11. The Ayodhya
This paper was
written as an adaptation from an earlier paper, “The
Ayodhya debate”, published in the conference proceedings of the 1991 International
Ramayana Conference, which had taken place in my hometown, Leuven.1
The present version represents my own text prepared for the October 1995
Annual South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, U. S.A. A few notes
have been added.
at the conference was frankly hostile. After the academic authorities,
who may have been ignorant of my controversial reputation, had allowed
my paper to be read, the practical organization of the panel session was
entrusted to graduate students belonging to the Indian Communist organization,
Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL). They scheduled me as the
last speaker in a panel of four, chaired by an Indian female graduate student,
a nice girl but obviously unable to perform the most difficult duty of
a panel chairperson, viz. keeping the speakers to their allotted time.
Moreover, they arranged for our session to be held in a room where another
panel was scheduled at noon, making it impossible for the last speaker
to read his paper in excess of the panel session’s allotted time.
Two panel speakers played along by comfortably expounding and repeating
the points they could easily have made in half the time.
It was up to people
from the audience to protest and oblige the chairperson to allow me to
read out my paper. When it was my turn, I was heckled somewhat by the Leftist
crowd, especially by a well-known Indo-American Communist academic, who
was rolling his eyes like a madman and making obscene gestures until an
elderly American lady sitting next to him told him to behave. At
the end, Mathew came to collect a copy of my text (the book version, of
which I had some author’s copies handy), called me a “liar”, and told his
buddies that they needed to write a scholarly rebuttal. Which is
still being awaited today.
One of the contenders
in the Ayodhya history debate, the “hypothesis” that the Babri Masjid had
been built in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple, had been a matter
of universal consensus until a few years ago. Even the Muslim participants
in court cases in the British period had not challenged it; on the contrary,
Muslim authors expressed pride in this monument of Islamic victory over
infidelity. It is only years after the Hindu
take-over of the structure in 1949 that denials started to be voiced.2
And it is only in 1989 that a large-scale press campaign was launched to
deny what had earlier been a universally accepted fact.
In normal academic
practice, the debate on an issue on which such a consensus exists, would
only have been opened after the discovery of new facts which undermine
the consensus view. The present debate is between a tradition which
numerous observers and scholars had found coherent and well-founded, and
an artificial hypothesis based on political compulsions instead of on newly
In an effort to
move the debate forward, the Government of India provided the contending
parties with an official forum in which experts could go through the evidence
produced for both sides. This scholarly exchange took place around
the turn of 1991, and was briefly revived in the autumn of 1992.
Both rounds of the debate were unilaterally broken off by the Babri Masjid
This paper is
intended to fill the gap left by the general media in the information on
the debate about the historical claims concerning the Rama-Janmabhoomi/Babri
Masjid site in Ayodhya. As the only non-Indian
scholar to have followed this dispute closely, I will argue that the scholars’
debate has ended in an unambiguous victory for one of the two parties.3
11.2.The object of the debate
As is well-known
by now, on Rama’s supposed birthplace in Ayodhya there used to stand a
disputed mosque structure. It was called the Babri Masjid
because according to an inscription on its front wall it was built at the
orders of the Moghul invader Babar in 1528, by his lieutenant Mir Baqi.
But until the beginning of this century, official documents called it Masjid-i-Janamsthan,
“mosque of the birthplace”, and the hill on which it stands was designated
as Ramkot (Rama’s fort) or Janamsthan (birthplace). Since
1949, the building is effectively in use as a Hindu temple, but many Hindus,
and especially the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)4,
want to explicitate the Hindu function of the place with proper Hindu temple
architecture, which implied removing the existing structure. On the
other hand, the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) and its splinter,
the Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee (BMMCC), want the
building, and after its demolition at least the site, to be given back
to the Muslim community.
In December 1990
and January 1991, at the request of the Chandra Shekhar Government, the
BMAC and the VHP exchanged historical evidence for their respective cases.
it was broken off on 25 January 1991 when the BMAC representatives, without
any explanation, failed to show up at the meeting scheduled for that day.
The debate was revived in October 1992 by the Narasimha Rao Government,
with essentially the same teams, but the next month, the BMAC withdrew
in protest against the VHP’s announcement of a Kar Seva (building activity)
due on 6 December 1992.
It is strange
(but perfectly explainable, as we shall see) that this debate has not received
more attention in scholarly and journalistic writings. It was, after
all, the only occasion where both parties could not manipulate “evidence”
without being subject to pointed criticism from the opposing side.
Many reporters on the Ayodhya conflict have made tall claims about the
“concoction” of “bogus evidence” (not to mention “Goebbelsian propaganda”),
and to substantiate these, there could hardly be a better mine of information
than this Government-sponsored debate. Yet, most of them refuse to
even mention it.
A report on this
debate should distinguish between three possible debating issues:
1) Is the present-day
Ayodhya with all its Rama-related sites, the Ayodhya described by Valmiki
in his Sanskrit Ramayana? In the course of
this debate, no new facts have been added to Prof. B.B. Lal’s conclusion
that Valmiki’s Ayodhya and present-day Ayodhya are one and the same place.5
It is a different matter that his conclusions have been disputed, without
any evidence, by the JNU historians among others. Of course, it is
nobody’s case that the Valmiki connection has been established in an unassailable
manner; but at least, what much of research is available, points in that
direction. However, even if B.B. Lal’s assertion is correct, this
leaves open the possibility that the writer who styled himself Valmiki,
may have written his version of the Rama story long after it actually took
place, and that he relocated the scene of a tradition coming from elsewhere
into his own area. Therefore, the next, more fundamental question
2) Is the present-day
Ayodhya, and more specifically the disputed site, indeed the birthplace
of a historical character called Rama? The BMAC has argued that such
a thing cannot be proven, assuming that Rama was a historical character
at all. The VHP has refused to consider this question, arguing that
religions do not have to justify the sacredness of their sacred sites:
if the site was traditionally associated with sacred events and characters
(as it was, at least from Valmiki onwards), or if it was treated by Rama
devotees as somehow sacred (as it was since at least several centuries),
then that should be enough to command respect, regardless of the historical
basis of this claim to sacredness.
