give further evidence about how Advani was very much a part of all the jubilation and how there was a time when he was concerned about the kar sevaks who were on top of the structure, engaged in the demolition. His concern was not to stop them, his concern was not to bring them down and save the mosque. His concern, and this comes through very clearly in Anju Gupta’s testimony, was that because there were a lot of kar sevaks at the ground level who were simultaneously demolishing the structure, there was a great probability of those who were on top of the structure being hurt, of their falling down and getting hurt. That was his concern and that is why he sent Uma Bharti there to dissuade them, to tell them to come down. Those were his concerns; there was no anxiety being displayed by him to stop anything. This is what came through in her testimony.
Yet the special court in Rae Bareli, when it discharged Advani during the NDA’s reign, actually cited Anju Gupta’s testimony – the judgement was in Hindi, the judge used the expression “ati mahatvapurna (exceedingly important)” – as the crucial basis on which he was letting off Advani. So much for this rule of law that we all keep buying into.
When there was a change of regime in 2004, this farce was corrected. Advani was brought back into the case. And given the background circumstances, I dare say that this judicial correction would not have taken place but for the fortuitous circumstance of the government having changed at the centre.
In the Lucknow special court, some anonymous kar sevaks are being tried for the crime of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid without the knowledge, involvement or instigation of any of the sangh parivar leaders. And in Rae Bareli, the sangh parivar leaders are being tried only for delivering inflammatory speeches
These events are all interconnected. The fact that the 1949 FIR has never been followed up, that there have been no convictions, is no coincidence. And it doesn’t end there.
To come back to the Supreme Court and the judgement of 1994, there is more to it than the split verdict on the then government’s proposed new law. There was another very farcical aspect that pertains to contempt of court. During the run-up to the demolition this matter was also before the Supreme Court.
As we are now aware, the intelligence reports issued prior to the demolition were very precise and any administration would have known from those reports that there was imminent danger to the structure. So there was wilful negligence on the part of the centre, on the part of the Narasimha Rao government, in this regard. Simultaneously, there was a public interest petitioner, Mohammad Aslam Bhure, and his counsel, OP Sharma, who were very valiantly fighting a battle before the Supreme Court. Their applications were based on newspaper reports that said the same thing: that what was going to happen on December 6 was very serious, that the threats cannot be taken lightly – these were issues that were brought before the court. And more importantly, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice MN Venkatachaliah had one very compelling reason to take these warnings seriously.
In July 1992 proceedings were underway before the Supreme Court, also at the instance of Bhure, on the construction of a platform near the Babri Masjid that was going on at the time. The court kept on ordering the Kalyan Singh government to stop this, to respect the status quo order, and yet the construction took place. The first contempt notice to Kalyan Singh was issued in July 1992 in this context and then, on December 6, this great crime takes place. These warnings should have been taken seriously. The undertakings given by the same Kalyan Singh who so wilfully violated and disobeyed the Supreme Court orders in July 1992 should therefore not have been taken seriously. Yet the Supreme Court in its wisdom decided to allow symbolic kar seva to take place.
How much of this was based on their commitment to the rule of law, how much of it was because they were Hindus, I don’t know. Despite the background, the Supreme Court trusted these fellows to perform a symbolic kar seva. And when this belief of theirs was belied, was completely shattered, sure enough, the Supreme Court, for national consumption, to the delight of our newspapers and TV channels, came up with some very strong observations: This is the greatest ever perfidy, there can be no greater instance of contempt of the Supreme Court, an otherwise mild judge really thundered in the courtroom, making someone like KK Venugopal, who was representing the Kalyan Singh government, say: I’m ashamed my lord, I was not privy to this conspiracy. When my clients said that they were going to observe the rule of law, that they were going to ensure that no damage would take place to the structure, I took their word for it. That was the kind of drama that took place in the court soon after the demolition. This was part of the same response.
And then, along with the 1994 judgement wherein the post-demolition measures taken by the government were examined by the Supreme Court, the court also dealt with the issue of contempt. The media and most people thought that the one-day sentence awarded to Kalyan Singh in that context was for the demolition but it was actually for the July 1992 instance of contempt, the first contempt notice. The judges wilfully kept clear of the act of contempt that was committed on December 6, 1992. To date, just as the 1949 FIR has still not resulted in a charge sheet and prosecution, this greatest ever contempt, as we were told it was subsequent to the December 6 incident, has still not been disposed of. No action has so far been taken. It is as if the judges don’t want to take chances with Lord Ram’s wrath.
Their inaction is not very different from the actions of Judge Pandey of the Uttar Pradesh judiciary who saw the hand of Hanuman, Hanuman’s benediction, in his decision to open the gates of the Babri Masjid. One cannot help seeing such significance in their eloquent silence on taking action against the December 6 act of contempt. And such silence is not an isolated instance.
We saw a similar silence in the context of the Supreme Court’s judgement on Hindutva in 1995. To make a brief reference to the Hindutva judgement… How do you talk about whether Hindutva is really liberal and in consonance with the Constitution without talking about what exactly Veer Savarkar, the man who coined that expression, had in mind: What was his definition of Hindutva, how did he propound this very pernicious theory that India belongs more to those whose birthplace and sacred land is India? This was an aspect that was totally glossed over by the Supreme Court in its Hindutva judgement as it merrily went along with the view that Hindutva is no different from Hinduism, the catholic, liberal interpretation of Hinduism.
I look at all of this as an outsider, as a representative of the media; I’m sure those of you who are from within the system can see this farce even more clearly than I do.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section 1-Silence is Eloquent
The Allahabad high court bench on Ayodhya matters, Lucknow, finally gave its judgement on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute on September 30, 2010. The three judges, Justices SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma, gave separate judgements. The first two judges did not agree on the historical issues involved but concurred over the operational part which meant allotting two-thirds of the land in well-defined portions to the VHP-sponsored body and the Nirmohi Akhara and the residual one-third to the Sunni Wakf Board. Justice Sharma delivered the minority judgement, holding that the Muslims needed to be excluded altogether from the disputed land.
The operational part of the majority judgement derived not from Justice SU Khan’s but from Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s reading of the historical background. Moreover, Justice Agarwal, by setting forth a very extensive reproduction of the court’s orders and applications before the court during the case, and extracts from the statements of witnesses and the arguments of advocates, has laid out massive material of the case in over 5,000 pages. This constitutes a large part of the basic material brought before the high court although one may legitimately differ from Justice Agarwal’s mode of selection and attribution of importance to certain statements or books.
In this volume we hope to deal with all the major points at issue relating to history and archaeology that have been raised in the judgement of Justice Sudhir Agarwal. It consists of four papers. Paper I deals with the date of construction of the Babri Masjid and the historicity of its inscriptions. Paper II shows that the evolution of the belief in the site Ramjanmabhoomi is a recent one, not earlier than the 18th century, and brings out the misuse of the so-called Vishnu-Hari temple inscription. Paper III is the longest: it refutes the conclusions of the final report of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and takes issue with the justice’s own findings about “the structure(s) beneath the mosque” and the demolition thereof. Finally, Paper IV traces the course of the ASI’s biased and partisan conduct of the excavations at Ayodhya.
While we have had to disagree with Justice Agarwal’s reasoning and conclusions on various occasions, no personal aspersions are at all intended.
The judgement of Justice Agarwal has serially numbered paragraphs and these are cited in all our references to it. All paragraph numbers put in bold figures in our text refer to paragraph numbers of the judgement.
For easy reference to our own text, we have numbered our paragraphs in separate series under each paper: thus the third paragraph in Paper II is numbered 2.3. The paragraph numbers in Notes annexed to Papers I and II are prefaced with numbers of the respective papers and notes. Thus the second paragraph of Note 3 annexed to Paper I is numbered 1.3.2.
The papers in the volume have been compiled on the basis of information from various sources, with the advice of many friends and colleagues. But the ultimate responsibility is that of the undersigned.
Aligarh Historians Society
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section II, Paper I: Misinterpreted and Misjudged
1.1. Mr Justice Sudhir Agarwal aims in his judgement to prove that the Babri Masjid was built not during the reign of Babar, in 1528, but only under Aurangzeb (d. 1707), at any rate not very much before Fr Joseph Tieffenthaler visited Ayodhya between 1740 and 1765 (paras 1645 and 1682). So the memory of the mosque being built over the “demolished” fortress “called Ramcot” (Tieffenthaler’s words) was yet fresh in the Hindu mind (cf para 1658) and that should be taken as evidence for its being built after demolishing a temple marking Lord Ram’s birthplace. Furthermore, Tieffenthaler, a little known traveller but called by the learned judge “an intellectual giant and linguistic wizard” (para 1591), did not refer to any inscriptions on the mosque; and this means, in the eyes of Justice Agarwal, that these inscriptions were not then in existence, this being the reason, in his opinion, that Tieffenthaler could not decide between the two traditions, as to whether Babar or Aurangzeb had built the mosque (paras 1591 and 4388).
This means, according to the judge, that the so-called inscriptions were put up only after Tieffenthaler’s visit though before Francis Buchanan’s visit to Ayodhya in 1810-11, since he obtained the copy of an “inscription on its walls” that declared it to have been built by Babar. Thus, in Justice Agarwal’s view, all the inscriptions so far presented to the public are later forgeries, made between, say 1760 and 1810, despite their texts having been accepted as genuine by Fuhrer, AS Beveridge, the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, and practically every historian and epigraphist dealing with them till now. The contents themselves cannot be confirmed, the judge goes on to hold, because Mir Baqi, the commandant, presented as the actual builder, cannot be identified with anyone mentioned in the Baburnama (see below under Section C: Mir Baqi). In reaching the conclusion over the late construction of the Babri Masjid, Justice Sudhir Agarwal does not appear to address other matters relating to the date of the building such as its architectural design and technique of construction. But let us first take up his arguments one by one.
A. Tieffenthaler and the mosque inscriptions
1.2. As to the significance of Tieffenthaler’s not mentioning the inscriptions, it needs stressing that in history negative inferences of this kind are hardly ever given credence. One famous example is of that other famous “intellectual giant and linguistic wizard”, Marco Polo’s failure to mention the hugely ancient Great Wall of China. If Justice Sudhir Agarwal is ever asked to decide when the Great Wall was built, he should immediately say, after Marco Polo’s travels i.e. after 1300 AD! This shows the risks involved in Justice Agarwal’s approach to history. Tieffenthaler merely recorded the tradition that either Aurangzeb or Babar built the mosque; why should he have gone and tested it by trying to decipher the mosque inscriptions?
Moreover, the Persian inscriptions were written in ornate tughra-influenced nastaliq and so are hard to read for any non-epigraphist, however conversant with Persian. Tieffenthaler’s account of Allahabad suba has been published in translation by SN Sinha, The Mid-Gangetic Region in the Eighteenth Century, Allahabad/ Delhi, 1976, and we can see there that he gives scant notice, if any, of inscriptions found on buildings. Does it mean that the Mughal period inscriptions at Allahabad and other cities not mentioned by him did not exist before his time? The kind of inference Justice Agarwal draws from just stressing one passage of a work shows how risky it is not to look at the nature of the work one is examining. Unlike Tieffenthaler, it was a part of the requirements of Buchanan’s survey that he should record antiquarian remains. This he has done in respect of all the districts of Bihar and Bengal, as well as Gorakhpur, that he surveyed, as one may see if one examines not only Montgomery Martin’s abridgement of Buchanan’s district-wise reports but also the reports themselves, those relating to Bihar districts having been published practically in full by the government of Bihar and Orissa in British times.
B. The texts of the Masjid inscriptions
1.3. Having disposed of the Tieffenthaler red herring, let us now look at Justice Agarwal’s objections to the genuineness of the mosque inscriptions (cf para 1484 et seq). He uses harsh words to dismiss the evidence brought out in the official publication of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, where the Babri Masjid inscriptions are given in text and translation on pages 58-62, with a plate facing page 59. This was part of an article (posthumous) by Maulvi M. Ashraf Husain, entitled ‘Inscriptions by Emperor Babur’, the volume being edited by Dr ZA Desai, the then superintendent, Persian and Arabic Inscriptions, ASI, and a great authority among India’s Arabic and Persian epigraphists. Let us see how Justice Agarwal castigates them:
“We are extremely perturbed by the manner in which Ashraf Husain/ Desai have tried to give an impeccable authority to the texts of the alleged inscriptions which they claim to have existed on the disputed building though [they] repeatedly said that the original text has disappeared. The fallacy and complete misrepresentation on the part of author is writ large from a bare reading of the write-up. We are really at pains(!) to find that such blatant fallacious kind of material has been allowed to be published in a book under the authority of ASI, Government of India, without caring about its accuracy, correctness and genuineness of the subject” (para 1463).
In Justice Agarwal’s view, all the inscriptions on the Babri Masjid so far presented to the public are later forgeries, made between, say 1760 and 1810, despite their texts having been accepted as genuine by practically every historian and epigraphist dealing with them till now
One must respectfully state that this is not a fair view of Ashraf Husain’s article nor a justifiable criticism of the government of India, for reasons that we shall give below.
1.4. Ashraf Husain says clearly that the main four-line inscription (the top containing the invocation and the remaining three containing eight Persian couplets), placed on the central entrance of the mosque, had not disappeared but was seen by him, and in Plate VII (c), opposite page 59, he has reproduced a photograph of the inscription from which one can check his decipherment (and, of course, translation). This inscription remained in position on the entrance until December 6, 1992 when the kar sevaks carried out their act of demolition. If this does not exist now, it is only owing to that “abominable” act (Justice Agarwal’s own characterisation of it, para 4527, which Justice Agarwal seems most of the time to ignore entirely). Two photographs (see Plates 1 and 2) show the inscription above the entrance before the demolition so that Justice Agarwal’s assertion stands easily disproved.
1.5. Justice Agarwal also here overlooks the fact that about 90 years before the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, both the gate and the pulpit inscriptions of the Babri Masjid had been mentioned in the Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, edited by WC Benett, issued as an official publication in 1877-78, Vol. I, pp. 6-7. “In two places in the Babri Mosque”, it says, “the year in which it was built, 935 H., corresponding with 1528 AD, is carved in stone along with inscriptions dedicated to the glory of the Emperor.” It will be noticed that this is much older than Fuhrer’s reading of the inscriptions but is quietly ignored in Justice Agarwal’s summary of the reports on the inscriptions (para 1650). Benett’s statement is confirmed in HR Nevill’s Fyzabad District Gazetteer, with Preface dated 1905 (volume reprinted, 1920). On page 179 we are told: “The Mosque has two inscriptions, one on the outside and the other on the pulpit and bear the date 935 Hijri. Of the authenticity of the inscriptions there can be no doubt.”
1.6. Thus two official reports clearly say that the inscriptions on the entrance and the pulpit gave the date 935 Hijri (=1528 AD) and that they belonged to the reign of Babar. One of them goes on to attest their undoubted authenticity.
1.7. The only disappearance that is mentioned in Ashraf Husain’s article is with regard to the inscription(s) on the pulpit. The supposition that there were two pulpit inscriptions came about because of the confusion created by Fuhrer’s misreading of the single pulpit inscription and his extracting out of it the impossible date 930 H (=1523 AD), a year when Babar was not in possession of his Indian dominions (the battle of Panipat took place in 1526). On Fuhrer’s mistranscription and so mistranslation of the pulpit inscription, which led Ashraf Husain to suppose that there were two pulpit inscriptions, not one, see Note 1.1, annexed to this paper.
Ashraf Husain naturally thought that the pulpit inscription seen by Fuhrer was different from the one everyone else had read on the pulpit. (We have just seen that Benett and Nevill both note that the pulpit inscription too gave the date of the mosque’s construction as AH 935 = AD 1528). Moreover, when Mrs AS Beveridge, the translator of Babar’s memoirs (published in 1921), received from the deputy commissioner of Fyzabad copies of texts of the two mosque inscriptions, one on the pulpit, the other on the outside, the inscriptions were still in situ (as she tells us; Baburnama, tr. AS Beveridge, Vol. II, Appendix IV, pp. lxxvii-lxxix); and the two texts reproduced by her fully accord with those given by Ashraf Husain, the pulpit one entirely and the one on the entrance in respect of the first three couplets read by Mrs Beveridge’s informants who could not decipher the further couplets, while Ashraf Husain has been able to read all of them.
Justice Agarwal should have asked himself whether there has been any long ancient or old inscription written in unfamiliar characters (like Ashoka’s edicts or Samudragupta’s Allahabad inscription), the words or clauses of which have not been differently read by epigraphists during the last 150 years. Should they then be regarded as forgeries though on all essential points they agree, as is the case with the Babri Masjid inscriptions? Why should, then, Justice Agarwal tax Ashraf Husain and Desai for not giving the genuine text of the pulpit inscription(s) when their reading is manifestly the most accurate and complete of all? Justice Agarwal’s accusations against Dr Ziyaud-Din Desai, the chief epigraphist, ASI, of changing the meaning of its text (para 1654) is entirely uncalled for.
Plate1 Inscription above the entrance to the Babri Masjid before the 1992 demolition
1.8. Justice Agarwal resorts to the most strained reasoning for justifying his censures. Ashraf Husain says that though the pulpit inscription was destroyed in the riot of 1934, he was able to obtain an “inked rubbing” or estampage from Mr Sayyid Badrul Hasan of Fyzabad. Mr Justice Agarwal declares his agreement with the opposing (“Hindu”) party that no such person existed! No proof of such a claim is offered. Nor does Justice Agarwal apparently know that estampages are preferable to transcripts because they reproduce the original shape of letters – essential from a palaeographic point of view. Justice Agarwal holds that Ashraf Husain should have preferred a transcript to the estampage (para 1467).
It will be seen from Plate XVII (b), opposite page 59, of the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, under discussion, that its writing again is tughra-influenced nastaliq like that of the entrance inscription at Plate XVII (c). This would not have been clear if Ashraf Husain had merely reproduced a hand-transcribed text such as the one published by Beveridge or the copy presumably made by Maulvi M. Shuaib for the ASI, Northern Circle, in 1906-07. Ashraf Husain duly cited the Annual Report of the Office of the Archaeological Surveyor, Northern Circle, Agra, for 1906-07, which, if Justice Agarwal had any doubts about the matter, the bench could have called for from the government of India just as it had directed the government of India to provide a translation of the extract from Tieffenthaler. In any case, our photographs show that the original inscription actually stood over the entrance before 1992 and the photographed text accords with the plate published by Ashraf Husain. Its mode of tughra-influenced nastaliq also proclaims its early Mughal date.
C. Mir Baqi
1.9. It is difficult to understand why Justice Agarwal is willing only to consider as preferable the reports about two inscriptions in the mosque (one of these must be the faulty one substituted in the pulpit for the original destroyed in 1934, reported by Ashraf Husain), which were obtained by a court in 1946. One of these inscriptions was quoted as saying that “by the order of Shah Babar, Amir Mir Baki built the resting place of angles (sic) in 923 AH i.e. 1516-17” – i.e. 10 years before Babar’s victory at Panipat! The other inscription (presumably the entrance one) was so read as to tell us that “Mir Baki of Isphahan in 935 AH i.e. 1528-29 AD” (sentence left incomplete in the judgement) (para 1481). Justice Agarwal insists on the reading “Isfahani” for the correct reading “Asaf-i sani”, as deciphered in the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, and then by so doing he cannot find ‘Mir Baqi Isfahani’ or ‘Mir Baqi’, exactly with that name, in Babar’s memoirs (paras 1477 and 1583). And this helps him to consider Mir Baqi as non-existent or unidentifiable (para 1477) and the inscriptions as forgeries. It may be mentioned in clarification that ‘Mir’ here is a mere abbreviation of amir (noble) and that ‘Isfahani’ is a misreading of Asaf-i sani, the second asaf (grand vizier of Solomon).
1.10. It is strange that Justice Agarwal did not accord due consideration to the following two entries in the Baburnama, which alone are sufficient to show that Baqi was a historical personage and actually Babar’s commandant of Awadh (Ayodhya). Being Babar’s subordinate, Babar naturally does not call him amir or mir, since it was not a part of his name, as in some other cases where the word Mir occurs in personal names referred to by Babar. The passages concerned occur in Eiji Mano’s edition of original Turki, Kyoto, 1995, on pp. 605-6; Abdur Rahim Khankhanan’s Persian translation; in Beveridge’s English translation, II, pp. 684-85; and in WM Thackston’s English translation of the Baburnama, New York, 1996, pp. 443-444.
The entries make it clear that while Babar was on a campaign crossing the Gomti and then the Ganga, ‘Baqi Tashkandi’ joined his camp, coming with “the Awadh (Ayodhya) troops” (‘Awad chariki’), on June 13, 1529. On June 20, ‘Baqi Shaghawal’ was given leave to return along with his Awadh troops (Awad chariki). These references (see Note 1.2, annexed to this paper, for full quotes) make it clear that (1) Baqi was the commandant of troops at Awadh (Ayodhya), so that here the Babri Masjid inscriptions stand confirmed; and (2) he was a native of Tashkant and bore the official title of Shaghawal, so that contrary to Justice Agarwal’s argument (para 1477), Baqi Tashkandi and Baqi Shaghawal refer to the same person. The ‘shaghawal’ (Persian, sazawal) used to be an official of rank who could not be impeded when fulfilling royal orders by anyone, howsoever high. (Justice Agarwal admits that an explanation of shaghawal as an officer was offered by Professor Shireen Moosvi, an expert witness before the bench (para 1365), but the justice obviously paid little heed to this).
1.11. It is thus clear from the above that Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s line of reasoning is based on untenable assumptions. If, according to him, Babar was not concerned with the construction of the Babri Masjid, one wonders why the learned judge should hold forth at such length on his weaknesses of character as a believing Muslim. We are told by the justice that Babar was “a completely Islamic person and (so?) lacked tolerance to the idol worshippers” (para 1563); and in (para 1570) he goes on to censure not only Babar but also the historians who have written appreciatively about him. Finally, we have the following judgement on medieval Indian history as a whole:
“Another surprising aspect was that the Indian subcontinent was under the attack/ invasion by outsiders for almost a thousand or more years in the past and had been continuously looted by them. Massive wealth continuously was driven off from the Country” (para 1611).
This sentence suggests a rather one-sided view of the history of medieval India. Was India before the British ever governed from outside of it, from a place to which wealth could be continuously transferred? Whoever looted, whether sultans or rajas, lived within India.
