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Boost for BJP, Ayodhya plaintiff cries foul

If the BJP lost a formidable ally in the BSP for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, the saffron brigade found a viable issue in the Rama Janma Bhumi.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2003 12:33 IST

It was a day of mixed fortunes for the BJP and VHP. If the BJP lost a formidable ally in the Bahujan Samaj Party for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, the saffron brigade found a viable issue in the Rama Janma Bhumi.

With the ASI reporting evidence of a temple structure below the Babri site, an emboldened VHP is expected to step up its temple movement with the BJP joining it in the months before the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP can now resurrect the temple issue as a poll plank.

VHP leaders welcomed the ASI's report, some of them even suggesting that Monday's blasts in Mumbai were a reaction to the report. Senior VHP leader and member of Margadarshak Mandal Ram Bilas Vedanti said in Ayodhya that the report had vindicated Hindu aspirations. He "hoped" that Muslims would now realise what the ground reality was and said they should forgo their claims in Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi.

The main plaintiff of the Ayodhya case, Haji Hashim Ansari, thought the report was misleading. He has not seen the full report, but he was regularly present at the excavation site and says many Islamic relics were also found.

Twice in the past, excavations were carried out at the disputed site but without the modern techniques available now. The first excavation was carried out in 1969-70, when a Benaras Hindu University team led by AK Narain, T.N.Roy and P Singh opened three small trenches in three separate localities - the Jain Ghat, Lakshman Tekri and Nal Tila. A part of Kubel Tila was also subjected to surface scraping.

In 1975, B.B. Lal, who later retired as Director-General of the ASI, began a research project on the archaeology of the Ramayan sites. He along with a team from ASI headed by KV Soundara Rajan, excavated the site and chose the Rama Janma Bhumi area as one of the areas for excavation. In a trench here, Lal had found a massive brick wall, house floors, rubble collapse.

However, Professor of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology, D Mandal, challenged the discoveries in his book, Ayodhya: Archaeology After Demolition. He writes, "It has been categorically claimed by some scholars that new discoveries at Ayodhya provide incontrovertible evidence for the existence of a magnificent temple that was destroyed in the 16th century. This claim rests mainly on two sets of archaeological findings: the remains identified as ' brick pillar bases' and a 'hoard' of fragmentary stone sculptures said to have been recovered from a large pit in the course of land-levelling operation'. These finds have been projected as ' proof of the ' temple theory'. However the detailed analysis undertaken of the discoveries refutes the theory. There is not a single piece of evidence for the existence of a temple in brick, stone or both."

The ASI report will certainly give a direction to the title suit pending in the courts for several decades. The Allahabad High Court had directed ASI to carry out excavations to obtain archaeological evidence on the issue involved, "whether there was any temple/structure which was demolished and mosque was constructed on the disputed site".

The Sunni Central Waqf Board is expected to oppose the ASI findings. But with three successive reports supporting the VHP's claim, its task is difficult. Board counsel Jafaryab Jilani, who is also member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said the ASI report is self-contradictory as periods have been intermingled. There was no use of glazed ware in the 10th century as mentioned by ASI. The report has also ignored recovery of bones.