Compare with the
Muslim sacred places: there is no historical substance at all in Mohammed’s
claim that the Kaaba in Mecca had been built by Abraham as a place of monotheistic
worship. This story had to justify the take-over of the Kaaba from
its real owners, the “idolaters” of Arabia. And
yet, in spite of the starkly unhistorical nature of the Muslim claim to
the Kaaba, this claim is not being questioned. Nobody is saying that the
Muslims can only have their Kaaba if they give historical proof that it
was built by Abraham.6
VHP insists that if the disputed site is a genuine traditional sacred site,
this must be enough to make others respect it as such. However, if
it was really a Hindu sacred site, it is reasonable to expect that this
status was explicitated with a temple, which must have adorned the site
before the Babri Masjid was built. So, the third question is:
Was the Babri Masjid built in forcible replacement of a preexisting Rama
temple? The Muslim fundamentalist leader Syed Shahabuddin, convenor
of the BMMCC (and initiator of the campaign against Salman Rushdie)7
agrees with the VHP that this is the fundamental question. He has
it is proven that the Babri Masjid has been built in forcible replacement
of a Hindu temple, I will demolish it with my own hands.”8
So, the subject matter of the debate can be limited to the question whether
a Hindu temple had been destroyed to make way for the Babri Masjid.
In November 1990,
in a letter to the newly appointed Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, the
late Sri Rajiv Gandhi (whose Congress Party was supporting the new Government)
had also proposed to narrow down the debate to this one question.
Sri Gandhi suggested that the decision of whether to leave the disputed
building to the Hindus (who were using it as a temple) or to give it to
the Muslims (who had used it as a mosque), should be taken on the basis
of historical and archaeological evidence regarding the specific point
whether the Babri Masjid had replaced a preexisting Hindu temple.
It is this letter from Rajiv Gandhi which prompted Chandra Shekhar to invite
the contending parties to have a scholarly exchange of historical evidence.
11.3. Chronicle of the semi-official
Both parties met
on 1 December and 4 December 1990, and they agreed to submit and confront
historical material supporting their respective viewpoints. On 23
December, the VHP and the BMAC submitted their respective bundles of evidence.
On 10 January 1991, both sides submitted rejoinders to their opponents’
evidence bundles. At least, the VHP scholars gave a detailed reply
to all the documents presented by the BMAC. But the latter merely
handed in yet another pile of newspaper articles and more- such non-evidential
statements of opinion. This created the impression that the BMAC
was effectively conceding defeat.
On January 24,
the parties met in order to discuss the evidence. But the BMAC team
leader, Prof. R.S. Sharma, a well-known Marxist historian, said that he
and his colleagues had not yet studied the VHP material (to which the BMAC
had agreed to reply by January 10). This is
most remarkable, because the week before, he had led 42 academics in signing
a much-publicized statement, saying that there was definitely absolutely
no proof whatsoever at all for the preexisting Rama temple. He had
issued more statements on the matter, and even published a small book on
it.9 There he was, pleading a lack of familiarity
with the very material on which he had been making such tall statements.
The other historians
for the BMAC were Athar Ali, D. N. Jha and Suraj Bhan, apart from the office
bearers of the BMAC itself. The four BMAC historians have published
their argumentation some months later: Ramjanmabhumi Babari Masjid,
A Historians’ Report to the Nation. Tellingly,
they do not mention the outcome of the debate, but reiterate the ludicrous
demand they made while attending the debate as BMAC advocates, viz. that
they be considered “independent historians” qualified to pronounce scientific
judgment in a debate between their employers and their enemies.10
Of course, the
government representative dismissed this demand as ridiculous. Yet,
the BMAC has continued to call them “the independent historians”, and they
themselves have continued to demand that the VHP submit its case to “independent
arbitration”, i.e. by their own kind. These two telling details of
the Ayodhya debate story have, of course, been withheld from the reader
in the booklet published by the BMAC team, and in all subsequent publications
by the anti-temple party.
The next meeting
was scheduled for the next day, January 25. But there, the BMAC scholars
simply did not show up. The unambiguous result of the debate was
this: the BMAC scholars have run away from the arena. They had not
presented written evidence worth the name, they had not given a written
refutation of the VHP scholars’ arguments, they had wriggled out of a face-to-face
discussion on the accumulated evidence, and finally they had just stayed
away. Thus ended the first attempt by the Government of India to
find an amicable solution on the basis of genuine historical facts.
In October 1992,
the Narasimha Rao Government tried to revive this discussion forum.
Due to personal differences, Prof. R.S. Sharma stayed away from the BMAC
team, which otherwise consisted of the same people. The debate focused
almost entirely on the interpretation of the archaeological findings of
June 1992: a large number of Hindu sculptures and other temple remains,
found in the terrain in front of the disputed building. The BMAC
team argued that these findings had all been planted. It also demanded
that in view of the ongoing negotiations, the VHP cancel its programme
scheduled for 6 December 1992 in Ayodhya. When the VHP refused, the
BMAC stayed away from the talks once more.
11.4. The pro-temple evidence
On Ayodhya, there
has always in living memory been a consensus: among local Muslims and Hindus,
among European travellers and British administrators. As late as
1989, the Encyclopedia Brittannica (entry Ayodhya) reports
without a trace of hesitation that the Babri Masjid was built in forcible
replacement of a temple marking Rama’s birthplace. When there is
such a consensus on a given issue, the academic custom is not to reopen
the debate until someone comes with serious evidence that the consensus
opinion is wrong and that a different scenario is indicated by newfound
(or newly interpreted) facts. But the only evidence to surface during
the debate was presented by the VHP-mandated team and merely reconfirmed
the old consensus.
VHP’s evidence bundle was not just a pile of separate documents.11
It was centred around a careful argumentation, which can be summed up in
1) A single hypothesis.
Only one hypothesis is put forward, viz. that the disputed place was traditionally
(since before the Muslim period) venerated as Rama’s birthplace, that a
Rama temple had stood on it, and that this temple was destroyed to make
way for the Babri Masjid. All the material collected goes to confirm
this one hypothesis. Not a single piece of documentary or archaeological
evidence contradicts it. The contrast with the anti-Janmabhoomi polemists
is striking they have so far not produced any document that positively
indicates a different scenario from the one upheld by the VHP scholars.