D. Mosque dateable by style and technique
1.12. Suppose the inscriptions in the Babri Masjid did not exist, could one then declare that it could have been built in Aurangzeb’s time, as Mr Justice Agarwal concludes (paras 1601 and 1645)? What Justice Agarwal does not seem to have taken into consideration is the fact that there was considerable change in the styles of architecture, including mosque architecture, between the times of Babar and Aurangzeb; and it can easily be established, by the style and technique employed in a building, whether it was built in the pre-Mughal or early Mughal times or later. The Babri Masjid is recognisably built in the Sharqi style of architecture (seen noticeably at Jaunpur) with the characteristic form given to the propylon. The domes, though large, are flattish and heavy. This style became obsolete soon after; and well before Aurangzeb’s time, light (even bulbous) domes with free-standing minarets became the hallmark of a mosque. (See Note 1.3, contributed by Dr S. Ali Nadeem Rezavi, annexed to this paper.) It is impossible to conceive that a mosque built in Aurangzeb’s time or later would have had the design or exhibit the building technique of the Babri Masjid. All this is fatal to Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s attempted late dating of the monument.
Pointed arches are employed throughout the Babri Masjid: These were generally preferred during the period before the establishment of the Mughal mode of architecture under Akbar
E. The evidence from the ASI’s report that the justice overlooked
1.13. Justice Agarwal has high praise for the team of ASI officials, their conduct of excavations and their report in which he reposes full trust (see Paper III). One would therefore assume that anything stated in this report should obtain his approval.
1.14. In the report in Chapter VIII, under the caption “Arabic Inscription (sic)”, on pages 205-6, there are described two Arabic inscriptions on slabs, both taken, so we are told, from “debris lying above the topmost floor of the disputed structure”, the ASI’s euphemism for the Babri Masjid. One contains parts of verses from the Koran and the other, the single word “Allah”. In the case of both it is stated that they are written “in relief Naskh style (of calligraphy) of early sixteenth century AD”.
1.15. Now, how could these inscriptions, assigned by the ASI to the early 16th century (so of around 1528, the date of construction of the Babri Masjid), come to be there if the mosque was constructed not in 1528 AD, during Babar’s time, but in the reign of Aurangzeb, 1659-1707 AD, some 150 or more years later? To rephrase a question Justice Agarwal has asked of others: What motive could Messrs Manjhi and Mani have had in revealing the above inscriptions that so cruelly puncture the bubble of a convenient speculation?
1.16. There is the further matter of a carbon date. We do not have the same trust in the ASI’s report that Justice Agarwal reposes; and by its depth (47cm) it seems certain that in Trench G6 the charcoal sample that was sent for carbon dating was below Floor 2, not above it. However, for the present let us quote the ASI’s report’s commentary on it (p. 54):
“The C-14 date from the contemporary deposit of the foundation of the disputed structure [Babri Masjid] is 450± 110 BP (1500±110 AD) which is quite consistent, as determined from the charcoal sample from trench 6G.”
This means that the construction of the Babri Masjid cannot be later than AD 1600 and should normally be placed much closer to AD 1500. So where, if the ASI’s word is sacrosanct, does it leave the attribution of the alleged destruction of the Ram temple and foundation of the Masjid to the hand of Aurangzeb who ruled from 1659 to 1707?
The ASI’s report on this carbon date is quoted by Justice Agarwal himself in para 3924 of his judgement but apparently its implications escaped his notice or he simply failed to read what had been transcribed at his direction.
1.17. It may be mentioned, finally, that the authors of the ASI report directly date the foundation of the Babri Masjid to the “early sixteenth century” (Report, p. 270); since Justice Agarwal would not allow any “objections against ASI” (para 3989), why should this finding be rejected?
No consciousness among Babri Masjid builders of
having demolished a temple at the site
1.18. The attack of the ‘Hindu’ parties on the genuineness of the Babri Masjid inscriptions – never doubted until the present litigation, nor by any historian or epigraphist till the current day – has this advantageous consequence for them, that they become absolved from considering the implications of the texts of the two inscriptions, the gateway inscription being fairly long. If a temple had been demolished for the glory of Islam and the religious merit of the builders, would they not have first of all proclaimed the fact in these inscriptions? Given the alleged circumstances, it seems extraordinarily unnatural that they should have lamentably failed so to do. There is the example of the Qubbatul Islam (vulg. Quwwatul Islam) mosque at Qutb-Delhi, where a well-known inscription proclaims such a fact (see YD Sharma, Delhi and its Neighbourhood, ASI publication, Delhi, 1974/1990, p. 52). Why then should the builders of the Babri Masjid have been so silent and withdrawing about their act of temple demolition? Clearly, the answer must be that they were not aware that they had destroyed any temple either because they had built the mosque on vacant land or, as from the archaeological excavations, as we learn now (see Paper III), the land was already under an idgah or qanati mosque along with some open ground.
No theory of the construction of the Babri Masjid can be acceptable to any impartial person unless this vital piece of evidence in the form of the Masjid inscriptions is given due importance.
Note on Fuhrer’s texts and translations of the Babri Masjid inscriptions in his The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, Calcutta, 1889, pages 67-68
1.1.1. Fuhrer’s transcriptions and translations of the two inscriptions in Persian (forming his Nos. XLI and XLII) are obviously full of errors and wrong conclusions have been drawn from them by him.
1.1.2. Fuhrer himself says of his Inscription No. XLI, “written in Persian poetry”, that “the letters of this inscription have been mixed together by the copyist” – i.e. by his copyist and not the original scribe. In the very second hemistich the initial words ba-shane kih ba, as read by the Fuhrer copyist, show his illiteracy in reading Persian verse. This cannot now be corrected even by reading basane kih ba, in the manner suggested in the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965 (henceforth referred to as EI (AP), 1965), p. 60, or by the latter’s editor’s suggestion, bina-i kih ba. This is because the word ba (with) under all these constructions remains absolutely meaningless. EI (AP), 1965’s own first inscription from the Babri Masjid (on p. 59) shows that ba could only be used if the edifice was meeting something, like gardun (sky). In Fuhrer’s version the edifice is marching towards the sky not meeting ‘with’ the sky! Similarly, the third hemistich in Fuhrer’s reading is wrong, since it reads bina karda-i in khana-i paidar, which has one syllable extra. Compare the third hemistich in the above-mentioned EI (AP), 1965’s first inscription: Bina karda in mahbit-i qudsiyan ra, which by the use of the terminal word ra avoids the izafat after karda.
The above comparisons with EI (AP), 1965’s first inscription bring one to the irresistible conclusion that Fuhrer’s reading of the six hemistiches is not only extensively wrong but that the inscription he was reading is really identical with EI (AP), 1965’s own first inscription. It is curious that the EI (AP), 1965’s editor missed the fact that both inscriptions, supposed to be distinct ones, occupied the same position in the mosque: the one read by Fuhrer is said to be “on the mimbar, right-hand side of the masjid” while Inscription No.1 of the EI (AP), 1965 is said to have been “built into the southern side of the pulpit of the mosque”. In other words, we have here the same mimbar or pulpit inscription. This is also confirmed by the fact that both the Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, 1877-78, and Nevill’s Fyzabad District Gazetteer, 1905, have spoken only of two Persian inscriptions at the mosque. It may be seen that the EI (AP), 1965’s pulpit inscription gives the date in the chronogram “buwad khair baqi” (giving the value 935 (AH) = AD 1528; which is missed by Fuhrer).
1.1.3. One can see how Fuhrer’s copyist created a very erroneous text of the pulpit inscription. Having read some words correctly, while totally at a loss with others, he sought to make up a rhyming text as best he could. Having wrongly read ki adlash as khadiv-i jahan he read inan (at the end of the second hemistich), forgetting that with the word ba, which he had correctly read, this was inadmissible. He was totally floored by mahbit-i qudsiyan ra in the third hemistich and inserted the mundane words khana-i paidar instead, forgetting that the izafat this would require after the word karda would make it violate the rhyme. He could not make anything of the word Baqi at the end of the fourth hemistich and so put in khan after it, to rhyme with inan, his misreading of the terminal word of the second hemistich.
1.1.4. A similar string of errors abounds in Fuhrer’s copyist’s reading of the gate inscription, written, like the pulpit one, in the now archaic tughra-influenced style of writing. This is given as Plate XVII (c) in EI (AP), 1965, opposite p. 59. Here Fuhrer’s copyist gave up on the first hemistich and in the second read kunad (‘does’) for kih and then read qalam instead of alam and tried to make up some sense by reading jawidani instead of lamakani. He gave up on the third to sixth hemistiches but his reading of the seventh and eighth hemistiches is not only wrong but ungrammatical, since the sentence remains incomplete without the necessary verb (from chunan shahinshah to misal-i shadmani). In the EI (AP), 1965’s version not only are the words correctly read but the verb dar girifta is duly supplied. The Fuhrer reading of the tenth hemistich (ki khaqan-i daulat o faghfur-i sani) is absurd because no noble, however great (mir-i muazzam), could be declared an emperor (khaqan, faghfur). The correct reading is given in EI (AP), 1965, page 61: ki namash Mir Baqi Asaf-i sani meaning: “whose name is Mir Baqi, a second Asaf (minister to King Solomon)”. Even the hemistich containing the date is wrongly read by Fuhrer: ki nuhsad si (930) buwad Hijarat bi-dani. The word ‘Hijri’ (though generally regarded as superfluous, like ‘AD’ today), not ‘Hijarat’, is used for the Hijri date. Not only is the use of Hijarat here a piece of illiteracy but its position after buwad is ungrammatical. The correct reading is given in EI (AP), 1965: ki nuhsad si panj (935) buwad nishani. In other words, the date is 935 AH, not 930.
1.1.5. The erroneous readings of Fuhrer’s copyist are obvious from the very fact that his date 930 corresponds to 1523 AD while both the inscriptions as read by (or for) Fuhrer himself give the name of Babar as the ruling king. Fuhrer’s consequential statement (p. 67) that “Babar’s masjid at Ayodhya was built in AH 930 or AD 1523 by Mir Khan” is absurd, since Babar did not even occupy Delhi until 1526. We have already shown that “Mir Khan” is a patent misreading by Fuhrer’s copyist for “Mir Baqi”.
1.1.6. Here it may be mentioned that much earlier than Fuhrer, the dates were correctly read in these two inscriptions in the mosque. The Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, edited by WC Benett and published in 1877-78, in Vol. I, at pages 6-7, states in its entry on Ayodhya in its paragraph on ‘Babar’s mosque’:
“In two places in the Babari mosque, the year in which it was built, 935 H., corresponding with 1528 AD is carved in stone along with inscriptions dedicated to the glory of the Emperor” (italics ours).
This statement was wrongly and vainly contested by Fuhrer (The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, p. 68, note 1) – mainly because of his own copyist’s misreadings.
1.1.7. Nor was Fuhrer’s version of the inscriptions accepted by any official source after the publication of his work in 1889. In HR Nevill’s Fyzabad District Gazetteer, Preface dated 1905 (reprinted, 1920), p. 179, it is clearly stated, under the entry on Ajodhya, in respect of the Babri Masjid:
It may be mentioned that the authors of the ASI report directly date the foundation of the Babri Masjid to the “early sixteenth century” (ASI Report, p. 270). Since Justice Agarwal would not allow any “objections against ASI” (para 3989 of his judgement), why should this finding be rejected?
“The mosque has two inscriptions, one on the outside and the other on the pulpit; both are in Persian and bear the date 935 Hijri. Of the authenticity of the inscriptions there can be no doubt…” (Annexure 2) (italics ours).
The details in this statement show that the information is not borrowed from the earlier Oudh Gazetteer but is based on independent scrutiny.
1.1.8. It may further be observed that Mrs AS Beveridge, writing in 1921 in her translation of Babar’s memoirs, by and large correctly read the text of the pulpit inscription (as in EI (AP), 1965) and partly read (correctly) the other inscription (AS Beveridge, Baburnama, II, pp. lxxvii-lxxix). She too was informed only of the existence of two (not three) Persian inscriptions in the mosque.
1.1.9. (1) There were only two Persian inscriptions in the mosque, one on the pulpit, the other on the outside.
(2) As recorded by the Oudh Gazetteer, 1877-78, both of these contained the date 935 (AH = 1528 AD).
(3) Fuhrer’s copyist misread the texts of both the inscriptions in 1889, being obviously unfamiliar with its stylised nastaliq writing. The text of the pulpit inscription was correctly read by Mrs Beveridge (1921) and by the editor of these inscriptions in Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, from an estampage. Fuhrer’s reading ‘Mir Khan’ is an obvious error for ‘Mir Baqi’ in the pulpit inscription. He also misread the verse in the other inscription, which actually gave the date as 935, not 930, the one read by Fuhrer.
(4) Fuhrer’s conclusion that ‘Babar’s mosque’ was constructed in 930 (AD 1523) by one Mir Khan is absurd, since Babar was not in possession of this area in 1523 (he won the battle of Panipat only in 1526). Since the name ‘Mir Khan’ is the product of a copyist’s misreading, it is needless to say that no person bearing this name is mentioned among Babar’s nobles in any historical source.
Two references to Mir Baqi, builder of the Babri Masjid, in Babar’s memoirs
1.2.1 (1) Eiji Mano’s edition of Baburnama, Kyoto, 1995, pp. 605-6:
Page 605: Maqam boldi Baqi Tashkandi Awad chariki bila aushaul…
Page 606: Namaz-i digar Baqi Shaghawal bila Awad chariki ka rukhsat bir yaldi.
(1A) Abdur Rahim Khankhanan’s Persian version, British Museum MS Or. 3714:
Folio 517b: Baqi Tashkandi ba lashkar-i Awadh haman roz amda mulazimat kard.
Folio 518a: namaz-i digar Baqi Shaghawal ra ba lashkar-i Awad rukhsat dada shud.
(2) AS Beveridge’s translation of Baburnama, Vol. II, p. 684:
Page 684: (June 13 ): Today, Baqi Tashkindi came in with the army of Aud (Ayodhya) and waited on me.
Page 685 (June 20) …At the Other Prayer of the same day, leave was given to Baqi and the army of Aud (Ayodhya).
Note: By a slip, Mrs Beveridge omits to write ‘Baqi the shaghawal’ instead of Baqi in the same passage.
(3) WM Thackston’s translation of Baburnama, pp. 443-444:
Page 443: Baqi Tashkandi came with the Oudh army that day to pay homage.
Page 444: That afternoon Baqi Shiqavul and the Oudh army were dismissed.
Note: ‘Oude’, or ‘Oudh’, represented the name ‘Awadh’ which, in popular and Indo-Persian use, was a variant of Ayodhya. Compare Tulsidas’s ‘Awadhpuri’ for Ayodhya.
Design and building techniques of the Babri Masjid, Ayodhya
Contributed by S. Ali Nadeem Rezavi
1.3.1. The basic plan of the Babri Masjid is reminiscent of the Tughlaq, Lodi and Sharqi architectural traditions. It consists of a western liwan (prayer chamber) divided into aisles and a central nave. All the three are single-bayed, fronted with arched openings and covered with domes. The nave is comparatively larger than the flanking aisles. To the east is a small courtyard which at some later stage was further enlarged with the placement of an outer screen and a gateway.
1.3.2. The whole structure, as was common in the Tughlaq and Lodi periods, was built of rubble stone masonry overlaid with a thick veneer of lime plaster. As visible from a photograph of the western wall of the mosque, rubble stones alternated with layers of calcrete and sandstone blocks. Similar type of construction is witnessed in other 13th to 15th century structures located in and near Ayodhya. An example can be given of the two very large ‘graves’ of the ‘prophets’ – one near the palace of the raja of Ayodhya and the other at the old cemetery on the outskirts of Ayodhya, and the medieval monuments around them.
1.3.3. The nave of the western liwan is fronted with a high propylon, reminiscent of the architecture of the Sharqi period.
1.3.4. The propylon is provided with a trabeated opening covered with a drooping eave resting on heavy stone brackets. The sides of the pylon are decorated with heavy stone projected balconies and a series of niches in the form of arch-and-panel articulation with floral medallions embossed within.
1.3.5. The arches employed throughout the structure are pointed arches which were generally preferred during the period before the establishment of the Mughal mode of architecture under Akbar. The Mughals, from the period of Akbar onwards, preferred the four-centred Iranian arch which, due to its profuse use, came to be known as the ‘Mughal Arch’.
1.3.6. The domes of the Babri Masjid were typical ‘Lodi-style’ domes, raised with the help of stalactite pendentives (as against squinches), resting on octagonal heavy necks and topped with inverted lotus crestings. The domes of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya were similar to the domes of the ‘Moth ki Masjid’ in Delhi, constructed during the reign of Sikandar Lodi (1498-1517) by his prime minister, Miyan Bhuwa.
1.3.7. From the period of Akbar onwards, the style of mosque architecture drastically changed: Now the preferred style was the mosque having a centrally located courtyard surrounded on all sides by the riwaqs (cloisters) and the liwan. The cusped arches, baluster columns and other intricate decorative features were also added.
1.3.8. By Shahjahan’s time a further innovation took place – the minaret started emerging as a part of the mosque complex and by the period of Aurangzeb it became almost an essential feature.
1.3.9. The mosques built under Aurangzeb and later Mughals were of a totally different kind as compared to the plan and elevation of the Babri Masjid. Almost all of them incorporate architectural features developed and used by the architects of Shahjahan. Thus nearly all of them have bulbous domes (a fair number of which were ribbed and of marble) resting on constricted necks; the preferred arch type was that of the multifoliated cusped arches and tall domineering two or four minarets – almost all the mosques from this period onwards had the minarets as an essential architectural feature. Examples can be given of such imperial mosques as the Badshahi mosque at Lahore, the Jami Masjid and the Idgah mosque of Mathura, the Gyanvapi and the Jami mosques of Varanasi as well as the Jami Masjid of Muhammad Shah at Aligarh.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section II, Paper II: Historical Evidence versus Hysterical Invention
Courtesy: Delhi Press Archive
2.1. While there was no disagreement among the parties involved in the suit that the belief in Ayodhya being the birthplace of Lord Ram is currently widely held (para 4316), this is far from saying that this belief goes in time to remote antiquity or that Ayodhya has always been a great pilgrim centre on account of its association with Lord Ram’s birthplace or that the worship of Lord Ram has been conducted there (or at any site therein) from “time immemorial”, as decreed by Justice S. Agarwal (para 4070).
2.2. Justice Sudhir Agarwal rightly regards inscriptions as a primary piece of evidence (para 4146) so let us first see what the Sanskrit inscriptions tell us. None of the Sanskrit inscriptions at or relating to Ayodhya before 1528 contain any reference to Lord Ram directly by that name or to any sanctity attaching to Ayodhya on account of its being the place of his birth.
2.3. The first inscription at Ayodhya, dated to the first century BC/ AD on palaeographic grounds, is in Sanskrit, by Dhanadeva, the ruler of Kosala, who built a shrine (niketan) in honour of his father Phalgudeva (Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XX, pp. 54-58). There is here no reference to any deity at all. A memorial inscription at Belgaum, Karnataka, of AD 105 (published in Epigraphia Indica, XXXIX, pp. 183-188), is inscribed on a memorial pillar raised for a Brahmin of the Kashyapa gotra (clan) hailing from Saketa (Ayodhya) who is praised for his knowledge of the Yajurveda and performance of sacrifices but with no reference anywhere to his worship of Lord Ram or even devotion to Vishnu.
2.4. A copperplate containing a grant made by Samudragupta, the famous Gupta conqueror, and dated to Year 5 of the Gupta era (=AD 328-29) was issued from “the great camp of victory, containing ships [boats?], elephants and horses, situated at Ayodhya”. It gives no title to Ayodhya by which to suggest any sanctity attaching to it on any deity’s account, let alone on Lord Ram’s (DR Bhandarkar et al, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. III, New Edition, pp. 228-231). Emperor Kumaragupta’s stone inscription at Karamdanda, a village 12 miles from Faizabad/ Ayodhya, is dated Gupta Year 117 (=AD 435-36). It pays obeisance to the image of the deity Mahadeva, ‘known as Prithvishvara’, and speaks of Brahmins from Ayodhya ‘conversant with penances, recitation of sacred texts, the mantras, the sutras, the bhashyas and pravachanas’. No reference is made to the worship of Lord Ram or to Brahmins devoted to his worship (ibid, pp. 280-282). In the Damodarpur copperplate inscription of Vishnugupta of the Gupta Year 224 (=AD 542-43), Ayodhya is again simply mentioned with no epithets for either sanctity or association with Lord Ram (ibid, pp. 361-63). Such is also the case with the eighth century Dudhpani rock inscription from Jharkhand which refers to Ayodhya without any honorifics or sense of its sanctity while speaking of three merchants from that place (Epigraphia Indica, II, pp. 343-45).
2.5. The inscription which contains a reference to it next in time is the Chandavati copperplate of the Gahadawala ruler Chandradeva. It is dated Samvat 1150 (=AD 1093) and its find-spot (Chandrauti) is near Varanasi. The ruler refers to his visit to Ayodhya in what is, for our purposes, a remarkable passage:
“after having bathed at the Svargadvara tirtha at the sin-effacing (confluence) of the Sarayu and Ghargara at Ayodhya – also called Uttara Kosala – on Sunday the fifteenth day of the dark half of the month of Asvina in the year eleven hundred fifty increased by fifty, also in figures Samvat 1150, Asvina vadi 15, Sunday, on the sacred occasion of a solar eclipse – after having duly satisfied the sacred texts, divinities, saints, men, beings and the group of the departed ancestors – after having worshipped the sun whose splendour is potent in rending the veil of darkness – after having praised him (Shiva) whose crest is a portion of the moon and whose body consists of the earth, water, fire, air, ether, the sacrificing priest, the moon and the sun – after having performed adoration to the holy Vasudeva, the protector of the three worlds – after having sacrificed to fire an oblation of abundant milk, rice and sugar – after having offered oblations to manes – have conferred [the grant on the Brahmans]…”
Here we see that the ‘sin-effacing’ quality at Ayodhya derives from the confluence of the rivers and worship is offered to Lords Shiva and Vasudeva but Lord Ram himself escapes mention, what to speak of any realisation that any sanctity adhered to Ayodhya from any association with Lord Ram. The inscription has been published with full discussion, text and translation in Epigraphia Indica, XIV, pp. 192-196, and the extract given above is from the translation furnished in it.
2.6. We now finally come to the controversial inscription that was allegedly found by the mob that demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992. For reasons given in Note 2.1, annexed to this paper, it is likely to be a plant, having been lifted from the Lucknow Museum. This is partly allowed for by Justice Agarwal himself, at least in para 4384 when he does not insist that this inscription proved the construction of a Vishnu-Hari temple at the site of the Babri Masjid, which he indeed should have if the kar sevaks’ alleged discovery of it in the debris of the Babri Masjid was genuine: The Lucknow Museum’s missing inscription had actually been found in Treta ka Thakur in Ayodhya. The date in the extant inscription has been erased though it belongs obviously to the late Gahadavala times. Its exact date would be Samvat 1241, or AD 1184, if it is identical with the Lucknow Museum inscription which bore this date, according to the summary published by A. Fuhrer (The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, ASI, Calcutta, 1889, p. 68).