The BMAC effort has been only. negative, viz. trying to pick holes in the
pro-temple evidence, but the VHP has posited its own hypothesis that takes
care of all the relevant data.
2) Temple foundations.
Archaeological findings in Prof. B.B. Lal’s excavation campaign Archaeology
of the Ramayana Sites 1975-80 and more recent ones as well as a large
number of documents written in tempore non suspecto confirm the
hypothesis. Findings of burnt-brick pillar-bases dated to the 11th
century in trenches a few metres from the disputed structure, prove that
a pillared building stood in alignment with, and on the same foundations
system as the Babri Masjid. The written documents do not include
an eye-witness account of the temple destruction, the way we have eye-witness
accounts of the destruction of many other temples. But then, a wealth
of documents, written from the 17th century onwards, by European traveller,-,
and by local Muslims, confirm unanimously that the Babri Masjid was considered
to have been built in forcible replacement of a Rama temple. These
witnesses also describe first-hand how the place was revered by the Hindus
as Rama’s birthsite, and that Hindus always came back to worship as closely
as possible to the original temple site: they would not reasonably have
done this except in continuation of a tradition dating back to before the
3) The single
hypothesis is consistent with known patterns. No ad hoc hypotheses
are needed to support the main hypothesis, no unusual scenarios have to
be invented, no unusual motives have to be attributed to the people involved,
no conspiracy theory has to be conjured up. The VHP hypothesis merely
says that well-established general patterns of Hindu and Muslim behaviour
apply to the specific case under consideration. Among these are to
Firstly, the fact
that a temple stood on the now-disputed site, which is a hilltop overlooking
Ayodhya, is in perfect conformity with a world-wide practice of putting
important buildings, like castles and temples, on the topographical place
of honour. By contrast, the hypothesis that the Babri Masjid had
been built on an empty spot presupposes an abnormal course of events, viz.
that the people of the temple city Ayodhya had left the place of honour
demolition of Hindu temples and their forcible replacement by mosques has
been a very persistent behaviour pattern of the Muslim conquerors.
These temple demolitions were consistent with the persecution of “unbelief”
carried out by Islamic rulers from Mohammed bin Qasim (who conquered Sindh
in 712) to Aurangzeb (the last great Moghul, d. 1707), and more recently
in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir. Though
there is no lack of negationists who try to deny or conceal it,
the historical record bears out Will Durant’s assessment that “the Mohammedan
conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history”.12
It is safe to affirm that the majority of pre-1707 mosques in India has
been built in forcible replacement of Hindu temples. Outside India,
the Islamic take-over of the most sacred sites of other religions was equally
systematic, e.g. the Ka’aba in Mecca, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,
the Aya Sophia in Istambul, the Buddhist monastery in Bukhara etc.
Thirdly, the fact
that Hindu temple materials (14 black-stone sculptured pillars) have been
used in the Babri Masjid is not an unusual feature requiring a special
explanation; on the contrary, it was a fairly common practice meant as
a visual display of the victory of Islam over infidelity. It
was done in many mosques that have forcibly replaced temples, e.g. the
Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi (in which a part of the Kashi Vishvanath temple
is still visible)13, the Adhai-Din-ka-Jhonpra
mosque in Ajmer, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi, or, outside India,
the Jama Masjid of Damascus (which was a Christian cathedral).
the fact that Hindus used to keep on revering sacred sites even after mosques
had been built on them, is attested by foreigners like Niccolo Manucci
in the 17th and Alexander Cunningham in the 19th century.14
By contrast, the hypothesis that Hindus started laying an arbitrary claim
on a place firmly occupied by the Muslims (so that they courted repression
for no reason at all), is pretty fantastic and without parallel.
11.5. No direct evidence
The VHP evidence
bundle also contained a large number of quotes from ancient literature
to prove that the Rama cult is not a recent development, and that the status
of Ayodhya as a sacred city has been uninterrupted since at least 2000
years. The one thing that is missing is the ultimate clinching evidence:
a contemporary description of the forcible replacement of the temple with
the mosque. But even in the absence of this item of primary evidence,
the amount of secondary evidence is so overwhelming, coherent and uncontradicted,
that in another, less contentious historical search, it would be considered
It may be recalled
that, in the course of the public debate on the opinion pages of the newspapers,
the pro-BMAC polemists had at first demanded non-British evidence, because
the whole Janmabhoomi tradition was merely a British concoction. In
A. G. Noorani’s categorical words: “The myth is a 19th-century creation
by the British.”15
Next, they demanded
pre-19th-century evidence, because Hindus and Muslims had already “interiorized
the British propaganda” early in that century, as is clear from a number
of writings by local Muslims, brought to light by Prof. Harsh Narain.
Thus, Mirza Jan, a Muslim militant who participated in an attempt to wrest
from the Hindus another sacred site in Ayodhya, the Hanumangarhi, wrote
in 1856 that “a lofty mosque has been built by badshah Babar” on
“the original birthplace of Rama”, in application
of the rule that “where there was a big temple, a big mosque was constructed,
and where there was a small temple, a small mosque was constructed”.16 Therefore,
Muslim leader Mohammed Abdul Rahim Qureishi has asked the pro-Janmabhoomi
side “to produce any historical evidence, not only independent of the British
sources but also of the period prior to the advent of the 19th century”.17
But this type
of evidence was also produced: most publicly the Austrian Jesuit Joseph
Tieffenthaler’s 1767 account, presented by Mr. Abhas Kumar Chatterjee in
Indian Express. Tieffenthaler describes
how Hindus celebrated Ram Navami (commemorating Rama’s birth) just
outside the Babri Masjid, and recounts the local tradition that the mosque
was built in forcible replacement of Rama’s birthplace temple.18
It was also pointed
out that the Muslim writer Mirza Jan, already mentioned, had given an extensive
quotation from an (otherwise unknown) letter by a daughter of Aurangzeb’s
son and successor, Bahadur Shah. He quotes her as writing in about
1710 that the temples on the sacred sites of Shiva, Krishna and Rama (including
“Sita’s kitchen”, i.e. part of the Ramkot complex) “were all demolished
for the strength of Islam, and at all these places mosques have been constructed”. She
exhorted the Muslims to assert their presence at these mosques and not
to give in to Hindu compromise proposals.19
letter dated 1735 by a Faizabad qazi (judge) was shown, describing Hindu-Muslim
riots in Ayodhya over “the Masjid built by the emperor of Delhi”, i.e.