The extant inscription records the building of a Vishnu-Hari temple but the name ‘Ram’ for the deity never occurs. The claim that it represents the site of Ramjanmabhoomi had been rejected by the VHP’s own witness, Dr KV Ramesh, whose reading of the inscription Justice Sudhir Agarwal has also accepted (para 4154). The inscription begins with the praise of Lord Shiva; and attributes the beauty of Ayodhya to “the presence of Avimukta (i.e. Shiva), goddess Visalakshi (i.e. Parvati) and Lalita (Durga)” with no mention of Lord Ram. Even when referring in one sentence to Vishnu, his praise covers his four incarnations: “who killed Hiranyakapisu, subdued Bana in battle, destroyed the prowess of Bahraja and performed many such deeds, he killed the wicked Dasanana (Ravana) who could be more than ten”. (For the text and translation of the inscription, see Pushpa Prasad, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 64th Session, Mysore, 2003, IHC, Patna, 2004, pp. 351-359.) Clearly, even to the builders of the Vishnu-Hari temple, Ram, as incarnation of Vishnu, did not require to be mentioned separately or specifically despite the temple being in Ayodhya. Indeed the presiding deity at Ayodhya was held to be Shiva, not even Vishnu.
None of the Sanskrit inscriptions at or relating to Ayodhya before 1528 contain any reference to Lord Ram directly by that name or to any sanctity attaching to Ayodhya on account of its being the place of his birth
2.7. Such is the evidence of inscriptions which, unlike many Sanskrit texts, can be dated fairly precisely either because dates are given on them or on palaeographic grounds. Nowhere do we find in them any remote reference to the sanctity enjoyed by Ayodhya as the birthplace of Lord Ram.
2.8. The same is the case with two very well-known dated texts, both of immense historical importance. One is the account of the travels of the famous Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hiuen Tsiang (name also transcribed as Yuan Chwang and, in Pinyin, Xuan Zhuang), who visited Ayodhya (‘O-yu-t’o’ or ‘A-yu-te’) in the time of Harshavardhana, in the earlier half of the seventh century. His description of the city runs to nearly five pages in Samuel Beal’s translation (Buddhist Records of the Western World, London, 1884, Vol. I, pp. 224-229; also see the summary with commentary on his account in Thomas Watters, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, 629-645 AD, London, 1905, Vol. I, pp. 354-359). Yet nowhere do we find any reference to the town being celebrated as a birthplace of Lord Ram or even of any great brahmanical establishments or temples there.
2.9. The second text is that of Alberuni’s Kitab al-Hind, a matchless survey of Indian religion, culture and geography compiled in Arabic in c. 1035 AD and translated by Edward C. Sachau into English as Alberuni’s India, 2 Vols., London, 1888. Here there are various references to Lord Ram mainly in connection with his overthrow of Ravana, his conquest of Lanka and his crossing by the dyke of Rameshwara to reach Lanka. There is mention of the recommended size of his idol (I, p. 117), his being an incarnation of Vishnu (I, p. 397), his killing a Chandala ascetic (II, p. 137) and a notice of the Ramayana (I, p. 310) (all references are to Sachau’s translation). But though Ayodhya (‘Ajodaha’) is described (I, p. 200) in his sketch of the main cities and routes, no connection of it with Lord Ram is mentioned, in contrast to Mathura whose connection with God Vasudeva (Krishna) is explicitly mentioned (I, p. 199).
2.10. When we turn to Sanskrit texts, it is to be observed that no Sanskrit text composed before the 16th century AD has been cited before the Allahabad high court, which in any passage lauded Ayodhya explicitly as the birthplace (janmabhoomi, etc) of Lord Ram, not even Valmiki’s Ramayana, or attributed its sanctity as a pilgrimage centre to this cause (paras 4089 to 4091); and this is tacitly admitted by Shri MM Pandey, the VHP advocate (para 4092), and by Justice Agarwal himself (see para 4217 and para 4355, concerning the Hindu belief in the location of Lord Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya).
2.11. We may now look into the text which has really made the Ram story a household legend in the Hindi-speaking area, Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas, completed in Akbar’s reign some time around AD 1570. In it there is no reference to Ram Janmasthan. The only reference that could be presented to the high court is from its chapter, ‘Uttarakhand’, where Tulsidas speaks of his visits to Awadhpuri and witnessing Janm Mahotsav, the birth celebration of Lord Ram (para 4354). Could Tulsidas have ignored Ram Janmasthan, had such a site been identified by his time, and should he have then not mourned that so holy a site had been desecrated by the construction of a mosque 50 years earlier? Quite obviously, Tulsidas was neither aware of the alleged Janmasthan nor its supposed desecration.
2.12. The issue here is not of the antiquity of Lord Ram – the period that the Ramayana of Valmiki was compiled is attributed by most scholars to the period from the third century BC to the second century AD. The late DC Sircar, one of India’s most eminent historians and epigraphists, in his monograph, Problems of the Ramayana, Hyderabad, 1979, pp. 1-4, while denying the historicity of the Ramayana story, assigns to Valmiki’s Ramayana the dates we have just mentioned. He also points out (pp. 28-30) that Ram begins to be mentioned among the heroes whom rulers aspire to emulate from the second century AD. From a historical point of view, there can be no dispute with DC Sircar; but the real issue is not the antiquity of the Ram story but the time when Ayodhya attained a particular repute as the birthplace, not simply the capital city, of Lord Ram, from which arises the further issue of when anyone began claiming any particular spot within Ayodhya as the site of Lord Ram’s birth.
No Sanskrit text composed before the 16th century AD has been cited before the Allahabad high court, which in any passage lauded Ayodhya explicitly as the birthplace of Lord Ram or attributed its sanctity as a pilgrimage centre to this cause
2.13. We have shown above that there is no evidence from inscriptions or from texts until the 16th century that there was any particular spot within Ayodhya for the birthplace of Lord Ram. Abul Fazl’s Ain-i Akbari, written in 1595, in passages submitted to the high court, speaks of Ayodhya or Awadh as “the residence (bungah)” – not the birthplace – of Raja Ramchandra (text, Nawal Kishor ed., Lucknow, 1892, Vol. II, p. 78; Jarrett’s translation, ed. J. Sarkar, Calcutta, 1949, II, p. 182). Similarly, when, in 1608-11, William Finch visited Ayodhya, then, quite contrary to Justice Agarwal’s representation of the sense of his passage (para 4375), he did not at all refer to “the fort of Ramchandra where he was borne (sic!)”. Finch’s exact words are: “Here are the ruins of Ranichand’(s) [so spelt] castle and houses which the Indians acknowledge for the great God, saying he took flesh upon him to see the tamasha of the world.” Moreover, according to Finch, pilgrims did not come here to visit Ramchandra’s castle but “wash themselves in the river nearby” (text in W. Foster, Early Travels in India, 1583-1619, reprint, New Delhi, 1968, p. 176).
2.14 The Skanda Purana is the first Sanskrit text which mentions the existence within Ayodhya, among thirty and odd sacred spots, of one spot that it calls “Ramajanma” – Lord Ram’s birth-spot (see ABL Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part III, Vol. I, Lucknow, 1983, pp. 75-83, ‘Ramajanma’ on p. 83). But when was the Skanda Purana compiled?
2.15. Now, the Skanda Purana is a work with many versions. Thus, for example, “the SV Press (Bombay) and NK Press (Lucknow) editions of Skanda Purana vary considerably in the names of pradesas mentioned in the Kumarika Khanda. The former mentions 75 names while the latter has only 63” (ABL Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part I, Lucknow, 1976, pp. 25-26). Obviously, the text continued to be added to or altered till much after the original compilation, to produce variations of this scale. Even Dr TP Verma, a leading witness of the VHP, also an epigraphist and Sanskritist, admitted that the Skanda Purana is not over 400 years old (para 4411, sub-para XXX).
2.16. But the text is clearly still more recent. Under Mathura desa, it mentions (II.Ii.13, 12) Vrindavana as one of “the famous sacred spots of Vraja” (Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part I, p. 72). But there is no dispute that Vrindavana was held to be a purely celestial place until Shri Chaitanya declared a spot near Mathura to be the earthly Vrindavana and this discovery occurred in 1515 AD. (See Nalini Thakur, ‘The Building of Govindadeva’, in: Margaret H. Case ed., Govindadeva: A Dialogue in Stone, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, 1996, p. 11.) In fact, the place was called Dosaich and the name Brindaban/ Vrindavana came into common use for it only in the 17th century when sects other than those of Shri Chaitanya also extended recognition to it. Thus it is not possible for the Skanda Purana’s text as we have it today to have been compiled before a time that must be much later than 1515, for it took time for Chaitanya’s claimed discovery to be widely accepted.
2.17. Another proof of the lateness of the text is shown by the reference in the Skanda Purana to Sitapur. The Skanda Purana (VII.i.35.24-26, III.ii.39, 25, 35, 37, 293) says that Sitapur was founded by Lord Ram and named after Sita. It speaks of 55 villages near Sitapur held under grants by Brahmins, and some of them named by it have indeed been identified with those in the town’s vicinity (Awasthi, Studies in Skanda Purana, Part I, p. 128). But the name Sitapur is a popular alteration of the original name, ‘Chitapur’, under which it appears in the Ain-i Akbari, the great Mughal gazetteer compiled in 1595. (See for Chitapur/ Sitapur: Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire, Delhi, 1982, Text, p. 28, col. c.)
2.18. Clearly then, the Skanda Purana, if we continue to regard it as a unified text, cannot be older than the 17th century with later additions being possible. And if we concede that it can have interpolations made in it after the 17th century as well then too the date of its reference to a ‘Ramajanma’ site at Ayodhya becomes dubious owing to the supposition that it is one among the possibly many post-17th century interpolations.
2.19. In para 4384 Justice Agarwal seeks to find evidence of pilgrimage to Ayodhya on account of “the record of the Sikh religion showing that Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to Ayodhya in 1510 or 1511, told his companion that it is the birth place of Lord Rama.” This evidence Justice Agarwal had discussed in paras 4333-4351 at length. In para 4351 he expressly accepted it only in so far as that “Guru Nanak while travelling to various places also came to Ayodhya” and held that nothing further could be assumed, contrary to the claims of the Hindu parties (defendants in Suit-4). Yet here, in para 4384, despite his earlier finding, Justice Agarwal is making use of the same piece of evidence, entering a detail he had not earlier accepted. It was submitted to him that the janamsakhi quoted for the purpose is not one recognised by Sikh scholars as reliable, that the standard account of Guru Nanak based on traditionally recognised janamsakhis in MA Macauliffe’s The Sikh Religion, OUP, Vol. I, London, 1909, giving an account of Guru Nanak’s travels in northern India on pp. 43-84, never mentions Ayodhya among the places he visited. This is also the case with the account in Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, Orient Longman, Bombay, 1950, pp. 5-11.
If faith and religious propaganda were to be the deciding elements for establishing a “historical event” and its locale (birthplace of Lord Ram) then the hon’ble high court need not have gone into the historical evidence at all. The case stood prejudged
It is also clear that darshan or image worship is totally alien to beliefs that Guru Nanak propagated (see JS Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, being Vol. II.3 of The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 30-33, with Guru Nanak quoted as rejecting specifically the display of devotion to Krishna, Sita and Ram). It is thus clear that no reliance can be put on the alleged janamsakhi. One may recall here Professor WH McLeod’s words of caution against using the janamsakhis for “our knowledge of the historical Nanak” (The Evolution of the Sikh Community: Five Essays, Delhi, 1975, p. 23). How much more must this caution apply to a mention in an unrecognised janamsakhi like the one on which Justice Agarwal relies.
2.20. It may here be mentioned that the VHP’s insistence on the popular name Masjid Janmasthan from about 1858 as proof of the mosque being built on Lord Ram’s birth-site (para 4092, sub-paras (U) and (V)) obviously reverses the actual development of nomenclature. The name Masjid Janmasthan is only reported from documents of the mid-19th century when the Janmasthan lore had been established and the locality and neighbourhood of Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi (destroyed by the kar sevaks in 1992) had come to acquire the name.
2.21. Similarly, the fact that certain Muslim witnesses or pleadings in the legal proceedings after 1949 did not take issue with the fixing of the Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya or the vicinity of the Babri Masjid (paras 4092(c), 4159 and 4161) has no other significance than that they were merely repeating the current local belief. Such statements, as Justice Agarwal recognises at least once (para 4161), have no historical value. Nevertheless, he proceeds to give the following ruling:
“We are not concerned with the existence of that [Ram] temple [in actual fact?] but what we intend to point out [is?] that the existence of birthplace in this very area is an admission by the plaintiffs. The persons, jointly interested in the suit, are bound by the admission of any of them” (para 4397).
The discussion of the extensive evidence we have examined above should leave us in no doubt that there exists no proof that any sanctity attached to Ayodhya or any place within it on account of its containing the birth-site of Lord Ram before the 17th or more probably the 18th century; and even with regard to Ayodhya being the place over which Lord Ram had ruled, it is only in the late 16th century that Ayodhya as a place is first assigned an exceptionally high, sacred status on this account. It is therefore most unlikely that either in the 11th-12th century or in the 13th and 14th centuries a massive temple could have been built in Ayodhya to commemorate Lord Ram’s site of birth, whether at the site of the Babri Masjid or elsewhere.
2.22. Now, this conclusion should be of the greatest significance for deciding whether a mosque built in 1528 should have been demolished and then the bulk of the land handed over to build a Ram temple when there is no proof that in 1528 or thereabouts anyone believed that the mosque represented the birth-spot of Lord Ram. A contrary assertion could be made only on the basis of mere conjectures and surmises. But having offered this precise caution against conjectures and surmises, Justice Agarwal rules as follows in para 4374:
“The only thing the court should not to do is to base its conclusion on mere conjectures and surmises. Here we have not to consider the historicity of Ayodhya or Lord Ram but only to find out whether the place in dispute according to the belief, faith and traditions of Hindus is the site where Lord Ram was borne (sic!). Even if we have to draw an inference whether this is a place where Lord Ram is borne (sic!) we need not to record a finding like mathematical calculation but it has to be decided on the preponderance of probability. As we have already said that if Lord Ram was borne (sic!) at Ayodhya then there must be a place which can be identified for such purpose. It is no where suggested by plaintiffs (Suit-4) for the Muslim parties that except the property in dispute there was any other place in Ayodhya which is believed by the Hindu people as place of birth of Lord Ram. What they submit is that there was another temple on the north site of the property in dispute which is called Janmasthan temple and therefore that can be the place of birth. But the antiquity of that temple goes back to only about 200-300 years i.e. not beyond 18th or 19th century.”
Now, the rejection of another Ram Janmasthan temple, currently extant, only on the grounds that its construction does not go beyond AD 1700, may not at all be historically sound, since, as we have seen, the notion of the locale of the janmasthan of Lord Ram at any particular spot in Ayodhya may not itself go beyond the 18th century.
2.23. What is highly interesting is Justice Agarwal’s insistence that it is not historical evidence (which he thinks must rest “on mere conjectures and surmises”) but “the belief, faith and traditions of Hindus” on which alone apparently one can rely, without the tedium of scrutinising evidence and testing facts. When it comes to the story he wishes to authenticate, then, given the belief, etc of Hindus, “mere conjectures and surmises” can be given full play. For example, simply on the basis of the Babri Masjid containing 14 black basalt pillars, for which Justice Agarwal uses the word kasauti, Justice Agarwal offers us the following detailed narration of what must have happened:
“As we have further discussed, the Hindus did not desist from entering the inner courtyard [when?] and continued not only to enter therein but to worship the place as well as the images (!) on the black kasauti pillars [set up by Muslims in the mosque!]. What was the structure of the erstwhile temple before the disputed structure is not known but it appears that due to affixation of black kasauti pillars mainly at the central dome after the construction of the new structure [Babri Masjid], the Hindu people continued to worship thereat believing the same as the central point of the birthplace of Lord Ram. Since (sic) we do not find any detail as to how it was being worshipped earlier, but from the subsequent [post-1949?] conduct, practice and traditions, in the absence of anything contrary, one can reasonably believe that the (sic!) in the past also it must be the same” (para 4400).
Now, what are the implications of this conjectural reconstruction? That while the Babri Masjid was built (let us remember, after demolishing a temple, in accordance with Justice Agarwal’s judgement), its builders took care to install 14 black basalt pillars in or near the central dome in order to permit Hindus to worship “thereat” though in fact no images of divinities were to be found there. Had that been the case, one wonders why did the kar sevaks destroy all 14 of the kasauti pillars, the fragments of only one being found by the ASI in the debris of the Masjid. This very action shows that the so-called kasauti pillars could not have been the objects of Hindu worship, contrary to Justice Agarwal’s suppositions.
Finally, it is all a matter of faith:
“Once we find that by way of faith and traditions, Hindus have been worshipping the place of birth of Lord Ram at the site in dispute, we have no reason but to hold in a matter relating to such a kind of historical event that for all practical purposes (!) this is the place of birth of Lord Ram” (para 4407).
If faith and religious propaganda were to be the deciding elements for establishing a “historical event” and its locale (birthplace of Lord Ram) then the hon’ble high court did not need to have gone into the historical evidence at all. The case stood prejudged.
Hiuen Tsiang provides a detailed description of Ayodhya but with no reference to the town being celebrated as the birthplace of Lord Ram
2.24. We may now consider the further determination by Justice Agarwal of exactly where Lord Ram was born within the Babri Masjid campus. No text or claim prior to 1949 is produced to the effect that the spot where Lord Ram was born was situated right under the central dome of the mosque. In 1949 when the mosque locks were broken and a mob installed the idols under the central dome of the mosque (a fact on which all the three judges agree), the idea clearly was that the act would absolutely prevent Muslim use of the mosque, since Muslims could not pray in front of an idol. Had the idols been installed anywhere else within the inner yard of the mosque, Muslim prayers could still conceivably be performed.
2.25. Justice Agarwal reads this violent move quite differently, by accepting the assertions of a stream of VHP witnesses in para 4411, many (not all) of whom predictably declared before the bench that the exact site is where the idols are now installed, as if the Muslims, by building the central dome of the mosque in 1528, provided the exact spot where the garbh griha of the future Ram temple could be raised and venerated as Lord Ram’s birth-site! It should be noted that not a single of these witnesses was able to cite any pre-1949 documented assertion of the claim. One reads (after Hobsbawm) of the invention of tradition; here there is a flagrant invention of faith, an invention to justify a forcible act performed by a shameless breaching of the law. It is unfortunate that from the above unsupported statements of one party in the suit it should be decided that “a bare reading” of them “makes it clear and categorical (!) that the belief of Hindus by tradition was that birthplace of Lord Ram lie (sic!) within the premises in dispute and was confined to the area under the central dome of three-domed structure” of the Babri Masjid (para 4412).
2.26. Both the violent acts of 1949 and 1992 (when the Masjid was demolished) thus receive their legitimisation not so much on the basis even of faith as on the basis of frenzied propaganda and post-facto inventions. Violators of law have thus, despite the presence of courts of law, been able to successfully take over and trivialise the great Indian tradition of a benevolent and just Ram.
The Vishnu-Hari temple inscription and the story of an illegal plant
2.1.1. A. Fuhrer (The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, Calcutta, 1889, p. 68) noticed an inscription found at Ayodhya, “dated Samvat 1241, or AD 1184, in the time of Jayachandra of Kanauj, whose praises it records for erecting a Vaishnava temple”. From these brief words it is not absolutely ruled out that Fuhrer merely assumed from the date Sam. 1241/ 1184 AD that the inscription referred to Jayachandra, the Gahadavala ruler who ruled from AD 1170 to 1194 (Roma Niyogi, The History of the Gahadavala Dynasty, Calcutta, 1959, pp. 102-12), without actually finding the name recorded in the inscription; and that, further, assuming him to be the contemporary ruler, he held Jayachandra to be responsible for building the Vaishnava temple whose construction the inscription recorded along with praise for the builder. These questions cannot however be directly resolved, since the inscription described by Fuhrer has mysteriously disappeared.
2.1.2. This inscription had been reportedly found at Treta ka Thakur in the town of Ayodhya and is described by Fuhrer as “written in twenty incomplete lines on a white sandstone, broken off at either end, and split in two parts in the middle” (Fuhrer, op. cit., p. 68). It was placed by Fuhrer in the Fyzabad Museum. According to Hans Becker, Ayodhya, Part I, Göttingen, 1986, p. 52, it was then transferred to the Lucknow State Museum where it was assigned No. Arch. Dep. 53.4. The inscription bearing this number was examined by Dr Jahnawi Sekhar Roy, with the cooperation of Dr TP Verma. Though failing to read it, Dr Roy published its photograph in her ‘Note on an Ayodhya Inscription’ in Ayodhya: History, Archaeology and Tradition, ed. Lallanji Gopal, Varanasi, 1991.
Examining the palaeography of this ‘inscription’, Professor Pushpa Prasad has found that what is treated by the Lucknow Museum as a single inscription really consists of two largely illegible texts on two unrelated stone blocks, one of which carries a text of Gahadavala affiliation while the other is palaeographically of Chandella provenance! (Pushpa Prasad, ‘Three Recently Found Inscriptions at Ayodhya’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 64th Session, Mysore, 2003, pp. 348-50). These findings make it clear that the original 20-line inscription has been removed from the Lucknow State Museum and in its place two totally unrelated illegible blocks have been put together so as to make up 20 lines, the same number of lines on the inscription that was recorded by Fuhrer.
False inscriptions: Broken truths
2.1.3. This discovery sheds new light on the possible origins of the inscription allegedly obtained from the Babri Masjid by the VHP kar sevaks in December 1992. Before we proceed further, we may notice certain curious facts about the VHP kar sevaks’ find. The alleged inscription they claim to have found on December 6, 1992 had never been previously noticed in the mosque, so that its written side could not have been exposed but must have faced the inside of the thick wall where it would have been pressed upon by rubble and mortar. But the inscription now passed off as the one found in the destroyed mosque bears no such signs: its face seems indeed mint-fresh, as if it has not come out of rubble but out of some museum. One notes immediately that it in fact consists of 20 lines written on a slab which is broken vertically in the middle and so precisely matches the description of the Treta ka Thakur inscription given by Fuhrer. The part on the bottom where the words for the date should have been engraved seems to have been deliberately broken off.
There are thus naturally strong grounds for the suspicion that this is really the inscription found by Fuhrer, surreptitiously removed from the Lucknow Museum and paraded off as a find from the Babri Masjid. It actually gives the genealogy and history of a family of local chiefs of Ayodhya, two of whom successively held the Saketa mandala (Saketa being the other name of Ayodhya and mandala meaning district). The current lord of Ayodhya, Anayachandra, is said to have constructed “the beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari” (“the Vaishnava temple” in Fuhrer’s notice). The king whom this chief owed allegiance to is stated to be Govindachandra who, if he is the Gahadavala ruler of this name, ruled from 1114 to 1155 (Pushpa Prasad, op. cit., p. 353; her translation of the inscription is on pp. 353-55 and the text on pp. 355-59).
2.1.4. The inscription that had been noticed by Fuhrer had carried as its date the year 1241 Samvat, corresponding to AD 1184. The extant inscription allegedly found at the Babri Masjid has the date portion chopped off. If this has been done to ward off suspicions about its being the same as the Fuhrer-discovered inscription then we must infer that it had carried the same date, viz. 1241 Samvat/ AD 1184. If so, the ‘Govindachandra’ of this inscription cannot be identical with Govindachandra, the Gahadavala ruler who reigned from 1114 to 1155, as Professor Pushpa Prasad suggests, but must be a Gahadavala prince of the same name who claimed paramountcy over this territory in 1184 as a rival to king Jayachandra. This is strongly suggested by the casual way Govindachandra is referred to in lines 15-16 in the phrase: Govinda-chandra-kshtipala-rajya-sthairyaya, etc, ‘for the stability of Govindachandra’s kingdom’. No titles of a paramount ruler are affixed to him, especially when this was an age when fantastic titles were the vogue – such as Parambhattaraka, Maharajadhiraja, Parameshvara, Parama-maheshvara, Ashvapati, Gajapati, Narapati, Rajatryadhipati vividha vidya vichara vachaspati, which were “usually employed by the Gahadavala kings” (e.g. Epigraphia Indica, XIV, p. 193; Pushpa Prasad, Sanskrit Inscriptions of Delhi Sultanate, Delhi, 1990, p. 56). It is therefore most unlikely that the ‘Govindachandra’ of this inscription is the same as the earlier imperial Gahadavala ruler of that name. Rather, he seems to have been some weak Gahadavala princeling of whom Anayachandra, the local chief of Ayodhya, was a major supporter at this time.
2.1.5. It may be mentioned in passing that this inscription, as read by Dr KV Ramesh, himself a VHP witness before the Allahabad high court (Lucknow bench), makes no mention of the site of the temple being that of “[Ram]janmabhoomi”, as alleged in VHP quarters, but speaks of the builder’s family itself as “[vikrama-]janmabhoomi” which, as KV Ramesh and Pushpa Prasad independently render it, means “the birthplace of valour.” In other words, the temple builder’s family is acclaimed as the fountainhead of bravery. (See Pushpa Prasad, ‘Three Recently Found Inscriptions at Ayodhya’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 64th Session, Mysore, 2003, see p. 353, line 16, for the translated phrase and p. 356, line 12, for the original phrase in Sanskrit.)
2.1.6. Since the presumed princeling, Govindachandra, is not further heard of, it is possible that Ayodhya passed under the control of Jayachandra after AD 1184. A possible indicator of Jayachandra’s acquisition of control over the area is a copperplate found “near Fyzabad” which contains the grant by Jayachandra (with all the grandiose Gahadavala titles) of village Kamoli or Kemoli in Asuraisha district (pattala), issued from Varanasi on 7 Shudi Ashadha 1243, corresponding to June 14, 1187 (F. Kielhorn, ‘Two Copper Plate Grants of Jayachandra of Kanauj’, Indian Antiquary, XV, 1886, pp. 6, 10-13, with text and translation). The places mentioned in the grant cannot be located and since a copperplate could easily be removed from one place to another, its find-spot near Faizabad (and so also near Ayodhya) is not a decisive piece of evidence; but it certainly poses the probability that by 1187 Jayachandra had been able to establish or restore his authority over Ayodhya and its vicinity.
2.1.7. The above paragraphs are extracted from Irfan Habib, ‘Medieval Ayodhya (Awadh), Down to Mughal Occupation’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 67th Session, Calicut University, 2006-07, Delhi, 2007, pp. 359-61.
2.1.8. It is singular how such strong evidence in relation to the Vishnu-Hari temple inscription, of theft, manipulation and misrepresentation on the part of the VHP, is passed over in silence in the judgement while the harshest language is used for any fancied slip or lapse, however small, on the part of the Muslim plaintiffs or any of their witnesses, as we shall see in Paper IV.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section II, Paper III: Digging out the Proof
3.1. Before it submitted its final report to the Allahabad high court on its excavations at the Babri Masjid site, the ASI team had submitted a succession of interim reports. We have not taken these into consideration because by the orders of the Allahabad high court dated May 22, 2003 these were not to be considered for “substantive evidence”. Its ruling (para 223, sub-para (1)) ran as follows:
“It is only the final report that will be taken as an evidence on record which will be subject to the objection and evidence which may be led by the parties.”
Thus the ASI’s final report supersedes everything stated or claimed in its interim reports.
Manipulation of stratification and periodisation
3.2. The elementary rules of excavation, as may be seen in any good textbook on archaeology, lay down that from alterations primarily visible in soil, different layers should be established as one digs (see Peter L. Drewett, Field Archaeology: An Introduction, Routledge, London, 1999, pp. 107-08) and then the artefacts and other material found in each of these layers are to be carefully recorded and preserved. The lower layers are older than the upper and this sequence gives one a relative chronology of the layers. It is only through establishing dates of artefacts in different layers, by the C-14 method or thermoluminiscence or inscriptions, or comparisons with artefacts already securely dated, that the periods of different layers can then be keyed to absolute time (centuries BC or AD). (See Kevin Greene, Archaeology: An Introduction, New Jersey, 1989, Chapter 3: ‘Excavation’.) The first major defect of the ASI’s final report submitted to the high court is that it plays with periodisation of the layers in the most unprofessional fashion (and with undoubted motivation), quite contrary to Justice Agarwal’s commendation of their conduct (paras 3821 to 3879).
3.3. The ASI’s report’s authors’ clumsy manipulations are seen in their gross failure to provide essential data and the blatant contradictions in their period nomenclature, both of which we shall now examine.
3.4. The gross omission in the ASI’s report that we have just mentioned is the total absence of any list in which the numbered layers in each trench are assigned to the specific period as distinguished and numbered by the ASI itself during the digging. The only list available is for some trenches in the charts placed between pages 37-38. A list or concordance of trench layers in all trenches with periods was essential for testing whether the ASI has correctly or even consistently assigned artefacts from certain trench layers to particular periods in its main report. Where, as we shall see below, in connection with bones, glazed ware and other artefacts and materials, the finds can be traced to trench layers that are expressly identified with certain periods by the ASI in its above-mentioned charts, it can be shown that the ASI’s assignment of layers to particular periods is often demonstrably wrong and made only with the object of tracing structural remains or artefacts there to an earlier time in order to bolster the theory of a Hindu temple beneath the mosque. (See sub-para 4 of Dr RC Thakran’s evidence, reproduced in para 537 of the judgement, hereafter referred to as Judgement, para 537, RC Thakran.) We will be returning to the acts of manipulation repeatedly detected in the report when what it attributes to a trench in one place it omits in another.
3.5. As to periodisation, let us consider the following:
In Chapter III, ‘Stratigraphy and Chronology’, of the ASI report the nomenclature for Periods V, VI and VII is given as follows (in a description extending over pages 38-41):
Period V: “Post-Gupta-Rajput”, 7th to 10th Century
Period VI: “Medieval-Sultanate”, 11th-12th Century
Period VII: “Medieval”, End of 12th to beginning of 16th Century
The curious inclusion of the Sultanate in layers that the ASI officials wished to date to the 11th-12th centuries is on the very face of it a display of gross ignorance, since the Delhi sultanate was only established in AD 1206 and such designation for the period 11th-12th centuries has no precedent in the annals of the ASI. The purpose of this ignorant innovation clearly is to take cover under “Sultanate” in order to assign “Islamic”-period artefacts to the 11th-12th centuries when in actual fact the Gahadavala kings ruled over Ayodhya. Thereafter, the term “Sultanate” is forgotten and the period made purely “Hindu” by a simple change of nomenclature in the ‘Summary of Results’ (pp. 268-9). Here the nomenclature is given as follows:
Period V: Post-Gupta-Rajput, 7th to 10th Century
Period VI: Early medieval, 11th-12th Century
Period VII: Medieval-Sultanate, 12th-16th Century
This transference of the name “Medieval-Sultanate” from Period VI to Period VII has the advantage of ignoring Islamic-period materials like glazed ware or lime-mortar bonding by removing them arbitrarily from Period VI levels to those of Period VII so that their actual presence in those levels need not embarrass the ASI when it sets forth its thesis of the construction in Period VI of an alleged “massive” or “huge” temple. The device is nothing but manipulation and the so-called single “correction” of nomenclature of Period VI, much after the report had been submitted to the court, constitutes simple admission of the manipulation.
The ASI’s report’s authors’ clumsy manipulations are seen in their gross failure to provide essential data and the blatant contradictions in their period nomenclature… The ASI’s assignment of layers to particular periods is often demonstrably wrong and made only with the object of tracing structural remains or artefacts there to an earlier time in order to bolster the theory of a Hindu temple beneath the mosque
3.6. Justice Agarwal gives no concession to the critics of the ASI’s erroneous periodisation “which would ultimately may (sic) result in rejection of the entire report itself” (para 3846). So without coming anywhere to grips with the issue of the ASI’s simultaneous application of the designation ‘Medieval-Sultanate’ to two different sets of centuries (11th-12th centuries in one portion and 12th-16th centuries in another), Justice Agarwal declares that he found “no reason whatsoever in the above background to hold periodisation [which one?] determined by ASI as mistaken” (para 3878).
3.7. Justice Agarwal thought he had not said enough about critics of the ASI’s scheme of periodisation and so in para 3879 he takes them further to task: They should know that ASI officials “are experts of expert (sic!)”. Then Justice Agarwal offers this opinion of the ASI’s critics in the same para 3879:
“The result of a work if not chewable(!) to one or more, will not make the quality of work impure or suspicious. The self-contradictory statement [whose?], inconsistent with other experts made against ASI of same party, i.e. Muslim extra interest, and also the fact that they are virtually hired experts, reduces trustworthiness of these experts despite of (sic!) their otherwise competence.”
3.8. Let us not here worry however about Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s opinion of the ASI’s critics or about the difference between “hired” and “virtually hired” experts. Let us keep our eyes on the way in which the entire stratigraphy has been manipulated by the ASI, and certain layers obviously of Islamic provenance pressed into pre-Muslim periods (Period VI and earlier), as shown in Annexure No. 1, Table 2, attached to the objection of Mr Hashim dated October 8, 2003 (para 3821). This kind of false stratigraphy has led to situations that are impossible in correctly stratified layers, namely the presence of later materials in earlier strata. The presence of earlier materials in later or upper layers is possible but not the reverse except for pits but these have to be demarcated clearly from the regular layers as the digging takes place (and not later as an afterthought), which has not been done at all. Obviously, the entire stratigraphy has been frequently played with by the ASI to invent a temple in “Post-Gupta-Rajput” times.
The above facts were duly brought to the notice of the court vide para 537, RC Thakran, sub-paras 10, 11 and 12.
Structural remains beneath the mosque
3.9. While digging up the Babri Masjid, the excavators claim to have found four floors, numbered, upper to lower, as Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, Floor No. 4 being the lowest and so the oldest. In Chapter III of the ASI’s report, Floor 3 is put in the “Medieval Period” (i.e. 13th-16th century) by categorisation adopted in this Chapter. It is stated to consist of “a floor of lime mixed with fine clay and brick-crush” (p. 41) – in other words, a surkhi of standard ‘Muslim’ style (see below, the subsection on Lime Mortar and Surkhi). Floor 4, placed in the “Medieval-Sultanate Period”, has also a “red-brick crush floor” (p. 40), which too can come only from the use of surkhi. The word “Sultanate” is apparently employed to explain away the use of surkhi. Floors 3 and 4 are obviously the floors of an earlier qanati mosque/ idgah, since a mihrab and taqs (niches) were also found in the associated foundation wall (not, of course, identified as such in the ASI’s report). Such a floor, totally Muslim on grounds of technique and practice, is turned by the ASI into an alleged temple floor “over which”, in its words, “a column-based structure was built”. Not a single example is offered by the ASI of any temple of pre-Mughal times having such a lime-surkhi floor though one would think that this is an essential requirement when a purely Muslim structure is sought to be represented by the ASI as a Hindu one.
3.10. Once this arbitrary appropriation has occurred (p. 41), we are then asked by the ASI’s report to imagine a “Massive Structure Below the Disputed Structure”, the massive structure being an alleged temple. It is supposed to have stood upon as many as 50 pillars and, by fanciful drawings (Figures 23, 23A and 23B) in the ASI’s report, it has been “reconstructed”, Figure 23B showing the reconstructed temple with 50 imaginary pillars! Now, according to the ASI’s report, this massive structure, with “bases” of 46 of its alleged 50 pillars allegedly exposed, was built in Period VII, the period of the Delhi sultans, Sharqi rulers and Lodi sultans (1206-1526): This attribution of the grand temple to the “Muslim” period is not by choice but because of the presence of “Muslim”-style materials and techniques all through. This, given the ASI officials’ peculiar view of medieval Indian history (apparently shared by Justice S. Agarwal), when intolerance is supposed to have reigned supreme, may have further induced them to imagine yet another structure below, assignable to an earlier time.
About this structure however, it is admitted in the Summary of Results that “only four of the [imagined] fifty pillars exposed during the excavation belonged to this level with a brick-crush floor” (ASI Report, Chapter X, p. 269), and it is astonishing that this should be sufficient to ascribe them to the 10th-11th century (the “Sultanate” tag of Chapter III for it now forgotten) and to assume that all the four pillars belong to this structure. That structure is proclaimed as “huge”, extending to nearly 50 metres that separate the alleged “pillar-bases” at the extremes. If four “pillar bases” with their imaginary pillars were called upon to hold such a vast roof, it is not surprising that the resulting structure was, as the ASI admits, “short-lived”.
3.11. Furthermore, the four alleged pillar bases dated to the 11th-12th centuries are said “to belong to this level with a brick crush floor”. This amounts to a totally unsubstantiated assumption that surkhi was used in the region in Gahadavala times (11th-12th centuries). No examples of such use of surkhi in Gahadavala period sites are offered. One would have thought that Sravasti (district Bahraich), from which the ASI team has produced a linga-centred Shaivite “circular shrine” of the Gahadavala period for comparison with the so-called “circular shrine” at the Babri Masjid site or, again, the Dharmachakrajina Vihara of Kumaradevi at Sarnath, another Gahadavala site of early 12th century AD, which the report cites on other matters (e.g. on p. 56), would be able to supply at least one example of either surkhi or lime mortar. But such has not at all been the case.
Ayodhya: Building the evidence
One can see now why it had been necessary in the main text of the report to call this period (Period VI) “Medieval-Sultanate” (p. 40): By clubbing together the Gahadavala with the Sultanate, the surkhi is sought to be explained away; but if so, the alleged “huge” structure too must come to a time after 1206, for the Delhi sultanate was only established in that year. And so, to go by the ASI’s reasoning, the earlier allegedly “huge” temple too must have been built when the sultans ruled!
3.12. The way the ASI has distorted evidence to suit its “temple theory” is shown by its treatment of the mihrab (arched recess) and taqs (niches) found in the western wall (running north-south), which it turns into features of its imagined temple. On page 68 of the ASI’s report are described two niches in the inner side of Wall 16 at an interval of 4.60 metres in Trenches E6 and E7. These were 0.20 metres deep and one metre wide. A similar niche was found in Trench ZE2 in the northern area, and these have been attributed to the first phase of construction of the so-called ‘massive structure’ associated with Wall 16. Such niches, along the inner face of the western wall, are again characteristic of mosque/ idgah construction. Moreover, the inner walls of the niche are also plastered (as in Plate 49 of the ASI’s report), which indicated that the plaster was meant to be visible. A temple niche, if found, would in any case have to be on the outer wall and if it contained an image, the plaster would be on the image, not the niche’s interior.
In the first phase of construction, the supposed massive structure was confined to the thin wall found in Trenches ZE1-ZH1 in the north and E6-H5/H6 in the south (p. 41). How then does one explain the location of niches outside the floor area of the massive structure? This is typical of a mosque/ idgah, which would have a long, wide north-south wall, the qibla being in the western direction, with niches at intervals on its inner face and there may be a small covered area in the centre which would have narrow demarcating walls. The ASI is able to produce no example of a similar recess and niches from any temple.
3.12A. The context and positions of the recess and niches show that these could only have belonged to a Muslim mosque or idgah. The argument advanced by the “Hindu parties” has been that the niche (taq) and mihrab (recessed false doorway) in mosques are invariably arched and here the niche at least is rectangular and so must belong to a temple (para 3991, VHP Counsel, sub-paras XXXIV to XXXVIII).
But if we look at Fuhrer’s The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur (a book submitted to the court), we find in its Plate XXVII (‘Jaunpur: Interior of the Lal Darwaza Masjid’) a refutation of this facile assumption. The niche (taq) close to the mimbar on the right is rectangular while the mihrab to the left, on the other side of the mimbar, is basically rectangular (flat-roofed) with the arches above being only ornamental. The VHP advocate’s claim that the floor of the mihrab is always at the same level as the main floor (para 3991, VHP Counsel, sub-para XXXVIII) is a ridiculous one, as may be seen from the illustration of mihrabs in the Jaunpur Jami Masjid (Fuhrer, op. cit., Plates LXIII and LXIV), where the floor of the mihrab stands, in one case, two courses and in the other, one course above the main floor. (See also Fuhrer’s text, p. 47, for how the mihrab is always placed ‘towards Makka’ i.e. to the west.) The evidence from the 15th century Lal Darwaza Masjid is crucially relevant, since the Babri Masjid in its design closely followed the style of Sharqi-period (15th century) mosques of Jaunpur.
3.13. Now let us see the way in which Justice Agarwal in para 3928 dismisses all the objections to the attribution of remains of the walls and floors, found under the extant floor of the Babri Masjid, to an imagined temple:
“The statements of Experts (Archaeologist) (sic!) of plaintiffs (Suit-4) in respect of walls and floors have already been referred to in brief saying that there is no substantial objection except that the opinion ought to [be?] this or that, but that is also with the caution that this can be dealt with in this way or that both and not in a certain way.”
This presumably means that no precise objections of the Muslim plaintiffs (Suit-4) need be considered!
3.14. Here a further point has to be made about the use of scientific dating methods. It is to be noted that the ASI made no use of thermoluminiscence (TL) dating although this should have been used where so much pottery was involved; and in the case of TL, unlike most carbon dates obtained from charcoal, the artefacts in the form of fired pottery can be directly dated. Yet only carbon dating was resorted to and no explanation is offered as to why the TL method was not also employed. Clearly, it was feared that the TL dates for glazed ware would upset the apple cart of the ASI’s stratification and periodisation.
The way the ASI has distorted evidence to suit its “temple theory” is shown by its treatment of the mihrab (arched recess) and taqs (niches) found in the western wall, which it turns into features of its imagined temple… Such niches are in fact characteristic of mosque/ idgah construction… The ASI is able to produce no example of a similar recess and niches from any temple
3.15. On page 69 of the ASI report we are told:
“The available C-14 dates (sic!) from the deposit between floors 2 and 3 in the trench ZH-1 is 1040±70BP (910±70 AD) having the calibrated age range of AD 900-1030. The early date may be because of the filling for levelling the ground after digging the earth from the previous deposit in the vicinity.”
So in the words of ASI officials themselves, this carbon date (from BS No. 2124) is valueless for determining the period of the Floor 2-3 interval. But what about the other carbon date or dates, for the word “dates” in the quoted passage implies that there was more than one carbon date obtained for the Floor 2-3 interval. In the statement of Carbon Dates (Appendix I) there are only two other dates bearing a calibrated date in AD. But since one of these two dates, that from sample BS 2123, dated to CAL AD 90-340, came from a depth of 265-270cm whereas the carbon date sample yielding AD 900-1030 (BS No. 2124) came from a depth of 50cm only, this is out of the question here. There then remains only sample BS No. 2127 whose depth is only 3cm less than that of BS No. 2124 (being 47cm). Its carbon date is AD 1500 (±110) and its calibrated date has a range of AD 1400-1620. Why should this not be used to date the Floor 2-3 interval?
3.16. Since the entire basis of the supposed “huge” and “massive” temple structures preceding the demolished mosque lies in the ASI’s reliance upon its alleged numerous “pillar bases”, these have now to be examined. In this respect, one must first remember that what are said by the ASI to be pillar bases are in many cases only one or more calcrete stones resting on brickbats, just heaped up, and the ASI admits that only mud was used as mortar to bond the brickbats. (One should not be led astray by a highly selective few “pillar bases” whose photographs appear in the ASI’s volume of illustrative plates.) In many claimed “pillar bases” the calcrete stones are not found at all. As one can see from the descriptive table on pages 56-67 of the report, not a single one of these supposed “pillar bases” has been found in association with any pillar or even a fragment of it; and it has not been claimed that there are any marks or indentations or hollows on any of the calcrete stones to show that any pillar had rested on them.
The ASI report nowhere attempts to answer the questions (1) why brickbats and not bricks were used at the base; and (2) how mud-bonded brickbats could have possibly withstood the weight of roof-supporting pillars without themselves falling apart. It also offers not a single example of any medieval temple where pillars stood on such brickbat bases.
3.17. In paras 3901 to 3906 Justice Agarwal reproduces statements and arguments advanced by Shri MM Pandey, though these include statements that are not even made in the ASI report on a general basis at all, such as (a) “brickbats in the pillar bases are not heaped up but are carefully laid in well-defined courses” (para 3901); (b) “the foundation of pillar bases has been filled with brickbats covered with orthostat, which prima facie establishes its (sic) load-bearing nature” (para 3903); and (c) “all the fifty bases, more or less are of similar pattern except the orthostate (sic) position” (para 3903). These words of wild generalisation, quite overlooking the brickbat heaps passed off as pillar bases by the ASI, and the technological wisdom about highly dubious ‘orthostats’ are, to put it in the mildest of terms, highly controversial. Yet Justice Agarwal, in para 3907, says shortly: “We find substance in the submission (sic!) of Sri Pandey.”
3.18. Despite the claim of these pillar bases being in alignment and their being so shown in fancy drawings in the ASI’s report (Figures 23, 23A and 23B), the claim is not borne out by the actual measurements and distances and there is indeed much doubt about whether the plan provided by the ASI is drawn accurately at all. The fact that the alleged pillar bases do not stand in correct alignment or equal distances is admitted by Justice Agarwal in para 3917 but he speculates on his own that “there may be a reason for having variation in the measurement of pillar bases that the actual centre of the pillar bases could not be pointed out…” The ASI admitted to no such disability. Moreover, the justice goes on to state that “Figure 3A in any case has been confirmed by most of the Experts (Archaeologist) (sic!) of plaintiffs (suit-4)” when actually it has been held by them to contain inaccurate and fanciful details. Indeed there are enormous discrepancies between Figure 3A (the main plan) and the Table in Chapter 4 on the one hand, and the report’s Appendix IV on the other. Trench F7 has four alleged “pillar bases” in the former, for example, but only one in the latter!