either a pre-Moghul sultan or Moghul dynasty founder Babar (Aurangzeb moved
the Moghul capital from Delhi/Agra to the Dekkhan). This is only
a secondary indication for the actual temple destruction, but it is first-hand
evidence for the existence of the Hindu claim on the Babri Masjid site
well before the 19th century. Only when this type of evidence was
shown, did the pro-BMAC polemists move on to demand strictly contemporary
About this demand
for eye-witness accounts, Arun Shourie has remarked: “Today a contemporary
account is being demanded in the case of the Babri Masjid. Are those
who make this demand prepared to accept this as the criterion - that if
a contemporary account exists of the destruction of a temple for constructing
a mosque, the case is made?” Shourie goes on to quote from Aurangzeb’s
court chronicles: “News came to Court that in accordance with the Emperor’s
command his officers had demolished the temple of Vishvanath at Benares
(2/9/1669)… In this month of Ramzan, the religious-minded Emperor ordered
the demolition of the temple at Mathura… In a short
time by the great exertions of his officers the destruction of this strong
centre of infidelity was accomplished... A grand mosque was built on its
site... (January 1670)”20 These accounts
are as contemporary as you can get.
“If the fact that a contemporary account of the temple at Ayodhya is not
available leaves the matter unsettled, does the fact that contemporary
accounts are available for the temples at Kashi, Mathura,
Pandharpur and a host of other places settle the matter? One has
only to ask the question to know that the ‘experts’ and ‘intellectuals’
will immediately ask for something else.”21
11.6. The anti-temple evidence
The BMAC presented
a pile of some eighty documents, which can be divided into three groups:
legal documents, statements of opinion, and historical documents.
The largest group
consists of court documents, from court disputes over the Rama-Janmabhoomi
and other contentious places in Ayodhya, most of them from the British
period, a few from after independence. However, what these court
documents prove is:
the Hindus kept on claiming the site in principle, even if for the time
being they were willing to settle for a licence to worship on a platform
just outside the contentious building;
the Muslim pleas always focused, not on questioning the temple destruction
tradition, but on the accomplished fact that they had owned the place for
centuries, long enough to create an ownership title no matter how
and from whom they had acquired it;
And thirdly, that
the British rulers did not want any raking-up of old quarrels, and therefore
upheld the status-quo, but without questioning the common belief that the
Masjid had replaced a Hindu temple.
have explicitly not subscribed to the thesis, now defended by the BMAC
and the BMMCC, that there had never been a Hindu temple on the contentious
spot. On the contrary, in his verdict in 1886
a British judge observed: “It is unfortunate that a mosque should have
been built on land held specially sacred by the Hindus, but as that happened
356 years ago, it is now too late to remedy the grievance.”22
So, the court verdicts that upheld the Muslim claim to the site (and have
been cited by the BM-AC scholars to this effect), by no means imply that
the judges doubted the contention that a temple had been demolished to
make way for this mosque. All the British sources, such as Edward
Balfour in 1858 and Archaeological Survey of India’s field explorer A.
Fuhrer in 1891, confirm the tradition that the Babri Masjid had replaced
a Rama temple.
One British source,
Francis Buchanan’s survey (written in 1810 and edited by Montgomery Martin
in 1838), has been quoted by pro-BMAC historians (who have otherwise dismissed
British testimonies as “prejudiced”, “part of a
British tactic to foment communalism” etc.) as calling the tradition of
the Rama-Janmabhoomi temple destruction “very ill-founded”.23
However, Buchanan did not denounce as ill-founded “the temple-destruction
theory”, as the BMAC historians claim, but only referred to the fact that
“the destruction is very generally attributed by the Hindus to the furious
zeal of Aurangzeb”, which allegation was
misdirected: as proof for Aurangzeb’s non-involvement Buchanan cites the
inscription attributing the mosque to Babar.24
As the last large-scale temple-destroyer, Aurangzeb had become the proverbial
representative of the old Islamic tradition of iconoclasm, which had already
destroyed thousands of temples before his own time.
that Babar had built the mosque not on empty land, but on the site of the
Ramkot “castle”, which to him may well have been the very castle in which
Rama himself had lived. This claim only differs from the local tradition
and the VHP position by being even bolder. According to him, the
black-stone pillars (with Hindu sculptures defaced by “the bigot” Babar)
incorporated in the Masjid had been “taken from the ruins of the palace”,
and at any rate from “a Hindu building”. Obviously,
the site was considered by the devotees as Rama’s court, originally a castle
and only later a temple.25
At any rate, the
quarrel over whether the Babri Masjid replaced a “castle” or a “temple”
is a false problem, considering Rama’s double-role as a God-King. Buchanan
gives no facts supporting an alternative origin for the Babri Masjid, and
upholds the essence of the local tradition, viz. that the Masjid has replaced
a Hindu building.26 The British judges have
consistently accepted the view of the British surveyors and scholars.
The second largest
group of BMAC documents consisted of book excerpts and newspaper articles,
mere statements of opinion. They give the well-known or at least
predictable opinions of politicians like Jawaharlal Nehru and Ramaswamy
Naicker, of secularist journalists like Arvind N. Das and Praful Bidwai,
of Marxist intellectuals like the JNU historians and Prof. R.S. Sharma
(who was invited to lead the BMAC team only after this first round).
In this collection of opinions, essentially four points have been argued:
Firstly, Rama was not a historical
may have been a historical character, but Ayodhya is not his real birthplace;
worship in Ayodhya is fairly recent, and hardly existed prior to the period
when the Babri Masjid was built;
Babri Masjid was not built in forcible replacement of a Rama temple.
However, the cited
opinions on each of these four points are not even convergent or in mutual
agreement. For instance, several authors say that the Babri Masjid
was built on empty land; others say it replaced a “Buddhist stupa”; yet
others say it replaced a Jaina temple, or a Shaiva temple, or a secular
building. About Rama’s birthplace, one source cited says Rama was
born in Nepal; another says it was in Afghanistan; yet another says it
was in Ayodhya, but on a different spot; one writer says that Rama was
in fact a pharaoh of Egypt. in all, the BMAC has given “proof” that Rama
was born at 8 different places.
speaking, these documents do not form a body of evidence supporting one
hypothesis. The BMAC has merely collected all kinds of opinions which
happen to be in conflict with the thesis that the Masjid replaced a Rama
temple, without minding that these opinions are also in conflict with each
other. Of course, this collection of contemporary, often politically
motivated articles and statements does not have any proof value.