3.19. In fact, the way the ASI has identified or created “pillar bases” is a matter of serious concern. Complaints were also made to the observers appointed by the high court that the ASI officials were ignoring calcrete-topped brickbat heaps where these were not found in appropriate positions, selecting only such brickbat heaps as were not too far off from its imaginary grids, and helping to create the alleged “bases” by clearing the rest of the floor of brickbats. Despite Justice Agarwal’s vehement rejection of these complaints (not so summarily rejected however by the bench to which they were made), the complaints do not lose their validity. (See Paper IV for relevant particulars.)
3.20. The most astonishing thing that the ASI so casually brushes aside relates to the varying levels at which the so-called “pillar bases” stand. Even if we go by the ASI’s own descriptive table (pp. 56-57), as many as seven of these alleged 50 “bases” are definitely above Floor 2 and one is at level with it. At least six rest on Floor 3 and one rests partly on Floor 3 and 4. Since Floor 1 belongs to the mosque, how did it come about that as many as seven pillars were erected, after the mosque had been built, in order apparently to sustain an alleged earlier temple structure?! More, as many as nine alleged “pillar bases” are shown as cutting through Floor No. 3. Should we then not understand that when the mosque floor was laid out, there were no “pillar bases” at all but either extant parts of earlier floors (now taken to be or made to look like pillar bases) or some kind of loosely bonded brickbat deposits connected with the floors?
3.21. It may be added that even the table on pages 56-67 of the ASI’s report may not correctly represent the layers of the pillar bases, since its information on floors does not match that of the report’s Appendix IV which in several trenches does not attest the existence of Floor No. 4 at all though this was the floor the “pillar bases” in many cases are supposed to have been sealed by or to have cut through or stand on! For example, “pillar base 22” on pages 60-61 is indicated as resting on Floor 4 but there is no Floor 4 shown as existing in Appendix IV of the report in Trench F2 where this base supposedly stands. Similar other discrepancies are listed in Table 1.
Thus in over 20 cases Floor 4 is presumed in the report whereas no proof of this is provided in Appendix IV. (See para 537, RC Thakran, sub-paras 16-20.)
A so-called pillar base: A dubious construct
3.22. There is also the crucial matter of what happened to the pillars that the alleged pillar bases carried. Justice Agarwal dismisses this as unworthy of consideration, since, in his view, they must have been demolished when the supposed temple was destroyed to build the mosque (para 3917). He says:
“One of the objection (sic!) with respect to the pillar bases is that nothing has been found intact with them saying (!) that the pillars were affixed thereon. The submission, in our view [is?] thoroughly hollow and an attempt in vain (sic!)… If we assume other cause (sic!) to be correct for a moment, in case of demolition of a construction it is a kind of childish expectation to hope that some overt structure as it is would remain intact.”
The real question is here bypassed: no one is asserting that pillars should have been found standing erect but they should have been found in recognisable fragments. The simple fact is that destruction does not mean evaporation. If the mosque was built immediately upon the alleged temple’s destruction, as Justice Agarwal holds, then the 50 stone pillars would have been used in the mosque and their remains should have been found in the debris of the demolished mosque which the ASI dug through. But no such pillar, or any recognisable part thereof, was found. Only one pillar fragment was found and that belonged to the set of 14 non-uniform decorative non-load-bearing black basalt pillars which were part of the Babri Masjid structure (On these see RS Sharma, M. Athar Ali, DN Jha and Suraj Bhan, Ramjanmabhumi-Baburi Masjid, A Historians’ Report to the Nation, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1991, pp. 8-10.)
3.23. The ASI should surely therefore have looked about for other explanations for the heaps of brickbats before jumping to its “pillar bases” theory. There is at least one clear and elegant explanation for many of them, first proposed by Dr Ashok Datta (para 540, sub-para 10). When Floor No. 4 was being laid out over the mound sometime during the Sultanate period, its builders must have had to level the mound properly, using stones (the latter often joined with lime mortar) and brickbats to fill such holes. When Floor 4 went out of repair, it received similar deposits of brickbats to fill its holes in order to lay out Floor 3 (or indeed just to have a level surface) and this continued to happen with the successive floors. This explains why the so-called “pillar bases” appear to “cut through” both Floors 3 and 4 at some places while at others they “cut through” Floor 3 or Floor 4 only. They are mere deposits to fill up holes in the floors. Since such repairs were in time needed at various spots all over the floors, these brickbat deposits are widely dispersed.
Had not the ASI been so struck by the necessity of finding “pillar bases”, which had to be in some alignment, it could have found scattered over the ground not just 50 but perhaps over a hundred or more such deposits of brickbats. A real embarrassment of riches of false “pillar bases”, that is!
3.24. It may here be pointed out that when Dr BR Mani, the first leader of the ASI team at Ayodhya, excavated at Lal Kot, district of South New Delhi, he thus describes “pillar bases” of “Rajput style”, of about the 11th-12th century:
“These pillar bases rest on stone pedestals and are 2.90m apart from each other. They might have supported some wooden canopy” (Indian Archaeology 1992-93 – A Review, official publication of ASI, New Delhi, 1997, p. 9).
Dr Mani illustrates these four pillar bases in Plates VI and VII of the same publication. Each comprises a number of squarish stone slabs resting on each other with a larger stone slab at the bottom. Yet these were not thought by him to be strong enough to support anything more that “a wooden canopy”. And yet at Ayodhya, single calcrete slabs resting on nothing more than brickbats are often held by the same Mr Mani and his team to have supported stone pillars bearing “massive stone structures”! (See also paragraph 3.58 below.)
3.25. Having thus shown that there is no basis for the ASI’s illusory 50-pillared structure, and without at all conceding the reality of the claimed 50 pillar bases, it is still pertinent to ask why the ASI regards colonnades to have necessarily been part of a temple and of no other structure. In this respect, the ASI should have noticed such pillared structures of the Begumpuri Mosque, the Kali Masjid and the Khirki Masjid, all built at Delhi by Khan Jahan Firozshahi in the AD 1380s, the original photographs of which are printed in Tatsuro Yamamoto, Matsuo Ara and Tokifusa Tsokinowa, Delhi: Architectural Remains of the Delhi Sultanate Period, Tokyo, 1967, Vol. I, Plates 14b, 18c and 20c.
What of Delhi, the ASI could have looked closer at the 15th century mosques at Jaunpur, viz the Lal Darwaza Masjid and Jami Masjid, described by A. Fuhrer in his The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, Calcutta, 1889, the account of Lal Darwaza Masjid being given on pp. 43-51 and the Jami Masjid on pp. 52-58. Both mosques have long colonnades with dozens of pillars carrying roofs on the trabeate (not arcuate) principle. The Lal Darwaza Masjid plan (Plate XXVIII in Fuhrer’s volume) shows about 150 such pillars in Lal Darwaza Masjid and Plates XXIX and XXX give good views of the Masjid’s colonnades. The Jami Masjid had equally numerous pillars of a similar kind but there has been much damage to the building. Still, even the extant remains give us an idea of its grand colonnades (Fuhrer’s Plates XLIV, L and LI). It is astonishing that the ASI should have closed its eyes to such structures but this is just another proof that its report is a simple product of bias and partisanship.
However, this point is raised merely incidentally just to illustrate the degree of bias and non-professionalism in the ASI’s approach. There in fact exist no real pillar bases to sustain any vision of pillared halls or grand colonnades, either of temple or mosque.
3.26. One of the assumptions in Justice Agarwal’s censures of the experts on the Muslim side has been that they have denied the existence of all pillars and pillar bases. The Babri Masjid also used quite large pillars to carry the roof and, as we have shown, pillars and colonnades were a feature of the Sharqi mosques. Thus Justice Agarwal’s contention that all pillar bases of whatever kind and those especially in the north are being rejected by critics of the ASI report, and then to discredit them on that basis (cf paras 3887 and 3890), is based on an incorrect inference. Nor is there any ground for the assertion that there was any suggestion on the part of the critics regarding a “north-south row of the wall 16 and 17” i.e. west of the mosque’s western wall (para 3895). It is therefore all the more unfortunate that, in para 3900, Justice Agarwal deals with the proper objections raised by Dr Jaya Menon and Dr Supriya Varma in the following manner:
“…it can easily be appreciated that the mind of two experts instead [of?] working for the assistance of the court in finding a (sic!) truth, tried to create a background alibi so that later on the same may be utilised to attack the very findings. However, this attempt has not gone well since some of these very pillar bases have been admitted by one or the other expert of plaintiffs (Suit-4) to be correct.”
All buildings, including the Babri Masjid and its predecessor, the qanati mosque or idgah, needed to stand on walls and pillars and it is naturally inconceivable that the concerned plaintiffs’ experts would deny the existence of such structures, as if mosques cannot contain pillars or their roofs only stand on walls!
A column in the Babri Masjid: Withstanding the lie
The circular shrine
3.27. Much is made in the ASI report of the “Circular Shrine” (Report, pp. 70-71), again with fanciful figured interpretations of the existing debris (Figures 24 and 24A in the Report). Comparisons with circular Shaivite and Vaishnavite shrines (Figure 18) are made. The ASI had no thought, of course, of comparing it with circular walls and buildings of Muslim construction – a very suggestive omission. Such shapes are indeed fairly popular in walls of medieval Muslim construction. And then there are Muslim-built domed circular structures such as the circular corner structures at the 13th century tomb of Sultan Ghari at Delhi. (See Ancient India, official publication of the ASI, No. 3 (1947), Pl. VIII-A.)
3.28. Even if we forget the curiously one-eyed nature of the ASI’s investigations, let us consider the shape and size of the alleged “shrine”. The extant wall makes only a little more than a quarter of a circle (ASI Report, Figure 17). Though there is no reason to complete the circle as the ASI does, the circular shrine, given the scale of the Plan (Figure 17 in the Report), would still have an internal diameter of just 160cm, or barely 5.5 feet! Such a small structure can hardly be a shrine. But it is in fact much smaller. Figures 3 (General Plan of Excavations) and 17 in the report show that not a circle but an ellipse would have had to be made by the enclosing wall, which it has to be in order to enclose the masonry floor. No “elliptic (Hindu) shrine” is however produced by the ASI for comparison: the few that are shown are all circular. As Plate 59 makes clear, the drawing in Figure 17 ignores a course of bricks which juts out to suggest a true circle much shorter than the elliptic one: this would reduce the internal diameter to less than 130cm, or 4.3 feet! Finally, as admitted by the ASI itself, nothing has been found in the structure in the way of image or sacred artefact that can justify it being called a “shrine”.
3.29. Indeed if the ASI insists on it being a shrine, it is strange that it did not consider the relevance of a Buddhist stupa here. Attention was drawn to Plate XLV-A showing “exposed votive stupas” at Sravasti, in the ASI’s own Indian Archaeology 1988-89 – A Review. It is indicative of the ASI’s bias that while it provided an example of an alleged circular Shaivite shrine from Sravasti, along with a photograph (Report’s Plate 61), it totally overlooks the circular structures representing stupas there. As shown above, the small size of the so-called “circular shrine” at the Babri Masjid site precludes it from being a shrine which anyone could enter, and the votive stupa (which is not entered) is the only possible candidate for it, if the structure has to be a pre-Muslim sacred structure. But the stupa is not a temple, let alone a Hindu temple. (See para 537, RC Thakran, sub-paras 24-26.) It is characteristic that despite no “circular shrine” of this small size being brought to the attention of the court, Justice Agarwal gives his own reasons, citing however no example or authority, to say that there could be a circular shrine which need not be entered (para 3947)!
3.30. We now come to Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s own reading of the evidence. We have seen above that the ASI on page 69 refers to a sample from “the deposit between Floors 2 and 3 in the Trench ZH-1”, giving the date AD 1040± calibrated to AD 900-1030 which it itself rejected as “too early”, the sample being held to be a possible intrusion from disturbed soils. Justice Agarwal, in para 3937 however, uses this reference to date the “Circular Shrine” which has no relationship to Trench ZH-1 (situated far on the northern side of the Masjid) or Floors 2 and 3. He says:
“The structure [the alleged Circular Shrine] may be dated to 9th-10th century. (the ASI carried out C-14 determination from this level (!) and the calibrated date ranges between 900 AD 1030 AD).”
The words in round brackets are, of course, those of Justice Agarwal and show that he here uses a carbon date which could be from disturbed strata according to the ASI itself and has nothing to do with the so-called circular shrine. He might also have considered the other sample (BS No. 2127) from a similar depth (47cm) but from Trench G7 adjacent to the “circular shrine”, which gives the calibrated range of AD 1400-1620. This date should make it a presumably “Islamic” structure!
3.31. Before we close this discussion on the “Circular Shrine”, let us come to the parnala which Justice Agarwal pronounces to be the decisive evidence (“an extremely important feature of this structure” – para 3936). The basic claim with regard to this supposed water outlet is in the ASI’s report, page 70:
“The structure was squarish from the inner side and a 0.04m wide and 0.53m long chute or outlet was noticed on plan made through the northern wall upto the end where in the lower course a 5.0cm thick cut in ‘V’ shape was fixed which was found broken and which projects 3.5cm outside the circular outer face as a parnala to drain out the water, obviously after the abhisheka of the deity, which is not present in the shrine now.”
In para 3929 Justice Agarwal reproduces the “serious” objection made to the circular shrine, in which, in sub-para 6.10, it is pointed out that the channel cannot be a draining chute at all not only because of its Lilliputian proportions but also because it is uneven in width and narrow at the end (see Plate No. 60 in the ASI’s volume of illustrations), measurements by a levelling instrument revealed it had no slope and, finally, there were no residues or traces of deposits that are formed within water drains after a period of use.
3.32. Not only does Justice Agarwal not take any notice of these objections but, in para 3937, considers the ‘v’ cut in a brick as a “gargoyle”. A “gargoyle” implies that there is a “grotesque spout, usually with human or animal mouth, head or body, projecting from gutter of (especially Gothic) building to carry water” (Concise Oxford Dictionary). No such sculptured figure is found so that this possible support for a “shrine” here is also absent.
The most sensational act of misconduct of the ASI officials has been that despite their being reminded by the bench (in April 2003) of the need to preserve and record animal bones properly, they failed to do so… From any point of view, the ASI’s avoidance of presenting animal-bone evidence after excavation must be regarded as a motivated, unprofessional act
Bones, artefacts and materials and their significance
3.33. Now we proceed to examine the archaeological finds that go entirely against the thesis of there having been a temple beneath the mosque.
3.34. The most sensational act of misconduct of the ASI officials has been that despite their being reminded by the bench of the need to preserve and record animal bones properly, they failed to do so.
3.35. The bones of large- and medium-sized animals (cattle, sheep and goats) would be a sure sign of animals being eaten or thrown away dead at the site and therefore rule out a temple existing at the site at that time. In this respect, directions were given by the high court to the ASI to record “the number and wherever possible size of bones and glazed wares”. (Order, April 10, 2003, reproduced in para 230). Yet the ASI officials have provided in their report no chapter or sub-chapter or even tabulation of animals by species, by kinds of bones, whether with cut-marks or not, as is required in any proper professional report of excavation. In fact today, much greater importance is being attached to study of animal bones, since they provide to archaeologists information about people’s diet and animal domestication (cf Kevin Greene, Archaeology: An Introduction, pp. 136-37).
From any point of view, the ASI’s avoidance of presenting animal-bone evidence after excavation must be regarded as a motivated, unprofessional act. The report in its ‘Summary of Results’ admits that “animal bones have been recovered from various levels of different periods” (Report, p. 270). Where did the unnamed author(s) of this chapter get this information when there is nothing about animal bones in the main report? There is much room for the suspicion then that there was a chapter or sub-chapter on animal bones in the report, on which the writer of the Summary of Results drew, but it has been suppressed or deleted because of its dangerous implications. It is characteristic of Justice Agarwal’s partisan attitude that he does not anywhere take the ASI to task for this but actually, as will presently be shown, makes use of the omission of details about animal bones in the ASI’s report to author imaginary explanations of where the bones were found and hold forth on what their presence implies.
3.36. Let us however first take the statement actually made in the ‘Summary of Results’, which we have just quoted. It concedes specifically that animal bones have been recovered from “various levels”. Here then it is not a matter of recovery from “pits” that Shri MM Pandey and, following him, Justice Agarwal enlarge on at length (paras 3966 and 3968). Furthermore, “various” in the context means “all”, particularly since the ASI report provides no reservation that there was any area or layers in which the bones were not found. Indeed the above inference is fully supported from even a random examination of the ASI’s Day-to-Day Register and Antiquities Register where the bones recovered are not usually attributed to pits or ‘secondary deposits’. This can be confirmed from D. Mandal’s tabulation of animal bones in D. Mandal and S. Ratnagar, Ayodhya: Archaeology after Excavation, Delhi, 2007, pp. 65-66. So where did Shri MM Pandey (an advocate, not a witness subject to cross-examination) and Justice Agarwal draw their information from?
Evidence of animal bones: Remains unheard
3.37. Indeed from the Day-to-Day and Antiquities Registers, we find that in Trench Nos. E-6 (Layer 4), E-7 (Layer 4), F-4/F-5 (Layer 4) animal bones have been found well below Period VII – layers i.e. in Period VI (Early Medieval or Pre-Sultanate) or still earlier and in Trench Nos. F-8, G-2, J-2/J-3 they are found in layers assigned by the ASI to Period VI itself. Thus bones have been found in what are allegedly central precincts of the alleged Ram temple allegedly built in ‘Period VI’. The ASI says that a massive temple was built again in Period VII but in Trench Nos. E6, F8, G-2 and J-E/J-4 bones have been found in layers assigned to this very period also in the same central precincts. The above data are given in the tables produced in the Sunni Central Board of Wakfs (UP)’s ‘Additional Objection’ dated February, 3, 2004.
3.38. Justice Agarwal, in para 3969, enters the following explanation of the presence of the bones:
“Moreover, it is a well-known fact that in certain Hindu temples animal sacrifices are made and flesh is eaten as Prasad while bones are deposited below the floor at the site.”
He cites no authority for this. Is there a single temple of this type at Ayodhya today?
3.39. Let us then look at least at one authority for such sacrifices. According to Abbe J. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, translated by Henry K. Beauchamp, with Preface by Professor Max Müller, Third Ed., Oxford, 1906, p. 647, the Kali Purana “contains rules of procedure in sacrificing animals and mentions the kinds and qualities of those which are suitable as victims. Lastly, it specifies those deities to whom these bloody offerings are acceptable. Among them are Bhairava, Yama, Nandi and above all the bloodthirsty goddess Kali.”
Two points here are worth noting: (a) the divinities to whom the sacrifices are offered are all connected with Lord Shiva except Yama, god of the dead; on the other hand, Lord Vishnu or any of his incarnations are in no way connected with the rites; and (b) there is nothing said of the worshippers eating the flesh of the sacrificial victims. So far as we know, there was no or little prevalence of the Kali cult in the Upper Gangetic basin where Ayodhya is situated. In any case, if one insists on the imaginary temple beneath the Babri Masjid having contained thrown away animal bones, it would make it not a Ram but a Kali or Bhairava temple. Yet even so, the sacrificed animals’ whole skeletons should have been found, not separate, scattered animal bones as were actually found in the excavations, according to the ASI’s own records.
3.40. One may here respectfully draw attention to the lack of consistency in Justice Agarwal’s implying, in para 3969, that the huge imaginary temple beneath the Babri Masjid was a Kali or Bhairava temple revelling in animal sacrifices and on the other hand deciding, (para 4070) under issue No. 14, that the Hindus have been “worshipping the place in dispute as Sri Ram Janam Bhumi Janam Asthan… since times immemorial”!
3.41. Justice Agarwal furthermore declares in para 3970 that “bones in such abundance” precluded the site from ever having been an idgah or qanati mosque before the Babri Masjid was built. Here it must be mentioned that it is his own finding, not that of the “Muslim” plaintiffs, that the Babri Masjid was built immediately upon the demolition of a preceding structure. Quite the contrary, the bones and the scattered medieval artefacts like glazed ware show that the land adjacent to the walls and main structure remained open, as would be the case with an idgah or qanati mosque, so that waste matter could be thrown there. During the period of three centuries preceding 1528, Ayodhya or Awadh was a city with a large Muslim population along with its Hindu inhabitants (see for such evidence, Irfan Habib, ‘Medieval Ayodhya (Awadh), Down to Mughal Occupation’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 67th Session, Calicut University, 2006-07, Delhi, 2007, pp. 358-382). Given the dietary customs of the two communities, “abundance of animal bones” would weigh heavily in favour of there being a Muslim presence in the immediate vicinity of the disputed site.
3.42. Glazed ware, often called “Muslim” or Medieval glazed ware, constitutes an equally definite piece of evidence which militates against the presence of a temple, since such glazed ware was not at all used in temples.
3.43. Before we go further, it is best to remove what was drawn apparently as a red herring but which, unfortunately, has been accepted by Justice Agarwal (para 3976) – the claim that, after all, there was “glazed ware” also in Kushana times so why not in Gahadavala times?
The matter is clarified in the authoritative Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, ed. A. Ghosh (former director general, Archaeological Survey of India), New Delhi, 1989, page 260, where we read under ‘Glazed Ware’:
“Potsherds, light buff in colour, with a heavy turquoise blue glaze, have been found at Chaubara and Mahauli mounds near Mathura and at several other sites in the country and have been dated to the Kushan period. However, it bears no similarity to the reddish buff Kushan ware which abounds around Mathura and is completely different from the later-day medieval (Islamic) Glazed ware” (italics ours).
Examples of ancient Islamic pottery
Glazed ware, often called “Muslim” or Medieval glazed ware, constitutes an equally definite piece of evidence which militates against the presence of a temple, since such glazed ware was not at all used in temples… Such glazed ware is all-pervasive at the Babri Masjid site till much below the level of Floor No. 4, a floor ascribed in the ASI report to the imaginary “huge” structure of a temple allegedly built in the 11th-12th centuries
It may be mentioned that the word “Islamic” within brackets is in the original. In other words, archaeologists of standing regard the presence of medieval glazed ware as evidence of Muslim presence and this ware has nothing in common with the Kushana-period glazed ware. This passage disposes of the objection raised by Shri Pandey (quoted by Justice Agarwal in para 3976) that the medieval glazed ware was the same as Kushana ware and so was used in ancient India.
3.44. The “medieval (Islamic)” glazed ware is all-pervasive at the Babri Masjid site till much below the level of “Floor No. 4”, which floor is ascribed in the report to the imaginary “huge” structure of a temple allegedly built in the 11th-12th centuries. The ‘Summary of Results’ in the ASI’s report tells us that the glazed ware sherds only “make their appearance” “in the last phase of the period VII” (p. 270). Here we directly encounter the play with the names of periods. On page 270, Period VII is called “Medieval Sultanate”, dated to 12th-16th century AD. But on page 40, “Medieval-Sultanate” is the name used for Period VI, dated to the 10th and 11th centuries. As we have noted, the Summary of Results claims (on p. 270) that the glazed ware appears only in “the last phase of Period VII”. In Chapter V (Pottery) however, no mention is made of this “last phase” of Period VII; it is just stated that “the pottery of Medieval-Sultanate, Mughal and Late-and-Post Mughal period (Periods VII to IX)… indicated that there is not much difference in pottery wares and shapes” and that “the distinctive pottery of the periods [including Period VII] is glazed ware” (p. 108).