At best, some of the names under the articles could constitute an “argument
of authority”, but even that is diluted by their juxtaposition with political
agitators and plain cranks. More than an argumentation, this presentation
of many conflicting opinions is a dispersionary tactic to keep the opposing
party busy with refuting the weirdest viewpoints.
An important feature
of the collected pro-BMAC opinions is that they have in fact limited themselves
to an attempt to discredit the evidence cited in favour of the Rama-Janmabhoomi
tradition. They have not given any evidence (valid or otherwise)
at all for an alternative scenario that explains the presence of the Babri
Masjid and the well-attested Hindu opposition against it. They
have tried to explain away the Janmabhoomi tradition by means of a conspiracy
theory: as the outcome of a 19th century rumour campaign by the British
rulers, out to “divide and rule”.27 In
fact, such a rumour campaign is totally unheard of in the well-documented
history of British India, and would have left testimonies which the pro-BMAC
historians have not been able to produce.28 It
is an ad hoc hypothesis based on nothing but the fond belief that
India’s “communal problem” is a British creation and not the necessary
result of any religious doctrine of hostility towards alternative forms
The only seemingly
valid point scored by some of the BMAC sympathizers cited in the BMAC evidence
bundle, is the argumentum e silentio that the temple destruction
is not mentioned in near-contemporary sources, notably Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari
and the poems of Tulsidas. However, neither Abul Fazl nor Tulsidas
have written catalogues of demolished temples or even just devoted some
pointed attention to the buildings of the cities mentioned in their works:
they are simply not the sources that are supposed to carry the required
information. Also, they are not really contemporary
with Babar, but with his grandson Akbar (around 1600 A.D.).30
For them too, the temple destruction was history, and the Babri Masjid
just one of the thousands of mosques built on demolished Hindu temples.
The third part
of the evidence bundle for the Babri Masjid side, is the historical evidence
properly speaking. It consists of three pieces.
One is the text
of the inscriptions on the Babri Masjid and its gate, declaring that the
mosque was built in 1528 by Mir Baqi, who worked under Babar’s command. Of
course the Hindu side has no quarrel with that: the Babri Masjid was built,
so it must have been built by someone. However, in spite of the inscription,
the identity of the Masjid’s builder happens to be disputable. It
has been argued (by Sushil Srivastava and R. Nath, independently)31 that,
judging from the architecture, the mosque must have been built during the
preceding Sultanate period. Sushil Srivastava even claims that the
inscription attributing the Masjid to Babar (or at least to his lieutenant
Mir Baqi), is a 19th-century forgery.32 At
any rate, the scenario that it was built under Babar is not in conflict
with the thesis that it was built in forcible replacement of a Rama temple.
This dispute is not about who built the mosque, but about what preceded
The second piece
is Babar’s memoirs. In it, no mention is made of a temple demolition
in Ayodhya. Unfortunately, the pages for the months when he must
have been in Ayodhya and perhaps also ordered the demolition of a Hindu
temple, are missing from the manuscripts. So we simply do not have
Babar’s own report on this matter. And if Sushil Srivastava and R.
Nath are right, Babar was not the builder and his testimony is irrelevant,
except insofar as it might explain why the already existing mosque got
attributed to him. For instance, the Afghan rulers (against whom
the invader Babar fought) or the city’s inhabitants may have defended Ayodhya
from the Ramkot hill, so that the existing mosque got damaged in the fighting
(Babar was the first one in India to use cannon), and was subsequently
rebuilt by Babar’s men. But all this will remain speculation, because
the relevant part of Babar’s report is missing.
third piece of BMAC evidence is Babar’s testament, in which he advises
his son Humayun to practise tolerance, to respect Hindu temples, and not
to kill cows. This statement of religious tolerance is very nice,
but unfortunately it has amply been proven to be a forgery.33
It is quite bizarre that scholars trying to prove a point discredit their
own case by using a proven forgery without any comment.
And even if Babar’s
testament had been genuine, it would only prove that at the end of his
life, Babar had got tired of the jihad which he had been waging (on top
of an inter-Muslim war), or that he had come to realize that a prosperous
kingdom would be better served by religious amity than by the intolerance
of which he himself had given sufficient proof during his life. Babar’s
emphatical concern for tolerance would certainly not prove that tolerance
had been his way all through his life.
There are Hindu
temple materials in mosques attributed to Babar in Sambhal (replacing a
Vishnu temple, and dated by archaeologists to the Sultanate period, just
like the Ayodhya “Babri” Masjid) and Pilakhana. Local tradition affirms
that the Babri Masjids in Palam, Sonipat, Rohtak, Panipat, and Sirsa have
replaced Brahminical or Jain temples. The contemporary Tarikh-i-Babari
describes how Babar’s troops “demolished many Hindu temples at Chanderi”
when they occupied it. Some tough jihad rhetoric has been preserved
from Babar’s war against the Rajputs, such as the quatrain:
sake, I wandered in the wild,
prepared for war with unbelievers
resolved myself to meet a
Thanks be to Allah! A ghazi
It is quite plain
that Babar, even when he had to fight fellow Muslims (the Afghan Lodi dynasty),
never lost sight of his duty of waging war against the infidels.
So, these three
documents do not prove that the Babri Masjid was built on something else
than a Rama temple. The two other groups of documents are not even
an attempt to give documentary or archaeological evidence, merely a collection
of sympathizing statements of opinion. What is worse, the whole collection
makes one wonder whether the BMAC experts had read it at all: not only
are many of the documents unconvincing or beside the point, but some even
support the VHP case.
Thus, a court
ruling of 1951 cites testimony of local Muslims that the mosque had not
been used since 1936, which means that in 1949 the Hindus took over an
unused building - hardly worth the current Babri Masjid movement with its
cries of “Islam in danger!” (or its newer version, “Secularism in danger!”)
and its hundreds of riot victims. On 3 March 1951, the Civil Judge
of Faizabad observed: “it further appears from a number of affidavits of
certain Muslim residents of Ayodhya that at least from 1936 onwards the
Muslims have neither used the site as a mosque nor offered prayers there... Nothing
has been pointed to discredit these affidavits.”35
Of course, even a judge may be misinformed on occasion; but at least, this
is the official view, enunciated by a Court of Law constituted under India’s
democratic legal system. In particular, those who have been lecturing
the Hindu movement on “abiding by the Constitution” and “respecting Court
verdicts” ought to show some respect for this Court verdict.
document shows that the ongoing court dispute (which is the only legal
obstacle to the replacement of the present structure with a proper temple)
was filed well past the legal time limit. In any case, while the
BMAC wants to rule out the British Gazetteers as evidence (because they
confirm that the Babri Masjid had replaced a temple), it cites court documents
which reproduce excerpts from the Gazetteers as evidence and declare in
so many words that Gazetteers are admissible as evidence. A number
of court rulings record that Hindus relentlessly kept on claiming the site,
“most sacred” to them, and made do with as near a site as possible under
prevalent power equations: this refutes the BMAC claim that the Rama-Janmabhoomi
tradition is a recent invention for political purposes, whether colonial
“divide and rule” or Hindu “communalism”.
leading political analyst Arun Shourie has commented: “On reading the papers
the BMAC had filed as ‘evidence’, I could only conclude, therefore, that
either its leaders had not read the papers themselves, or that they had
no case and had just tried to over-awe or confuse the government etc. by
dumping a huge miscellaneous heap.”36
When asked in
public forums about the results of the scholars’ debate, both Prof. Irfan
Habib (historian at Aligarh Muslim University) and Subodh Kant Sahay (who
was the Home Minister at the time of the debate) have declared that “the
VHP has run away from the debate”. Leading newspapers have refused
to publish denials of this allegations In fact, this unfounded allegation
provides an interesting illustration of the psychology of lies. Liars
are often not very creative, and they tend to say things that are partly
inspired on the truth. Thus, Prof. Habib and Mr. Sahay are perfectly
right in alleging that the debate has ended because one of the parties
has “run away from the debate”: to that extent, their version is transparent
of the truth. Only, it is not the VHP but the BMAC which has turned
its back on the debate.
11.7. The anti-temple debating
actual course of the debate both in the official forum and in the media
could have suggested some conclusions even to non-historians (like the
Supreme Court judges who refused to pronounce an opinion on it in 1994).
The debate has not genuinely altered the old consensus, but it has been
an interesting case-study in manipulation by unscrupled academics.
That, at least, seems to be a fair description of learned publications
advertising themselves as “objective” studies of the controversy, but systematically
concealing the arguments put forth by one of the parties.
The VHP has published
its argumentation including a detailed refutation of the Babri Masjid Action
Committee’s arguments, and like-minded scholars have published detailed
presentations of specific types of evidence (e.g. Prof. Harsh Narain and
Prof. R. Nath; note how the VHP, lacking a think-tank of its own, was dependent
on the help of people with no prior connection to it). By contrast,
the BMAC, which had the support of the Indian Council of Historical Research
led by Aligarh historian Prof. Irfan Habib and of a team of scholars led
by Prof. R.S. Sharma, has not felt sufficiently satisfied with its own
performance in the official debate to publish its argumentation.
Its numerous supporters have chosen not to refer to the debate at all and
to keep the argumentation of their serious opponents out of view.
top academics have chosen the poorest Hindutva pamphlettists as their opponents
and made some, fun of cranky but irrelevant claims which go around in the
semi-literate fringe of the Hindu movement. One point they like to
highlight is the spurious claim that on 22 December 1949, the idols “miraculously
appeared” in the disputed building. I do not know of anyone who would
affirm that except tongue in cheek, but given that placing the idols could
be construed as a criminal offence, it has nonetheless been affirmed -
as an obvious ad hoc fable for purposes of self-exculpation. But
note that this miracle story has long gone out of fashion: in an interview
in the New York Times, “Abbot Ram Chander Das Paramahams of an Ayodhya
akhara declared openly that he was the one who had put the image inside
fairly common tactic was to lump the temple argumentation with the fringe
school led by P.N. Oak, which holds that every indo-Muslim building (e.g.
the Taj Mahal)38 was in fact a Hindu temple,
not demolished but only transformed. However, this school happened
to have aligned itself with the eminent historians against the VHP. Oak
himself explained that the Babri Masjid itself was built by Hindus as a
temple, that “Babar had nothing to do with the Babri Masjid”, and that
neither the Moghul nor any other Muslim ruler had demolished a Hindu temple
at the site.39 Oak’s version of history is
of a kind with the contrived scenarios thought up by the eminent historians.
of this school, Jeevan Kulkarni from Bombay, claimed that the Babri Masjid
was a Hindu temple built by Hindus before the Muslim conquest. He
even approached the Supreme Court to obtain permission to prove his point
by means of thermo-luminescence and other advanced archaeological techniques,
as well as an injunction to solve the dispute by preserving the building
(as Muslims demand, in the “mistaken” belief that the building was built
as a mosque) but allotting it to the Hindus to serve as the “restored”
Rama temple which it was meant to be when it was built. Again, this
school was wrongly identified with the VHP position.