The placing of the appearance of glazed ware in the “last phase” only of Period VII appears to be a last-minute invention in the report (contrary to the findings in the main text) to keep its thesis of an alleged “massive” temple, allegedly built in Period VII, clear of the “Muslim” glazed ware because otherwise it would militate against a temple being built in that period. All this gross manipulation has been possible because not a single item of glazed pottery is attributed to its trenches and stratum in the select list of 21 items of glazed ware (out of hundreds of items actually obtained), on pages 109-111.
Seeing the importance of glazed ware as a factor for elementary dating (pre- or post-Muslim habitation at the site), and in view also of the high court’s orders about the need for proper recording of glazed ware, a tabulation of all recorded glazed-ware sherds according to trench and stratum was essential. That this has been entirely disregarded shows that, owing to the glazed-ware evidence being totally incompatible with any temple construction activity in Periods VI and VII, the ASI has resorted to the most unprofessional act of ignoring and manipulating evidence.
3.45. Going by the Pottery section of the report (p. 108), not by its ‘Summary’, the presence of glazed ware throughout Period VII (Medieval, 12th-16th centuries) rules out what is asserted on page 41, that a “column-based structure” – the alleged 50-pillar temple – was built in this period. How could Muslims have been using glazed ware inside a temple? Incidentally, the claim of a Delhi University archaeologist (Dr Nayanjot Lahiri) defending the ASI report, that glazed ware was found at Multan and Tulamba (near Multan) before the 13th century, is hardly germane to the issue, since these towns were under Arab rule with Muslim settlements since 714 AD onwards and so the use of glazed ware there is to be expected. The whole point is that glazed ware is an indicator of Muslim habitation and is not found in medieval Hindu temples.
3.46. Shri Pandey’s claim (para 3976), that pottery could be used by anyone and so medieval glazed pottery has no importance, is like saying that since all men are equal, there could not have been any untouchability in India at any time! We have surely to proceed with what the techniques and customs have been and not what we think should have happened.
3.47. The story of glazed tiles is very similar. These too are an index of Muslim habitation. The two glazed tiles are found in layers of Period VI, which means that the layers are wrongly assigned and must be dated to Period VII (Sultanate period). There could be no remains of any alleged “huge temple” in these layers, then.
3.48. When the ASI submitted its Day-to-Day and Antiquities Registers for inspection, it turned out that the ASI had concealed the fact in its report that the layer in certain trenches it had been attributing to pre-Sultanate Period V simply cannot belong to it because glazed tiles have been found in it and the layers assigned to Period VI could not have belonged to a temple, as alleged, because both glazed ware and glazed tiles have been found in them. In this respect, attention may be invited to the tables submitted as Annexure I to the Additional Objection of the Sunni Wakf Board, dated February, 3, 2004.
(Much of the above argument and information was presented before the bench vide para 537, RC Thakran, sub-paras 6-9).
Lime mortar and surkhi
3.49. Since lime mortar and surkhi are profoundly involved in (a) the dating of the levels they are found in; and (b) resolving the issue whether they could have been used in the construction of a temple structure at all, it is essential, first of all, to be clear about what these are and what exactly is meant by their use. It is acknowledged by the ASI’s report, as noted by Justice Agarwal himself (para 3895), that lime mortar was used to fix calcrete stones in the so-called “pillar bases”.
3.50. If one looks up the entry on Mortars and Plasters in A. Ghosh ed., An Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, New Delhi, 1989, p. 295, we read: “Plaster is the material used for coating walls, etc while mortar is the binding material between brick or stone.” It is nobody’s case that lime plaster of some kind was not occasionally employed in ancient India. Indeed, according to PK Gode, Studies in Indian Cultural History, Vol. I, p. 158, lime (churna) in pan (tambula) was in use by about 500 AD, and the use of lime plaster (occasional) in certain places is described in the entry on Mortars and Plasters in the Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology above-cited. In his collecting sundry references to the use of lime plaster in para 3991, sub-paras VIII et seq, the VHP advocate, Shri MM Pandey, simply tilts at windmills, since the issue is not about the find of lime plaster but lime mortar in the remains of what is sought to be put off as a Hindu temple.
3.51. Now, here too the matter is narrowed to certain limits of time. Lime mortar is found in Mohenjodaro and Harappa, the great cities of the Indus Civilisation (see An Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, op. cit.). It was found in Besnagar (now in Madhya Pradesh) in a structure dateable to the second century BC but the “cement” was here weakened by the low amount of lime (DR Bhandarkar in: Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report, 1913-14, pp. 205-06). JD Beglar in A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Report, Vol. VIII, p. 120, claimed to find lime mortar in the “original building” of the Buddha Gaya temple, dated to the first century BC/ AD, but from his description of it on page 118, it appears to have been “lime-plaster”. Lime mortar was also found in Kausambi in structures dated to early historical (i.e. pre-Kushana) times. But thereafter, it simply disappears.
Thus Shri MM Pandey is grossly inaccurate when he says that “surkhi choona were in use in India continuously much before the advent of Muslims” (para 3991, sub-para XVIII). It is not present in the first true brahmanical temple of northern India, Bhitargaon in Kanpur district, dated to c. 500 AD, the bricks being “throughout… laid in mud mortar” (A. Cunningham in Archaeological Survey of India Report, Vol. XI, pp. 40-41). No lime mortar nor surkhi has been discovered at the two Gahadavala sites excavated by the ASI, namely Sravasti and Sarnath, to judge from the reports of their excavations published in Indian Archaeology – A Review; nor have they been noticed by Dr Mani himself in the ‘Rajput’ levels of his Lal Kot excavations at Delhi.
Window grill of the Babri Masjid
3.52. Surkhi is still more elusive in pre-Sultanate ancient India. It is not at all mentioned among mortars or even plasters by the Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, Vol. I, p. 295, the volume dealing only with ancient India. This alone testifies to the rareness, if not absence, of the use of this material in ancient India. We should here take care to understand what the term signifies.
According to the famous glossary of Yule and Burnell, Hobson-Jobson, revised by W. Crooke, London, 1903, p. 854, it means “pounded brick used to mix with lime to form a hydraulic mortar”. It quotes a description of c. 1770 in which it is spoken of as “fine pulverised stones, which they call surkee; these are mixed up with lime-water, and an inferior kind of molasses, [and] in a short time grow as hard, or as smooth, as if the whole was one large stone”. No surkhi floor or bonding mortar has yet been found in any pre-1200 AD site in India, whether in a temple or any other building. One rare exception is the presence of surkhi as plaster in the lower levels of the Buddhist temple at Buddha Gaya, by Beglar’s account just mentioned; and between it and the alleged temple at Ayodhya there is a gap of over a thousand years. Nor has the ASI in its report, or the VHP advocate, been able to produce a single credible example from any Gahadavala or contemporary temple or structural remains.
3.53. The straight answer must then be that all the levels, especially Floors 1-4, which all bear traces of lime mortar and/ or surkhi must belong to the period after AD 1200 and cannot be parts of a temple. Yet Justice Agarwal rules otherwise in para 3986:
“whether lime molter (sic!) or lime plaster from a particular period or not, whether glazed ware were Islamic or available in Hindustan earlier are all subsidiary questions when this much at least came to be admitted by the experts of the objectionist (sic!) parties i.e. the plaintiffs (Suit-4) that there existed a structure, walls, etc used as foundation walls in construction of the building in dispute and underneath at least four floors at different levels are found with lots of other structures.”
Let us here overlook the statement that “lots of other structures” were found but concentrate on the main argument. The justice is in effect arguing that it just does not matter that the floors underneath the Babri Masjid contained all the standard accompaniments of Islamic (not temple) construction and articles of customary use; the assumption is that anything found beneath the Babri Masjid ipso facto, by faith must be ‘un-Islamic’ and belong to a temple irrespective of whether it bears Islamic features (mihrab and taqs) or is material exclusively of Islamic manufacture and use.
3.53A. There are two more matters to which attention should be drawn:
(a) Underneath a “brick pavement” dated to Period VII, two Mughal coins (Reg. No. 69 and 1061, one of which is of Akbar and the other of Shah Alam II, 1759-1806) have been found (ASI’s Report, pp. 210-17). Obviously, the ASI’s dating of the pavement to the Sultanate period (c. 1200-1526) is erroneous and the floor belongs to recent times (late 18th century or later). So much for the ASI’s expert stratification!
(b) The presence of terracotta human and animal figures is no index of Hindu or Muslim occupations. In Period II at Lal Kot, Delhi, along with Sultanate coins were found 268 terracotta human and animal figurines, the horse being “represented widely” (BR Mani’s report on 1991-92 excavations: Indian Archaeology 1992-93 – A Review, ASI, New Delhi, pp. 12-13). Muslim children were apparently as drawn to terracotta figurines (human as well as animal) as children everywhere in the world.
Evidence for a temple?
3.54. Apparently responding to the objections raised by critics of the ASI’s report, Justice Agarwal in para 3986 states as follows:
“Normally it does not happen but we are surprised to see in the zeal of helping their clients or the parties in whose favour they were appearing, these witnesses went ahead than (sic!) what was not even the case of the party concerned and wrote totally a new story. Evidence in support of a fact which has never been pleaded and was not the case of the party concerned is impermissible in law. Suffice it to mention at this stage that even this stand of these experts makes it clear that the disputed structure stood over a piece of land which had a structure earlier and that was of religious nature.”
One may well feel however that it would be poor experts who would be guided in their statements by what suitors, as lay persons, have said or expect them to say. If the justice were to look at A Historians’ Report to the Nation on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute by Professors RS Sharma, M. Athar Ali, DN Jha and Suraj Bhan, all eminent historians, published in 1991 (12 years before the ASI excavated the site), there is no statement to the effect that the Babri Masjid was built on vacant or virgin land. How could this be known? The historians gave their views as follows (p. 23):
“There are no grounds for supposing that a Rama temple, or any temple, existed at the site where Baburi Masjid was built in 1528-29. This conclusion rests on an examination of the archaeological evidence as well as the contemporary inscriptions on the mosque.”
Thus no “new story” was being told now, after the ASI’s 2003 excavations, by any of the academic witnesses. Their conclusion still remained that no temple was demolished in order to build the Babri Masjid and this was the essence of the issue in the lawsuit. Moreover, if any conclusion which is derived strictly from historical or archaeological evidence is held “impermissible in law”, this does not mean that it is thereby wrong. It is the law which should yield!
3.55. What is of interest is that the corresponding question is not asked of especially the Suit No. 5 plaintiffs and the “Hindu” parties generally: ‘You said there was a Ramjanmabhoomi temple underneath the Babri Masjid. What is the evidence that there was a temple of Lord Ram here, and consecrated to his Ramjanmabhoomi? We will just stick to this point, for anything else not according with your precise claim will be “impermissible in law”. That the structural remains beneath the Babri Masjid are “religious”, as asserted in para 3986, is not sufficient in itself because such a religious structure could theoretically be also Islamic, Jain, Buddhist or Shaivite and so not be a Ramjanmabhoomi temple at all.’
Had this line of questioning been adopted, would not the claim for a Ramjanmabhoomi temple have been found to be quite “impermissible in law”?
3.56. Let us however return to the alleged “religious” structure below the Babri Masjid. It has already been shown that by the archaeological finds it must be an idgah or qanati mosque (with much open land), constructed during the three centuries of the Sultanate (1206-1526) – given its western wall, mihrab and taqs, glazed ware, lime mortar and surkhi. If we are looking for a Ram or Vaishnavite temple, what would we have been expecting?
3.57. We would first be expecting images or idols and sculptured scenes as are seen in the façades and interior of the temples of Khajuraho, Bhubaneswar and Konarak of the same period. If we begin by the presumption (as the VHP plaintiffs do) that the temple was demolished by Muslims to build the mosque, we would also expect as a necessary corollary such signs of vandalism as mutilated images or mutilated sculptured figures. They should have been found in levels or fills beneath the Masjid floor or in the debris of the Masjid because one would expect all kinds of stone images or stones with sculptured divinities to have been employed in the mosque with or without mutilation. But not a single image or sculptured divinity, mutilated or otherwise, has been found even after such a comprehensive excavation where doubtless these were the things everyone in the ASI team was looking for.
3.58. Surely this total lack of what would be expected out of the remains of a massive Hindu or Vaishnavite temple should summarily rule out the case for a temple having existed beneath the mosque.
.Interior of the Babri Masjid: A lost heritage
As for the alleged pillars, deduced from the fictitious pillar bases, one needs to record the opinion of an eminent archaeologist, Professor MS Mate, formerly of the Deccan College, Pune, that “even if it is granted purely for the sake of argument that the pillar bases are a reliable affair”, the plan of the structure that would result as per the ASI report’s Figure 23A-B cannot be that of “the plan of a twelfth-century temple”. “No shilpi,” he adds, “would venture to adopt such a plan for a temple, as it would be totally unsuitable for temple rituals” (Man and Environment, XXXIV(1), 2009, p. 119; see also plans figured on p. 118). Professor Mate then goes on to comment on the unreality of the alleged “pillar bases without the support of a solid plinth” thus endorsing the objections advanced above in our paragraphs 3.16 to 3.24.
3.59. Let us then consider what the ASI offers as the main indicators of a temple at the site besides those controversial pillar bases we have already discussed: It refers to “yield of stone and decorated bricks, as well as mutilated sculpture of divine couple and carved architectural members, including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, circular shrine having parnala (water chute) in the north”. Since Justice Agarwal’s list in para 3979 is derived from the ASI’s list, so let us primarily consider the list furnished by the ASI in support of the temple-beneath-the-mosque theory.
3.60. We begin with the curious phrase “stone and decorated bricks”. Perhaps “stone” is a misprint for “stones” for there can be no stone bricks. But mere stones as stones have no significance either for period or for type of structure. As for ‘decorated bricks’, the sentence in Chapter IV is most revealing: “A band of decorative bricks was perhaps provided in the first phase of construction or in the preceding wall (wall 17) of which scattered decorated bricks with floral pattern were found re-used in the wall 16” (p. 68). All this is just fanciful conjecture: no decorated bricks at all are mentioned when the supposed remaining courses of Wall 17, four courses in one and six in another area, are described (on the same page 68). No bands of decorated bricks but only some scattered reused bricks of this kind were found in Wall 16. Such reuse shows that for builders of Wall 16 these bricks had no significance except as use of constructional material (and the decorations would in any case be covered by lime plaster). They could have been brought from anywhere nearby and not been taken from Wall 17 or any pre-mosque remains on the site.
3.61. In Chapter VI the other alleged temple-associated items are listed thus: “the fragment of broken jamb with semi-circular pilaster (pl. 85), fragment of an octagonal shaft of Pillar (pl. 84), a square slab with srivatsa motif, fragment of lotus motif (Pls. 89-90) [which] emphatically (!) speak about their association with the temple architecture”. In the same breath, the report also notes “that there are a few architectural members (Pls. 92-94) which can clearly be associated with the Islamic architecture” (p. 122). The two sets of finds are assigned their different dates (10th-12th centuries and 16th century or later) but such dates are assigned not by the positions of the artefacts in situ in archaeological layers but purely on perceived stylistic grounds. The two tables listing the archaeological members found in the excavations show that none of the finds actually came from layers bearing remains of the so-called structure beneath the Babri Masjid but rather from surface or upper layers, or the Masjid debris, or dumps or pits (see tables of the Report on pp. 122-133). How then, even if the stylistic ‘temple’ associations of a few of them are acknowledged, can it be argued that they belonged to the structure beneath the mosque, the one containing mihrab and taqs, whose ‘religious character’ is under discussion? They could have been brought for use in the Babri Masjid from remains of temples and other buildings at nearby sites, just as were the ‘Islamic’ architectural fragments brought from ruins of older mosques in what was in the 16th century the headquarters of a large province with a mixed Hindu-Muslim population.
3.62. As for “the divine couple” which occupies a primary place in the ASI’s list of supposed temple relics, the following points are noteworthy: it comes from the mosque debris (see Sl. No. 148 (Reg. No. 1184) in the table on p. 130 of the ASI’s Report) and is thus archaeologically undateable. The description ‘divine couple’ is an invention of the ASI because here we have only a partly sculpted rough stone where only “the waist” of one figure and the “thigh and foot” of another are visible (see Plate 235 in the ASI’s volume of illustrations). How from this bare fragment the ASI ascribed divinity to the postulated couple and deduced the alingana mudra as the posture is evidence not of any expertise but simple lack of integrity and professionalism.
Yet even if we throw all our scruples to the wind and, for a moment at least, go along with the ASI officials in their imaginings of an amorous “divine couple”, where would this take us in the world of brahmanical iconography? Surely to Uma and Maheshvara (Shiva) who are thus sculpted together as Uma-Maheshvara. (See Sheo Bahadur Singh, Brahmanical Icons in Northern India (A Study of Images of Five Principal Deities from Earliest Times to circa 1200 AD), New Delhi, 1977, pp. 28-31 and Figures 11, 17-19.) We would thus after such a long shot get only a Shaivite connection, showing at best that here we have a rough-hewn stone brought for reuse in the Masjid construction from the remains of some Shiva shrine.
3.63. The black schist stone pillar here presented as evidence for a temple at the site was recovered from the debris above Floor 1 i.e. the admitted last floor of the Babri Masjid (ASI’s Report, p. 140; Sl. No. 4, Reg. AYD/1, No. 4). It is merely a fragment of one of the 14 such non-load-bearing pillars installed in the Babri Masjid with no connection to the imagined pillared edifice underneath the Masjid. (See above under discussion on pillar bases.)
3.64. The fact that the various articles cited in support of the existence of an earlier temple at the site have their association with different sects rules out their having come from a single temple. An octagonal block with a floral motif has been compared by the ASI with a stone block at Dharmachakrajina Vihara, a 12th-century Buddhist establishment at Sarnath (Report, p. 56). If correct, this would be a piece taken from a Buddhist vihara, not a brahmanical temple. The ‘divine couple’, if it is such, would be of Shaivite affiliation; and amalaka has its associations with Brahma. The “circular shrine” has been judged to be a Shaivite shrine by Justice Agarwal (para 2938) and if so, it still does not bring us anywhere near to a Ram temple. None of these elements could ever be part of a single “Hindu” temple – for such a composite place of worship was unknown in northern India in ancient and medieval times. There could have been no non-denominational non-Islamic religious structure which Justice Agarwal postulates but which no “Hindu” party to the suit has ever suggested, nor is it sustainable by any historical example. To conclude: The sundry portable elements found in the Masjid debris, surface or late layers must have come from different sites for reuse as architectural items in Masjid construction and thus cannot be invoked in support of a temple underneath the Babri Masjid.
Evidence for temple destruction?
3.65. It may by some be regarded as a lamentable failure of the ASI’s report that it “does not answer the question framed by the court, inasmuch as, neither it clearly says whether there was any demolition of the earlier structure, if [it] existed and whether that structure was a temple or not” (para 3988). On this Justice Agarwal says as follows in para 3990:
“ASI has, in our view rightly refrain (sic!) from recording a categorical finding whether there was any demolition or not for the reason when a building is constructed over another and that too hundreds of years back, it may sometimes [be] difficult to ascertain as [sic] in what circumstances building was raised and whether the earlier building collapsed on its own or due to natural forces or for the reason attributable (sic!) to some persons interested for its damage.”
Thereupon Justice Agarwal, after a long reproduction of the VHP advocate, Shri MM Pandey’s arguments, says (para 3994) that though “for our purposes it was sufficient that the disputed structure [Babri Masjid] had been raised on an erstwhile building of a religious nature which was non-Islamic”, he would still proceed to discuss the “blatant lie” (his words) that Muslim rulers never destroyed any temples.
Here it seems to be overlooked that the real issue is not whether some Hindu temples were destroyed by Muslim rulers but whether Babar or his officials had destroyed any temple at the site of the Babri Masjid. For this to be decided, not the conduct of other Muslims but only the conduct of Babar or his immediate successors in India, Humayun and Akbar, was of relevance to the matter, as indeed, Shri Jilani, advocate, correctly pointed out (para 3995). For that matter, the fact that a Panchala ruler in the 11th-12th century, ruling from Badaun (Uttar Pradesh), honoured a Brahmin priest for having destroyed a Buddha idol in the south (Epigraphia Indica, I, pp. 61-66, esp. p. 63) does not mean that every Hindu ruler who built a Hindu temple or patronised Brahmin priests could be suspected of having connived at the destruction of a Buddhist image. Justice Agarwal seems to hold however that the case of Muslims in such circumstances is one apart from all others, for:
“whatever we had to do suffice it to conclude that the incidence of temple demolition are (sic!) not only confined to past but is going in (sic!) continuously. The religion which is supposed to connect all individuals with brotherly feeling has become a tool of hearted (sic!) and enmity” (para 4048).
3.66. With such a view taken of Islam, it is not surprising that Justice Agarwal rules out not only the likelihood of there being an earlier idgah or qanati masjid at the site but takes the fact of temple demolition prior to the Babri Masjid as proven despite the ASI’s failure to prove this by means of its archaeological excavation, as the justice has himself acknowledged (para 3990): He now reposes his entire faith in what he believes to be the current belief of the Hindus to settle the whole matter:
“The claim of Hindus that the disputed structure was constructed after demolishing a Hindu structure is pre-litem not post-litem, hence credible, reliable and trustworthy” (para 4056).
If this was the core of the matter, the high court need not have gone into the evidence of history and archaeology, as studied by the methods of these disciplines, but should have decided in favour of what one set of suitors believed, irrespective of what the votaries of a religion that has become the tool of “hatred and enmity” might assert, pre-litem or post-litem.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154
The Shri Ram bricks (pic by Seetha)
4.1. Justice Agarwal has expressed his high opinion of the Archaeological Survey of India’s conduct and work at Ayodhya (paras 3879 and 3989). We do not unnecessarily wish to go into the history of the ASI but cannot but mention some of its recent misdemeanours at Mughal monuments, like its digging up the Anup Talau within UNESCO’s heritage site, Fatehpur Sikri, or the vandalism committed by it at the Red Fort, Delhi, destroying priceless marble screens and fountains (caught on camera by Rajeev Sethi), both condemned by the Indian History Congress, in formal resolutions, at its Kolkata session, 2000-01 (Proceedings, p. viii), and Mysore session, 2003 (Proceedings, p. 1472). As for the ASI’s expertise, it is of interest to note that since the mid-1990s it has been headed continuously, as director general (DG), by a non-expert civil servant shifted from time to time at the whim of the central government until this year (2010) when finally a professional archaeologist has been appointed to head it.