A similar tactic
was to associate the Ayodhya evidence with the eccentric theory of the
non-historian Bal Gangadhar Tilak, later adapted by the non-historian Madhav
Sadashiv Golwalkar in his young days, that the Aryans came from the Arctic (Tilak’s
attempt to harmonize the Aryan invasion theory with traditional Vedic chronology)
or that India itself had been in the Arctic zone then (Golwalkar’s attempt
to harmonize Tilak with Aryan indigenousness).40
These ideas are simply unrelated to the more recent history of Hindu-Muslim
conflict, and are only brought into the discussion in order to strengthen
the contrast between Hindu amateurishness and secularist professionalism:
“After R.C. Majumdar, the communal interpretation has been relegated to
the world of school-level textbooks, made-easies, popular
magazines, newspapers and comic strips”, - meaning that the positions of
prestige had been captured by India’s secularists who imposed denial of
Hindu-Muslim conflict as the orthodox explanation.41 This
is an argument not of authority but of status.42
This way, India’s
topmost academics and journalists have avoided confronting the real evidence
and concentrated on attacking straw men instead. It is clearly an
application of Mao Zedong’s dictum: “Attack where the enemy is weak, retreat
where the enemy is strong.” That may be a legitimate principle in warfare,
but in scholarship the goal is not to score points but to establish the
11.8. More on the British concoction
eminent JNU historians have claimed that “it is in the nineteenth century
that the story circulates and enters official records. These records
were then cited by others as valid historical evidence on the issue.”43
A few years earlier, they were still far more circumspect before making
this assertion. in the early days of the Ayodhya dispute, in a letter to
the Times of India, a group of JNU academics wrote: “it
would be worth enquiring whether there is reliable historical evidence
of a period prior to nineteenth century for this association of a precise
location with the birthplace of Rama.”44
A.G. Noorani comments on the letter: “They were absolutely right.
The myth is a nineteenth century creation by the British.”45
Note however that in their 1986 letter, the JNU historians had only suggested
this in question format, but later many of them, like Noorani in this passage,
have asserted it quite affirmatively.
Noorani then quotes
a letter by Indrajit Dutta and nine others: “The belief that the disputed
place of worship in Ayodhya is a mosque built after destroying a temple
consecrating Rama’s birthplace originates in the first half of the 19th
century. In 1813 John Leyden, a British historian, published
his Memoirs of Zehir-ed-din, Muhammad Babar, Emperor of Hindustan
(A translation of Babar’s memoirs in Persian). In it Leyden had contended
that Babar had passed through Ayodhya in March 1528 during his campaign
against the Pathans. This ‘historical evidence’ of Babar’s presence
in the area was destroyed by later British authorities to propagate the
belief that the ‘anti-Hindu’ Babar had destroyed the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple
and got a mosque built on the spot - though Leyden’s work makes no mention
of it. Sushil Srivastava of the Department of Medieval and Modern
History, University of Allahabad, has worked extensively on the history
of Avadh. He substantiates his findings to
show how the British authorities, specifically Colonel Sleeman, then resident
of Lucknow, anxious to justify the annexation of Avadh, exploited. this
controversy superbly at a time when rumblings of the 1857 mutiny were ominous.”46
Remark the illogical
claim that the British “destroyed” the document cited by Leyden to substantiate
his hypothesis (and the local tradition) that Babar had passed through
the town of Ayodhya, when that very document and that very hypothesis would
support the theory that Babar destroyed a Hindu temple in Ayodhya, precisely
the theory which the ten signatories try to “unmask” as a British concoction.
The claim that the British deliberately “destroyed” this or any other historical
evidence is also unsupported by any evidence.
This is all the
more serious considering the fact that the British archives provide a much
more complete testimony of the British policies than anything from the
earlier periods, and considering the ten signatories’ own contention that
their friend Sushil Srivastava has made a detailed study of the British
machinations in Avadh. There is little doubt that the British resident
was implementing policies designed to bring Avadh under British control,
but what is very much in doubt (at any rate totally unsubstantiated) is
the claim that he used temple history concoctions to that end.
There is actually
some evidence to the opposite effect. P. Carnegy wrote in 1970 that
up to 1855 both Hindus and Muslims worshipped at the mosque, which led
to a lot of friction, until the British separated them: “It is said that
up to that time [viz. the Hindu-Muslim clashes in the 1850s] the Hindus
and Mohamedans alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Since
the British rule a railing has been put up to prevent dispute, within
which, in the mosque the Mohamedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus
have raised a platform on which they make their offerings.”47 As
Peter Van der Veer comments on Carnegy’s testimony, against the British
concoction hypothesis: “The suggestion that the local tradition is entirely
invented by the British thus seems disingenuous.”48
To quote Van der
Veer in full: “The implication here is that the British found the ‘facts’
that fitted their master narrative of the perpetual hostility between Hindus
and Muslims. (…) One of the problems with the above argument is that the
British were not very interested in the Hindu history of Ayodhya.
The most important British archaeologist of India in the nineteenth century
was Alexander Cunningham. He did come to Ayodhya, not to dig up evidence
of Hindu-Muslim enmity but to look for the Buddhist monuments of Saketa/
Ayodhya - monuments that nobody locally was interested in, then or now.
Patrick Carnegy, the commissioner, argued that the pillars of the mosque
- which are now ascribed to a Hindu temple by [B.B.] Lal and others - strongly
resemble Buddhist pillars, although he did accept the local tradition that
Babar built his mosque on the ‘birthplace’ temple. However, he also
accepted the local tradition that Hindus and Muslims used to worship together
in this mosque-temple until the disturbances of 1855. The
suggestion that the local tradition is entirely invented by the British
thus seems disingenuous.”49
scholars had a strong pro-Buddhist bias in their India studies (setting
a trend which continues till today), and the first Ayodhya surveyors display
the same intellectual fashion, rather than the politically more useful
interest in Hindu-Muslim friction. The dozens of scholars who have
floated the British concoction hypothesis are faced with a total absence
of 19th-century data supporting it.
the first British commissioner in Faizabad and still very close in time
to the episode of communal violence (1852-57) and the British take-over
after the Mutiny (1857-58), would have emphasized Hindu-Muslim conflict
if the British concoction hypothesis had been true. Instead, he highlights
the relative Hindu-Muslim harmony which existed shortly before the time
of the British take-over.
This moment of
harmony may well have been exceptional and may have to be explained by
the Muslim rulers’ need to strengthen their position against British ambitions.
But at any rate it was a fact which the British would not have highlighted
if they had wanted to base their divide-and-rule policy on false history
of Hindu-Muslim conflict. Moreover, if they had wanted to use historical
cases of Hindu-Muslim tension to foment more such tension in their own
day; they could have invoked numerous certified instances rather
than having to invent any.