When the excavations were ordered by the Allahabad high court to be undertaken by the ASI, the latter was entirely controlled by the BJP-led government at the centre under a minister of culture (para 3789) belonging to the VHP, the author of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. The BJP itself had made the slogan of a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site one of its main election slogans. On the eve of the excavations the BJP government changed the director general to install yet another non-professional civil servant, apparently in order to have a still more pliant instrument to control the ASI.
4.2. From the very beginning the ASI made clear its loyalties to its political masters’ beliefs and commitments. The high court in its order dated March 5, 2003 (para 216) asked the ASI to intimate its programme to “the Officer-on-Special Duty, Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid”. The ASI however insisted on addressing the designated officer as “OSD, Ram Janma Bhoomi” in its letters dated March 8, 2003 and March 10, 2003 thus significantly omitting the name Babri Masjid (para 223; also statements in ASI’s own Report, pp. 5-6). The new director general, ASI, while constituting the team of officers for the excavation, appointed 14 members placed under Dr BR Mani as team leader. Only one Muslim, an assistant archaeologist, was included in the team, as may be seen from the list in para 217.
These arrangements were in total contrast to what the high court itself had visualised in its orders of August 1, 2002:
“If it is ultimately decided to excavate the disputed land, in that event the excavation will be done by the Archaeological Survey of India under the supervision of five eminent archaeologists (Excavators), even though retired, including two Muslims…”
An eminent archaeologist surely means a person of the stature of DG or additional DG of the ASI, working or retired, or an archaeologist of equal stature from outside the ASI. Not one of the 14 members of the team, including the team leader, who was not even a director of the ASI, fitted this requirement. The team was so formed as to be led and guided by a pliant subordinate, not an eminent archaeologist. To make the team free from the dominance of one community, the court had desired that at least two out of five archaeologists supervising the excavations should be Muslims. The ASI formed a team of officials from which, until the court directed otherwise, Muslims were almost wholly excluded.
4.4. The “one-community” policy was also enforced by Dr Mani and his team on the labour force. When over 50 labourers were engaged for the work which began on March 12, 2003, not a single Muslim was found fit for employment. It seemed as if the ASI had decided that since it was ‘Ramjanmabhoomi’ ground, no Muslim could be allowed to enter it. A complaint about this was made to Dr Mani, team leader, ASI, on March 18, 2003. Mani’s reply, that he had left the recruitment to district administration (para 227), is hardly credible and amounts to no more than the proverbial “passing of the buck” by those who are caught in any questionable act. On March 26, 2003 the high court, presumably noticing Dr Mani’s attitude in the matter, expressly ordered that “labourers belonging to the Muslim community be engaged” and also that at least two more Muslim archaeologists be added to the ASI team (para 228). This had little substantive effect. As of April 4, 2003, eight days after the high court’s orders, there were only nine Muslims engaged, out of a total of 89 labourers (para 229).
Had Justice Agarwal looked at the ASI’s entire conduct, it might have struck him how the ASI’s behaviour from the very beginning of the excavations could engender legitimate suspicions which in the end also proved so correct… Yet a comprehensive clean chit is given in the judgement to the ASI despite the stream of motivated acts of impropriety and irregularity committed by the ASI officials
4.5. The communally biased attitude on the part of the ASI’s director general and the local team leader was thus clearly manifest in the formation of the 14-member team and the recruitment of labourers, in both of which scant regard was paid to the letter and spirit of the high court’s earlier orders.
4.6. There was thus every reason for the suspicion that the ASI team’s conduct was not likely to be impartial and above board. This began to be noticed in the way any materials likely to impede a temple-beneath-the-mosque theory were treated after the digging began.
4.7. Here we wish to refer to Mr Justice Agarwal’s assertion that the complaint about it was made too late (para 227) and was therefore motivated. The fact however is that in the beginning the crucial levels were not at all involved. As late as March 23, 2003, Dr BR Mani reported to the high court, through the DG, ASI, that excavation began on March 12, 2003, and then there were three non-working days (March 14, 17 and 18) so that before March 20, 2003, when the first complaint was made, excavation work had taken place only on five days. Moreover, until then no digging had proceeded below the floor of the Babri Masjid (para 225, sub-para III.1). So the crucial layers were just now being laid bare.
4.8. In view of the above, it is not at all fair to charge the complainants with delay in reporting the ASI’s treatment of artefacts. This was by no means what the bench thought at that time and by their orders dated March 26, 2003 (para 228) endeavoured to ensure that the ASI should take the minimum steps required for the proper recovery, registration and preservation of artefacts, and also measures to improve access for the counsels’ nominees to observe the excavation work. If the complaint had been as baseless as Justice Agarwal suspects then why should the bench have issued such orders?
4.9. On April 8, 2003 a complaint was filed to the effect that the ASI was not carrying out the court’s orders (para 229) and again the bench on April 10, 2003 passed detailed orders on the various lapses. The bench was so concerned about the ASI team’s casual approach to its orders hitherto that it ended the present orders with the injunction: “The observers are directed to ensure that this court’s instructions are carried out in letter and spirit” (para 230).
The Babri Masjid: As it was
4.10. Finally, the bench was so exasperated with Dr BR Mani’s way of bypassing its orders that on May 22, 2003 it passed the following extraordinary order:
“It is not necessary to comment much upon the work of the Team Leader of ASI [Dr BR Mani] for the last more than two months. We think it proper that another Team Leader should be appointed by the Director General, Archaeological Survey of India. However, Dr BR Mani shall also continue to work in the team” (para 235).
Thus the bench at the time found nothing to commend in the way Dr Mani had carried out the work on behalf of the ASI and desired that he be immediately replaced. Not desiring to show that he was being disgraced, his membership of the ASI team was however not terminated.
4.11. Justice Agarwal has not commented on this series of episodes and its implications. On the other hand, he takes to task the critics of the ASI’s conduct.
4.12. Justice Agarwal takes up some of the complaints made to the observers between April 14, 2003 and July 26, 2003. The response of Dr Mani to the complaint of April 14, 2003 was an admission that neither were animal bones being carefully recorded nor were pieces of glazed ware being sealed but he promised that now this would be done (para 3677). A similar response to the complaint of April 15, 2003 elicited a promise that the required videography and photography would be undertaken and a proper record would be kept (para 3678).
4.13. It was thus clear that the complaints were well taken. Yet Justice Agarwal takes exception to the complaint dated May 16, 2003 (para 3681) containing “the complaints regarding the recording of artefacts, brick-bat remains, etc, where the ASI instead of descriptions labelled them to serve its own objects”. The complaint, he says, was “mischievous and worthless”. Why? Because: “The ASI experts identify such item/ artefacts which ordinary people cannot. If only clear items were to be no expert would have (sic!) needed” (para 3681).
4.14. Here we are expected to look at “ASI experts” as “ordinary people” would. As a matter of fact, it is not quite so easy, in the case of broken artefacts or fragmented ‘architectural pieces’, for any ‘expert’ to imagine them as they were when they were complete pieces; and archaeologists have held different views about them. When Dr BB Lal, former director general, ASI, dug at what he called the Janma Bhumi mound in 1976-77, he was not able to identify any “pillar-base” there, as may be seen from his report published in Indian Archaeology 1976-77 – A Review (ASI, Delhi, 1980), pp. 52-53. Very properly, he did not attempt any identification of the material evidence while undertaking fieldwork and recording the finds. Only some 14 years later did he suggest such identification in the RSS journal, Manthan, October 1999; and his interpretation of the structural pieces was still open to doubt (see D. Mandal, Ayodhya: Archaeology after Demolition, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1993/ 2003, pp. 26-40).
In the excavations at the Babri Masjid however, the “ASI experts” immediately began identifying and marking the pillar-less pillar bases. A similar act on their part was to give suggestive names like ‘divine couple’, ‘circular shrine’, etc where the terms ‘divine’ and ‘shrine’ were both subjective and motivated descriptions, not arising from any supposed professional expertise at all. At the same time, they neglected other very significant objects in total violation of professional requirements.
Peter L. Drewett, in his manual of field archaeology, notes: “Having identified the bones to species and to part of the skeleton, the bone assemblage should be quantified” (Field Archaeology: An Introduction, London, 1999, p. 156). The “ASI experts” however refused to record animal bones properly and failed even to tabulate them by species, trenches and layers in quantified form, as required by the standard manual of field archaeology we have just quoted. It is charitable to assume that the conduct of ASI “experts” in this matter arose not from gross ignorance (after all, they were “experts”) but from the fear that the presence of animal bones (cattle and caprine) could undermine their entire temple theory. One wonders therefore to whose acts the adjective “mischievous” could be more aptly applied.
4.15. With reference to the complaint on May 21, 2003, made about a pillar base in G-2 (para 3683), it is noteworthy that Shri AR Siddiqui does not at all deny the allegation that the digging was so carried out that a squarish base was being created. He just said the digging was not completed and so the objection was “premature”. That this was a wrong piece of information is shown by the fact that on May 18, 2003, the day register for this trench distinctly records: “A pillar base on plan” (para 3685); and another report of the same day (May 18, 2003) gave a more detailed description of “a structure of brickbats and rectangular in shape”, which was encountered “during digging” and which forthwith was declared a “pillar-base” (para 3688). So Shri AR Siddiqui’s reply (vide para 3683) was, to the say the least, evasive and misleading: A squarish or rectangular pillar base was in fact already recorded and he had to explain whether it really existed or had been created by removing surrounding brickbats – and this he entirely avoided doing.
4.16. On June 7, 2003 a detailed complaint was submitted, pointing out the severe breaches of prescribed archaeological methods and procedures so far pursued by the ASI: it is reproduced in para 3699. Though the high court had ordered Dr Mani’s removal as head of the ASI team on May 22, 2003, we find him still in that position on June 8, 2003 – another example of how casually the ASI treated the high court’s orders. Dr Mani thereupon delivered the following tirade against the complainants:
“There seems to be a calculated effort to defame the ASI and demoralise it’s (sic!) team member (sic!) by making statements through media and also through applications like the present one submitted by one of the parties to the case. ASI being the premier institution of the country has always been famous for accuracy and scientific approach in exploration and excavation work” (para 3700).
He goes on to claim that his team’s “recording of artifacts is perfect” – a claim ill-suited to the mouth of anyone not divine. Indeed Dr Mani’s tone is one which would have smacked of supreme arrogance and self-congratulation even if the words had come from the head of the ASI rather than a mere superintending archaeologist; and, of course, one can retort that repute acquired in times long past cannot become a cover for lapses so clearly detected by the complainants.
4.17. Since most of the issues relating to the acts of omission and commission on the part of the ASI have already been discussed in Paper III, we are here mainly concerned with how Justice Agarwal deals with the complaints.
Courtesy: India Today
4.18. First of all, he takes no cognisance of the utter dissatisfaction of the then bench with the manner in which Dr Mani and his team had carried out the excavations until May 22, 2003. He also overlooks how, despite the court’s orders for his replacement, Dr Mani continued to be in charge on June 8, 2003. In other words, the bulk of the excavations were conducted under a person who had lost the confidence of the high court itself.
4.19. Justice Agarwal on the other hand investigates who prepared the texts of the complaints and then, finding their authors to be two witnesses, PW 29 (Dr Jaya Menon) and PW 32 (Dr Supriya Varma), gives us the dates of their presence on the sites (paras 3704 and 3705) as if they were not entitled to help in drafting complaints for other days. The comments made by Justice Agarwal in para 3711 may here be seen. Did the court similarly look into how the ASI team leader could cover in his report the excavations conducted during days he was not present at the site? In para 3712 an unfortunate slip in the complaint is held to be an astoundingly serious lapse though it perhaps arose merely due to a misreading of the figure 220cm as 270cm. Such a slip hardly means that “either they [Dr Menon and Dr Varma?] have deliberately tried to misguide the authorities (!) or the complaint [the whole of it?] lack (sic!) bona fide.”
4.20. The justice then takes up the oral evidence of the two archaeologists. PW 32 (Dr Varma) claimed that she was present when Trenches G-2 and F-3 were being excavated (para 3714). But, says the justice, digging of F-3 only started on May 30 while she was present only until May 31. However, the very dates he gives mean that Dr Varma had been able to watch the digging of the trench for two full days.
4.21. In para 3717 from an objection of his (para 3715), easily answered, Justice Agarwal draws the following conclusion:
“From the texture and the over all (sic!) facts and circumstances, some of which we have already discussed it appears to us that as soon as underneath (sic!) structures started appearing, the complainants in consultation with their alleged (!) experts, engaged in preparing a kind of anticipatory ground to assail the ASI people, their proceedings. What was submitted on spot do (sic!) not show that it was a simultaneous preparation of something which was actually observed and found objectionable by the persons thereat.”
4.22. On complaints of manipulation of materials excavated, Justice Agarwal has checked with the ASI’s records and finds (e.g. para 3725) that these records do not confirm them, as if in their record the ASI “people” would care to show how they were playing with the finds!
4.23. In para 3729 Justice Agarwal brings in the GPR Survey Report. No significance could possibly attach to it once the ground was actually excavated and there was no point in Dr Varma (PW 32) reading it and comparing it with the excavations. It is difficult to see what value can be assigned to the “anomalies” predicted in the report by the little known firm Tojo-Vikas International (Pvt.) Ltd., curiously carrying the name of the Japanese war criminal, Tojo (changed to ‘Tozo’ by Justice Agarwal – para 215). Such ‘anomalies’, the worthy company’s report had told us, “could be associated with ancient and contemporary structures such as pillars, foundation walls, slab-flooring extending over a large portion of the site” (Text reproduced in ASI’s Report, p. 5). No pillars were however found except for one broken fragment in the Masjid debris; and the presence of bricks and brickbats was not at all predicted.
4.24. It would be a sad day if the intentions and motives of the archaeologists and historians who appeared for a party whose religious faith they did not share are doubted for that reason. A preceding bench had indeed appreciated their work (para 228). But now they have become “alleged experts” (para 3717) and “virtually hired experts” (para 3879) although no proof has been offered that they lacked qualifications nor that they received any remuneration from the Muslim parties to the suit.
Of Dr Menon and Dr Varma it has been said (paras 3746 and 3774): “as admitted by these two witnesses they were partisan and interested”. In fact however neither of them made any admission of this sort. Being “interested” means “having a private interest”, especially a “pecuniary stake” (see Oxford Concise Dictionary, s.v. “interest (n.)” and “interest (vt)”); is there then a suggestion that they had something remunerative to gain for themselves by their work as archaeologists at Ayodhya?
It may be that it is hard to understand the spirit which inspired archaeologists like Dr Menon and Dr Varma and the consequence of their work at Ayodhya. It may here be worth quoting from an article in the Hindustan Times, Delhi, July 6, 2003:
“It is saddening that one should be obliged to speak in this manner of the work of the ASI that was once an institution in which the country could take justifiable pride. Today one can only say that if it did not do worse at Ayodhya, part of the credit goes to the numerous archaeologists from many places in India who maintained a constant vigil at the excavations. They did so only out of a loyalty to their profession and to secular values. When one thinks of them, one cannot help feeling sentimental about a country which, amidst all its troubles, can bring forth such men and women.”
Had Justice Agarwal looked at the ASI’s entire conduct, it might have struck him how the ASI’s behaviour from the very beginning of the excavations could engender legitimate suspicions (which in the end also proved so correct).
4.25. The DG, ASI’s addressing the bench as “Ramjanmabhoomi” instead of “Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid”, the correct designation, was not a slip but a declaration of the ASI’s partisanship in the dispute. We have seen that the first team of officials it formed for the excavation was practically entirely Hindu in composition (13 out of 14). The labourers it first employed did not include a single Muslim. Should it not have been asked, if the ASI’s intentions were of scientific excavations without any manipulation then why this deliberate exclusion of Muslims from the initial ASI team and the labour force? Even after the court’s orders, only a grudging and nominal recruitment of Muslim labourers took place.
We have seen that the complaints made about slackness in recording glazed ware and animal bones, which could militate against the presence of a temple, were genuine and partly admitted by Dr Mani himself. The high court had to pass stringent orders that its wishes must be implemented. Finally, its dissatisfaction with the ASI team leader’s conduct of the excavations was reflected in the court’s order of May 22, 2003 directing that Dr Mani be replaced as team leader though he “shall also continue to work in the team”. The spirit of the order was defied by the ASI in that while it appointed Shri Hari Manjhi, director (antiquity), as team leader, it also brazenly ensured that “Dr BR Mani continued to direct the excavation” (ASI’s Report, pp. 7-8).
4.26. Dr Mani’s hand can be seen as the dominant one in the final report. While Shri Manjhi’s name appears as the co-author of the report, the Introduction is by Dr Mani alone. He is a co-author in three major chapters (II, Cuttings; IV, Structure; V, Pottery) while Shri Manjhi, the team leader, is a contributor to none of the chapters in the report! The author of the last chapter, ‘Summary of Results’, is left unnamed – a curious way of evading responsibility. In sum, the result is that the very person with whose conduct of the excavations the high court was not satisfied was yet given full rein to ‘direct’ the excavations and write the report. Dr Mani, as we have seen, had made his commitments fairly clear by his initial actions in Ayodhya and it is not surprising that the same commitment informs the final ASI report.
4.27. Such are the plain facts, almost all of which are brought out by the documents reproduced, in whole or in part, in Justice Agarwal’s own judgement. And yet in para 3989 Justice Agarwal holds that “all objections against ASI are, therefore, rejected”.
4.28. A comprehensive clean chit is thus given in the judgement to the ASI despite the stream of motivated acts of impropriety and irregularity committed by the ASI officials that we have traced. The ASI officials arrived at Ayodhya with clear indications of commitment to one side of the dispute – shown by the very composition of their staff and labour force – and they stuck to the task of manipulating, selectively recording and perverting evidence as much as they could, increasingly constrained as they came to be by the vigilance exercised by archaeologists from the academic world. The ASI’s final report could not but be a partisan document, as we have seen in Paper III, and its rejection must form the prelude to any correct perception of the past of the disputed site.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section II, Paper IV: Puppets on a String
The modern history of the Babri Masjid began on December 23, 1949 when, by a sudden, dramatic, surreptitious, criminal overnight act, a mosque of 500 years was converted into a temple
Ever since September 30, 2010 when the high court of Allahabad at Lucknow pronounced its verdict, my mind has been occupied with that judgement: A medieval judgement written in an age when secularism was farthest from the human imagination. On the way from Chandigarh this morning I was browsing through Max Müller’s slim tract written way back in the 19th century, now republished, Rammohan to Ramakrishna – Ram Mohan Roy to Ramakrishna. Müller speaks of the mythological process on the one hand, the dialogic or the dialectical process on the other, in relation to religions of miracle and revelation. And somewhere in his discussion of Ramakrishna he throws in this expression, if my memory serves me right: “The miraculous tendencies of devoted disciples… the miraculising tendencies of devoted disciples”.
It is not my purpose today to speak on the Allahabad judgement. But before I move on to the important issues assigned to me today, 1949 and 1992, allow me to say that the two judgements – the real majority judgements – of Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Dharam Veer Sharma reflect, with some differences in style, language and approach but essentially the same theme, the religion of miracle and revelation, the miraculising tendencies of devoted disciples of an ancient, hidebound, regressive, scriptural, ritualistic, sacramental Hinduism.
Let us return from that rhetoric to something which happened in 1949, on December 23, 1949, which marks the starting point of the modern history of the Babri Masjid.
Whatever be your views about the religion of Hinduism, about the oral traditions, about Ramjanmabhoomi, Ram Janmasthan, Ram Lalla in Ayodhya – I have very strong views on this – but whatever be your views about history, about religion, about the oral traditions, about the hazards and the terrors of reading oral tradition and a backward, hidebound interpretation of religion into law, in the year of grace 2010 there can be no manner of doubt that in a way, in a manner of speaking, all that is completely irrelevant, given what happened on December 23, 1949. At 4:00 a.m. on December 23, 1949.
That is when the idols of Ram Lalla, the baby Ram, were surreptitiously imported beneath the central dome from the outer courtyard, from the Ram Chabutra outside to beneath the central dome in the inner courtyard. A first information report, or FIR, was recorded. Though the fortuitous happenstance of his agreeing with Justice Agarwal on giving the area under the central dome to the Hindus instead of the Muslims makes it appear to the entire nation that he is one of the majority judges, the September 30 judgement of Justice SU Khan of the Lucknow bench is essentially a minority judgement. One of the great merits of Justice Khan’s judgement is the light that it throws on the events of December 1949.
I have by now read twice over, word by word, Justice Agarwal’s 5,000-plus pages (in 21 volumes) and the 1,100-plus pages (in four volumes) of Justice DV Sharma. They have to be carefully read to develop a critique. Whatever one might say about the merits of these two judgements on other issues, the extraordinary silence maintained by both judges on 1949 destroys any merit their judgements might otherwise have had.
As many as four volumes, almost five volumes, on the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report. There is volume after volume on the Vedas, on the Upanishads, on all kinds of Vedic and post-Vedic scriptures. There is also volume after volume on the Gazetteers of Carnegy and Nevill and Thornton and Benett, all of them in Ayodhya. There is hardly anything on which Justice Agarwal, undoubtedly a very capable judge, has not written. Yet he is comprehensively silent on one of the central issues wherein the modern history of the Babri Masjid begins – December 1949 – when the images of the child Ram, or Ram Lalla, were installed under the central dome of the Babri Masjid. One suit that has been decreed by the Allahabad high court is the Ram Lalla title suit, a suit filed by the legal fiction of Ram Lalla which has a legal and juristic personality.
Ram Lalla ki murti, December 23, 1949 ki subah, na jaane kis tarike se, by some miracle of religion, is implanted under the central dome and a masjid turned into a temple overnight. I asked Lal Krishna Advani when I was cross-examining him before the Liberhan Commission: Would you believe with your rational mind that something of this sort could happen, that the apparition, that the image of Ram Lalla, that the deity or the murti of Ram Lalla could itself appear one fine morning, never before since 1528. Understandably, he ducked the answer.
1949 to 2010. Sixty years have passed.
We have a judicial system capped by an apex court which, I am fond of saying, is not only the most powerful but also the busiest apex court in the world. A proactive apex court; all taken together, an extremely capable apex court whose activism we are witnessing even today.
Would you believe it? If someone can correct me on this point I’ll be happily corrected but to the best of my knowledge, and I spent 10 years on the Liberhan Commission researching this, that FIR of 1949 was never investigated. A crucial FIR regarding the Babri Masjid which would have demolished all those who sought to and did demolish the Babri Masjid was never investigated. The criminal justice system simply did not take off. That, I repeat – and this is not a cliché, emotion wells up in me when I make this point over and over again – is the starting point of the modern history of the Babri Masjid when, by a sudden, dramatic, surreptitious, criminal overnight act, at 4:00 a.m. on the morning of December 23, 1949 a masjid of 500 years was converted into a temple.
The real majority judgements – of Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Dharam Veer Sharma – reflect, with some differences in style, language and approach but essentially the same theme, the religion of miracle and revelation, the miraculising tendencies of devoted disciples of an ancient, hidebound, regressive, scriptural, ritualistic, sacramental Hinduism
The first lesson therefore is that – please internalise this – Ayodhya goes far beyond the legal system, far beyond the justice system, far beyond the criminal justice system. As to whatever happened post-1949, we will come to that. But 1949 represents the visible abortion or miscarriage of the Indian criminal justice system.
Those of you who have studied Jawaharlal Nehru, please look up volume 14 of his Selected Works, the second series, published by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. Look up his letters written in December 1949 (pages 434-444, if I am not wrong).
Although the rath yatra of 1990 nationalised the Ayodhya movement and gave it an all-India character, before that, Babri Masjid/ Ramjanmabhoomi was, as VP Singh told us in the Liberhan Commission, just a local address in Ayodhya. Go back to volume 14 of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, when no one knew about Ramjanmabhoomi. It was not an issue at all, certainly not a political issue. There was no rioting, just some local disturbances which you might find in history books, something Romila Thapar and Dr S. Gopal, Radhakrishnan’s illustrious son, might write about and the Hindutva library might dismiss perhaps because it comes from them, these great modern scholars of Indian history.
It was Jawaharlal Nehru who, in the confidentiality and privacy of his personal communications to C. Rajagopalachari (the then governor general of India), to Govind Ballabh Pant (then the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, later the home minister of India) and to others, expressed his deep sense of concern at the crime, at the sacrilegious act which had taken place, at the utterly irreligious act in the name of Hinduism, in the name of Ram and Ram Lalla, which had taken place in the Babri Masjid with the silent connivance, with the active collusion, of the then district magistrate/ deputy commissioner of Faizabad who later joined the Jan Sangh, KKK Nayar – three K’s, Nayar – who openly defied the directions of the state government. Nayar wrote to Govind Ballabh Pant, to Bhagwan Sahay, the then chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, who had forwarded Nehru’s message: “Have them removed? Remove me,” he said, a man of religious conviction, “but I will not get these idols removed.” And there they remained till December 6, 1992.
The domes are demolished from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from the Ram Katha Kunj barely a couple of hundred yards away, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharti and all the others watch the show as if seated in the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery in Parliament, quietly, amidst all the chaos.
It was an act of god, they told us, some things happen on their own… this was an act of god, beyond human control, unexpected, unanticipated, beyond human foreseeability. But during that chaotic “act of god” from morning till evening one small wilfully organised act of stealth nonetheless took place, as had taken place in December 1949. The idol of Ram Lalla which had been surreptitiously placed beneath the central dome on December 23, 1949 was taken out, kept somewhere else and once the demolition was complete, put back under the central dome.
I asked Narasimha Rao, I asked VP Singh, I asked Advani, I asked Joshi about this but none of them had any answer. You could see it in their body language. I said it to them publicly, with the fullest sense of responsibility, with no overkill and no rhetoric, that this was a simple rheostat which in itself proves that the demolition was a conspiracy even if you have no other evidence for it. In that entire chaos why should Ram Lalla be taken out and then be put back again?
What legal system are we talking about? In 1986 we are presented with a fait accompli thanks to “divine inspiration”. The judge who orders the unlocking of the gates of the Babri Masjid is accompanied by a monkey from the courtroom to his home
And what does Narasimha Rao’s government do? Narasimha Rao also testified before us – by far the most formidable witness I have ever examined. I must frankly confess that he almost gave me an inferiority complex, and I am a very proud man. Advani saab loves to talk. It is easy to draw him out. He is a master of the unrebutted half-truth; if you catch him, the falsehood falls to the ground. But Narasimha Rao wore his intellectual superiority on his sleeve. He would not speak and when he did, getting a one-liner out of him needed three hours of cross-examination. Yet that very learned, highly erudite, at the end of it a little too wily – too wily even for himself – man was upstaged by the sangh parivar.
One month after the demolition, Narasimha Rao enacts an ordinance that was later replaced by an act (the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993) which was withheld by adjudication along with the presidential reference to the Supreme Court in the Ismail Faruqui case (M. Ismail Faruqui & Ors vs Union of India & Ors, 1994). January 7, 1993 was the cut-off point: Let the status quo remain as before January 7, 1993; as to the rest, please advise. For various reasons the Supreme Court returned the reference but allowed the idol of Ram Lalla, which had been installed on December 23, 1949 and which was temporarily moved out during the demolition on December 6, 1992, to remain in the same spot. The idol survived the demolition; nothing else did.
If I criticise the majority judgement in the Ismail Faruqui case as well, please forgive me. Perhaps I am too secular for contemporary consumption. But secularism for me is not merely the absence of communal riots. It is not merely living in harmony or the absence of disharmony. Secularism under the Indian Constitution as bequeathed by none other than Jawaharlal Nehru is a secular consciousness which refuses to compromise with anything that is not secular.
The Masjid was constructed in 1528. (Though Justice Sudhir Agarwal said it was constructed in the 18th century. But I’m not on that, I know his grasp of history. And Justice Sharma says it was not a masjid at all. Then why demolish it? That almost ends the debate, the demolition debate, as it were. But I’m not on that either.)
On February 1, 1986 the district judge of Faizabad, KM Pandey, ordered the opening of the locks on the Babri Masjid so as to facilitate puja of the idol that had been placed there in December 1949. Judge Pandey was later elevated to the high court. After his retirement, he published his memoirs, Voice of Conscience, the preface to which was written by another distinguished high court judge. Pandey saab writes that it was divine inspiration that prompted him to order the opening of the locks. What was this divine inspiration?
“When I left the district court after ordering the opening of the locks to facilitate darshan of the Ram Lalla idol which had been placed there in 1949, I saw a monkey, a divine monkey, perched on the roof of the courthouse (presumably a reference to Hanumanji). And when I reached home at 4 p.m., I found the monkey was still there outside. I saluted him. It was divine inspiration.”
What legal system are we talking about? In the 60 years since then no one has seen fit to even begin investigations into the FIR of 1949. Meanwhile, in 1986 we are presented with a fait accompli thanks to “divine inspiration”. The judge who orders the unlocking of the gates of the Babri Masjid is accompanied by a monkey from the courtroom to his home. I salute him, this man of conviction. No, not a corrupt man; please, for god’s sake, don’t describe him as a corrupt man. Here is a man acting out of conviction. And that is the problem, the tragedy of Indian secularism. The secularists have no convictions any more. They just want to avoid, to avert a law and order situation.
The country was not plunged into crisis after the September 30 judgement; there were no riots, no lives were lost, all is well. What difference does it make? Who will read Agarwal saab’s 5,000-plus pages on Hinduism? You are not going to read them, nor will I. It is a matter of history, another fait accompli, just as December 1949 became another fait accompli. Even Govind Ballabh Pant, a man as tall as Sardar Patel, dithered when in 1949 Nehru asked to have the idols removed. A district magistrate, a deputy commissioner of Faizabad had greater strength and greater say than the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and India’s first prime minister. The idols remained there.
Justice Khan mentions in his judgement that in September 2009 all the original files, the official documents pertaining to 1949 were summoned by the full bench of the Allahabad high court at Lucknow. Interestingly, only Justice Khan refers to this fact; there is no mention of it whatsoever in the 5,019 pages of Justice Sudhir Agarwal or the 1,130 pages of Justice Dharam Veer Sharma.
Justice Sudhir Agarwal is a very capable judge, who can write a judgement that runs to over 5,000 pages. I have yet to see another judge in the country capable of such titanic intellectual labour for which I compliment him even though I completely disagree with the entire reasoning and the conclusions of his judgement, which are outright perverse. A wrong reading of history, a wrong reading of religion, with secularism as a value, as a word, as semantics, totally absent from the entire judgement which reads as if it were written somewhere in 1528 or whenever the Babri Masjid was constructed!
We learn from Justice Khan’s judgement that those files were summoned and that Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters were found in the files, something that was hitherto unknown. The files also revealed that KKK Nayar wrote two long letters to Bhagwan Sahayji, chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, refusing to act against the illegality of 1949 on the plea that it would lead to riots. Just as on December 5 and 6, 1992 the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh, pleaded that if he were to order police firing to prevent the demolition, it would precipitate a bloodbath. This is exactly what the then district magistrate/ deputy commissioner, KKK Nayar, claimed in the long letters written to Bhagwan Sahayji on December 26 and 27, 1949.
Decades have passed, half a century has passed but the basic argument remains the same: Hum isse touch karenge, if we touch this, if we try to undo an unsecular, anti-secular, act, toh fasad ho jayenge, peeche hat jao, there will be riots, leave it alone.
The bar is lowered with every crisis. We just do not join issue and everything becomes a grand fait accompli. A mosque is demolished and a temple constructed in its place. Did anyone consult the ASI?
My last question on behalf of the Liberhan Commission was put to Kalyan Singh who happened to be the last witness, the hundredth witness, to appear before the commission. This was in 2004. For 10 years Kalyan Singh had managed to stay away from the commission thanks to a stay order which allowed him to avoid appearing before it. By the time he finally deposed the 2003 excavations at Ayodhya had been completed and the ASI had submitted its report. When he testified, in a deposition that runs to 400 pages, he placed before the commission the last chapter of the ASI report, ‘Summary of Results’ (in support of his stand on the Ram temple).
During that chaotic “act of god” on December 6, 1992 one small wilfully organised act of stealth nonetheless took place, as had taken place in December 1949. The idol of Ram Lalla which had been surreptitiously placed beneath the central dome on December 23, 1949 was taken out, kept somewhere else and once the demolition was complete, put back under the central dome
I had already read both volumes of the ASI report. It was an excavation ordered by the high court of Allahabad. We had no jurisdiction but since one of the principal accused had cited it in his defence, I thought I could ask these questions. Justice Liberhan said: “These are your personal questions, not those of the (Liberhan) Commission.” I said: “Yes, I stand by these questions. I want my views to go on record as a matter of history.”
You will see, I said, that this is a brazen departure from the scientific bases and time-tested methods of archaeological excavation. The fragmentary evidences contained in these two volumes, chapter after chapter, they do not lend themselves to any conclusion that there was a temple beneath, least of all that it was demolished. It is nothing but a supremely imaginative, subjective conclusion. Finally, I said that this report, especially the last chapter, has been written by someone ideologically, intellectually and politically predetermined to create a temple beneath the disputed structure and to provide the ultimate historical justification for the demolition of the mosque above it. This is what I put before Kalyan Singh when he deposed before the commission in 2004.
Debates on the issue will, of course, continue. You have already heard KM Shrimali saab (also present at the symposium). If you are seriously interested in the archaeological aspects, you must read the books written by Professor D. Mandal, one of our finest archaeologists, in 2003 and, in 2007, Ayodhya: Archaeology after Excavation, a book co-authored by D. Mandal and Shereen Ratnagar. Despite the fact that Justice Agarwal has passed strictures against him, against all of them – Jaya Menon, Supriya Varma and others who had testified before the court along with Professor Mandal – they are men to be defended, at least men to be read.
Archaeology is a very fragile, vulnerable, tricky subject. Just because you can see the Taj Mahal aboveground does not mean that that is the end of the matter. What lies beneath the ground, how many layers lie beneath, to which period do they belong, what does it all mean? Animal bones, terracotta fragments and other relics are found. It takes a whole galaxy of archaeologists, epigraphists, numismatists a lifetime to analyse and understand all that is unearthed. But here, in less than a month, these people arrive at a definite conclusion. However, this is not my jurisdiction and with apologies for the digression, let me return to my main theme.
Justice Agarwal describes the events of 1949 in a single sentence: “A mere shifting of idols from the outer courtyard to the inner courtyard”. A judge who writes thousands of pages on every conceivable issue yet on this, the most important, the central issue – 1949 – he is content with observing: “a mere shifting of idols”. That is how the crime is described and smothered in history.
Most of us are now familiar with the role of KKK Nayar in the events of 1949. On November 29, 1949 the then superintendent of police (SP), Faizabad, Kripal Singh, wrote a letter to the deputy commissioner/ district magistrate (Nayar): The SP writes to his district magistrate (DM). This letter has been referred to for the first time in Justice Khan’s judgement of September 30, 2010.
That single letter is more important, far more important, than all the Gazetteers of British India, of Oudh, Faizabad, Barabanki and Lucknow put together, all of which Justice Agarwal has cited and which historians wrestle over. On November 29, 1949, three weeks before December 23, after a visit to the spot, Kripal Singh writes to KKK Nayar that there is a plan to install the idol of Ram inside the mosque so as to turn it into a temple on the coming puranmashi (day of the full moon). He adds that the mosque was being surrounded from all sides and that bricks, lime mortar and other construction material had been kept in readiness. You can read about this in Justice Khan’s judgement. The police and the administration had advance intimation of what was brewing. But to date there has been no investigation into the matter.
It needed the high court of Allahabad, a Muslim judge, to make this letter public for the first time. Nearly a month before the act was committed, the two top officials in the district were writing to each other about the plot but for 60 years none of us even knew this – that’s 1949 for you.
With due apologies, let us return to the judgement of Justice JS Verma and with him one of the most distinguished judges of the Indian Supreme Court, a man for whom I have the highest regard, a paragon of moral virtue, uprightness and erudition, Justice MN Venkatachaliah. Justice Verma’s majority judgement on behalf of Justice Venkatachaliah, Justice GN Ray and himself in the Ismail Faruqui case – which is frequently referred to by the secular establishment – is the judgement of three Hindu judges. Forgive me for saying so but I am prepared to take the consequences of my statement. What do they say about 1949? Justice Sudhir Agarwal has very intelligently taken the phrase “shifting of idols” from Justice Verma’s judgement. Please read that judgement again in the context of Section 7, Subsection 2, of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act which was in adjudication. It was stated that pending the civil suits, status quo will be maintained as on January 7, 1993.
Which means that the Ram Lalla idol which was surreptitiously placed inside the mosque in 1949, darshan of which was allowed after the locks on the Babri Masjid were opened in 1986 and which had been temporarily moved out during the demolition and then put back inside the mosque in 1992, would continue to remain there.
Whatever you may decide, the Ram Lalla murti will remain exactly where it had been placed through a criminal, sacrilegious, irreligious act which does no credit to Hinduism or any other religion. That is not the way any religion establishes itself. That is not the way any religion fights another religion. You fight it by logic, you fight it by faith. If you like, in certain circumstances, you fight it by numbers. You do not fight it by a crime committed in the wee hours of the morning, open crime bhi nahin, not openly committed but a crime of stealth, chupke chupke.
I’ve criticised Justice SU Khan for other things but may god bless him for drawing our attention to the communication between the SP, Kripal Singh, and the DM, KKK Nayar, in 1949.
We also know the names of the two people responsible for placing the Ram Lalla idol inside the mosque. A true understanding of history requires thorough study. Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans had already been examined before I joined the Liberhan Commission in 1999 so I did not have the opportunity to cross-examine him. He passed away a few years later. He was one of the two persons who carried the idol inside. Baba Abhay Ram Das was the other. Both of them were named by the late Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal, a retired judge of the Allahabad high court who filed the Ram Lalla title suit as the ‘next friend’ of Ram Lalla. A very committed man, Justice DN Agarwal joined the VHP after retirement and spent the rest of his life fighting this case. I did not have the privilege of meeting him. In his statement under Order 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure he had affirmed that Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans and Abhay Ram Das had placed the idol inside the mosque. Abhay Ram Das did not concede this but his disciple admitted it in writing. Paramhans admitted to doing so.
If after 60 years, you can look backward, if you can dig up the dead from the grave when the mosque no longer exists – one judge even says it was never a mosque, the other says it was built in 1870, not in 1528 – if the dead must be resurrected, if we must go back to the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Koran, if such important matters of religious consciousness, of spiritual consciousness, must be explored, then please, in god’s name, in Allah’s name, in Ram’s name, take a look at these facts as well. Take a look at the SP’s letter, look at Mahant Paramhans, look at Abhay Ram Das.
And although there can never be a retrospective indictment under criminal law – which is impermissible under our Constitution for the right reasons – if we could but revisit the crime committed in 1949 and, even if metaphorically or notionally, conduct some investigation, some inquiry into the incidents that took place at the time. For if 1949 had not happened, 1992 would not have followed.
I will end this argument with what Justice Verma had to say about 1949. Again, as is evident throughout the judgement, it is a question of conviction, of analysis, at the highest level of the apex court.
The contention was that this was an anti-secular reference (to the apex court) so the court should not respond. But controverting, reverting this contention, Justice Verma says no, this is not an anti-secular reference. Why? Because it is not only the Muslims; Hindus are suffering too. The Muslims had the greater right to worship in December 1949, which continued unrestricted till December 1992. However, Section 7, Subsection 2, of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act protects the restricted right to worship as established in December 1992. Thus Justice Verma essentially accepts the fait accompli of December 1949. This is the Supreme Court of India for you, in a judgement which is often cited against those who demolished the Babri Masjid. It is a tragedy of perception, a tragedy of convictions, a tragedy of fait accompli upon fait accompli.
Mobs atop the Babri Masjid: The penultimate breakdown
The Allahabad high court judgement of September 2010 is also totally silent about the demolition of the mosque in December 1992. Two writ petitions had been filed, by Mohammad Hashim and the Sunni Central Board of Wakfs, against the 1986 court order allowing the opening of the locks on the Babri Masjid. These writ petitions, kept hanging for 24 years, were also decided, by a separate order, on September 30, 2010.
Justice Agarwal said the demolition was barbaric and shameful and it appeared that the order allowing the opening of the locks was wholly illegal but since it was an interlocutory order that would be merged in the final judgement, we express no opinion. That is how he sidestepped it. And in his separate order Justice Sharma repeats five times that the subject matter is no longer there, it has been demolished, so it has no relevance; no, no, I agree with the order of 1986.
We are talking about the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Both these judges are deeply spiritual, both are devotees, as is evident from their judgements. Justice Agarwal is also extremely capable. I do not doubt the sincerity and the strength of their convictions and I cannot help complimenting Justice Agarwal for the immense labour put in by him every time I refer to the judgement and criticise him. But what is their moral fibre? What is their spiritual fibre?
This is litigation unlike any other litigation in India; this is the Babri Masjid dispute. If the Babri Masjid has any significance in your view, in anyone’s view, whether it is those who demolished it or the Muslims or the secular establishment, how can its demolition leave you totally untouched? The suit filed in 1950, the suit of 1959, the Ram Lalla suit of 1989 which was the biggest suit of all, these were filed prior to 1992; and as for what happened in 1992, what’s done is done, and that’s all? The act of December 1992 leaves no imprint on your judgement, on your thinking, on your reflection. You are intellectually untouched, you are morally untouched, you are psychologically untouched.
And therefore I have repeatedly raised the question and I raise it before you with all due respect to these two very distinguished judges of the Allahabad high court. Are they really judges who have taken an oath under a secular Constitution in an India governed by our Constitution? What substance are you made of that things like this don’t touch you? You write 5,000 pages on everything else but nothing on the demolition?
I would like to make one last point, about the Liberhan Commission report. Since I was on the Liberhan Commission from 1999 to 2008 when it turned its searchlight on all the top leaders of the sangh parivar, including Advani, Joshi and so on, I happened to cross-examine all of them. You rarely get an opportunity like this – to be engaged with an issue for over 10 years at close quarters, to examine witnesses face to face from morning to evening. It was a historic opportunity for which I shall remain ever grateful to Justice Liberhan.
His report, released and tabled in Parliament last year, is a very searching, powerful, comprehensive critique of the complicity of the state government, the state bureaucracy and the police apparatus and the wilful, organised collapse of the administration on December 6, 1992. It was a wilful organised collapse. But as far as the central government and the former prime minister, Narasimha Rao, are concerned, the report gives him a complete clean chit. I don’t want to get into that, on how he could have resorted to Articles 355 and 356. That’s a separate chapter. We are dealing with post-Allahabad; we are not dealing with post-Liberhan.
But there is one point I wish to make about 1992. Justice Liberhan said something that I wish he had not because it compromises me as his counsel and I want historians to ponder over this, to research this in all seriousness. He said the commission had no other source of information except the government. We will leave aside the report that Narasimha Rao had instructed the Uttar Pradesh governor to write. Let’s leave aside this 18-page report on which he based his entire constitutional argument.
In his report Justice Liberhan says there was also an intelligence failure (p. 859, para 144, point 2). It is a failure of the intelligence agencies, they were the eyes and ears of the central government, they did not act, they failed. So how can you blame Narasimha Rao?
Forgive me for the sharpness of my reaction, but to say that the intelligence agencies failed on December 6 is a white lie. I say this on the basis of my knowledge of one year of top-secret Intelligence Bureau reports on the Ayodhya issue by the director/ joint director/ deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau throughout 1992 right up to the last date, December 6, 1992, submitted to the prime minister’s office, to the adviser to the prime minister, to the cabinet secretariat, to the home minister, to the ministry of home affairs. That entire file was before the Liberhan Commission.
You will perhaps not find anywhere in the world, and I want to give credit where it is due, you will not find more comprehensive, swifter, more precise, more meaningful intelligence reports submitted at the highest levels of the Intelligence Bureau to the highest levels of the government of India, including the prime minister’s office. Multiple copies were sent out on a day-to-day basis, especially from November 24 to December 6, 1992. If you read these reports, you need not read anything else. Or read everything else and then read these reports. Not only can you not accuse the Intelligence Bureau or the agencies of the central government for intelligence failure. On the contrary, any and every person in a position of policymaking and decision-making in the government of India – the ministry of home affairs (the home minister, SB Chavan), the cabinet secretary, Naresh Chandra, and the principal secretary to the prime minister, AN Verma – were kept constantly updated.
And this was about Ayodhya, the most important national issue in November-December 1992. A meeting of the National Integration Council was convened. Opposition leaders, Advani, VP Singh, everyone was meeting the prime minister. It was a concern that was no longer buried in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru. The central government was being kept abreast of developments all the time.
Yet the government, the prime minister, chose to turn a blind eye to report after disturbing report from the Intelligence Bureau. Narasimha Rao’s inaction was certainly not due to intelligence failure. It was in spite of very efficient and efficacious surveillance and monitoring of the ground situation by the Intelligence Bureau.
So that then is 1949; that then is 1992. We will, of course, continue to discuss the judgement of September 30, 2010 for a long time. But secularism is not merely about the absence of disharmony, it is not merely ostensible peace or indeed the absence of rioting. Secularism is an uncompromising internal secular consciousness and perception which is appalled by the slightest intrusion into the public domain of matters which do not properly appertain.
Thank you very much.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section 1-Fait Accompli upon Fait Accompli