11.9. Archaeological evidence
The only serious
comment on the VHP evidence bundle published in the national press (but
still not reporting the outcome of the evidence debate) was a derogatory
piece by Bhupendra Yadav in The Tribune. In his despair at
finding that “proven secularists”, like R. Nath and B.B. Lal, “are now
nodding assent to the argument for Ram Janmabhoomi”, Yadav does try to
propose an alternative to the temple destruction scenario. Acknowledging
Lal’s archaeological finding of 11th-century temple foundations underneath
the Babri Masjid, he comes up with the following explanation: “After they
occupied Ayodhya in 1194 AD, the Turkish sultans found a vacant mound at
Ramkot in which lay buried the burnt pillar bases. The sultans encouraged
settlements of Muslims on the mound (... ) To help
these Muslims pray, officials of the Babar regime built a mosque in 1528
nice little scenario is of course purely hyothetical and unsupported by
any document whatsoever, but that doesn’t seem to trouble him. At
any rate, after the cream of India’s secularist historians have used all
their resources to create a semblance of credibility for the no-temple
case, all that Bhupendra Yadav can come up with, is the hypothesis that:
1) the Hindus of Ayodhya had left the geographical place of honour in the
middle of their city “vacant”, unlike the people of every other city in
the whole world; 2) they had laid the foundations (the pillar-bases of
burnt brick) for a pillared building which they never constructed, and
waited for others to come and put these foundations to proper use.
This hypothesis is pretty farfetched. But at least Mr. Yadav has
the merit of explicitating what most people who deny the temple destruction
scenario only claim by implication.
A similar howler
was launched by archaeologist D. Mandal of Allahabad University in his
booklet Ayodhya Archaeology after Demolition (1993). In the
first week of July 1992, a team of eight reputed archaeologists, including
former ASI directors Dr. Y.D. Sharma and Dr. K.M. Srivastava, had paid
a visit to the Ramkot hill in Ayodhya. They went there to verify
and evaluate the findings done by labourers who had been clearing the area
around the Babri Masjid on orders of the Uttar Pradesh Department of Tourism.
The findings included religious sculptures, among them a statue of Vishnu
(of whom Rama is considered an incarnation), and a lot of rubble thrown
together in a deep cavity in front of the Babri Masjid structure. Team
members said the inner boundary of the disputed structure rests, at least
on one side, on an earlier existing structure, which “may have belonged
to an earlier temple”.51 They pleaded for
a more systematic survey of the entire hill.
Mandal dismisses the post-demolition (and pre-demolition)52 archaeological
evidence for the temple as invalid because not unearthed in a scientific
excavation: they “cannot be placed in context since the stratigraphical
evidence is destroyed by arbitrary digging or willful destruction”.53
By that criterion, much of Egyptian and Harappan history should also be
nullified retroactively. Even a few decades ago, archaeological methods
were unscientific by present-day standards, and the older findings were
therefore not as transparent in terms of stratigraphy and chronology as
desirable, yet the artifacts found were still real and did allow for certain
conclusions even if less compelling or precise.
seems to be trying to over-awe the lay reader with a distinction between
strata which is very important in digging at prehistorical sites but becomes
far less crucial in more recent sites, where the objects found are known
“in context” because a lot of written evidence attests to their use and
meaning and chronology. When you find different types of prehistoric
stone tools, proper stratigraphy is essential if you want to know their
chronological sequence. But when you find (a) a paleolithic flintstone
scraper, (b) a medieval metal saw, and (c) a modern electrical sawing-machine,
you can safely deduce that (a) precedes (b) which in turn precedes (c),
even if the stratigraphy of the site had been messed up. Likewise,
it is not difficult to distinguish Hindu art from Muslim art. it would
be for a Martian who knows neither religion, but not for us who are familiar
with both religions and their art histories.
at pre-literate sites from unknown cultures, the objects in Ayodhya were
certainly found “in context”. For starters, they were Hindu objects
found at a site where, after centuries of Hindu presence, a mosque had
been built. Even if stratigraphically less than perfect, the fact
of this multifarious evidence’s existence, certified by a number of leading
archaeologists, is undeniable.
also tries to impose a contrived explanation on Prof. B.B. Lal’s old pillar-bases
evidence, claiming that these pillar-bases were “certainly not contemporaneous
with one another” nor even “components of a single structure”.54
This would mean that every now and then, these inconsistent Hindus or Muslims
just made a hole in the ground, arbitrarily planted a pillar-base somewhere,
never to build a pillar on it, then forgot about it till a few decades
later, another joker repeated this meaningless ritual, coincidentally yielding
an orderly pattern of pillar-bases. This is secularist archaeology
strange line of argument which Mandal uses, is this: he first claims that
a demolition must have involved the use of fire, then notes that “neither
are there traces of burning, expected when military destruction occurs”.55
Now, apart from the fact that fire would mostly affect the overground parts
while we are only left with the underground remainder, the point is that
no one insists that the temple was destroyed by fire. Numerous mosques
stand on Hindu temples which were demolished alright without being burnt
down. Indeed, any Kar Sevak could have told Prof. Mandal that there
are other ways to demolish a building. Could it be that Mandal is
only refuting his own straw-man hypotheses because he cannot face the real
the rest, he repeats the worn-out trick of using the non-mentioning of
certain facts in B.B. Lal’s brief (i.e. by definition incomplete)
report to “contradict” B.B. Lal’s and S.P. Gupta’s recent revelations of
findings which would only appear in the full report.56
The fact of the matter is that the full report of B.B. Lal’s findings was
withheld from publication, and that the brief report which the journalists
had seen explicitly refrains from giving details of the medieval findings. It
is quite odd to use the brief version of the report to disprove the detailed
version of the same report’s relevant part which B.B. Lal himself
had just made public.57
That the full
report is still unpublished, is most likely because the secularist authorities
objected to its findings. As Peter Van der Veer reported: “However,
in this case the government has not allowed the Department of Archaeology
to provide evidence. it has thus fallen to B.B. Lal to do so.”58
same counts for the inscription found during the demolition, which clearly
mentions that the site was considered Rama’s birthplaces.59
At the time, many academics declared without any examination that the inscription,
presented by scholars of no lesser stature than themselves, was a forgery.
Thus, according to “a group of historians and scholars” including Kapil
Kumar, B.D. Chattopadhyaya, K.M. Shrimali, Suvira
Jaiswal and S.C. Sharma, the “so-called discoveries of artefacts” during
and after the demolition were “a planned fabrication and a fraud perpetrated,
to further fundamentalist designs”.60
If the secularists
had really believed this, they would have requested access to the findings,
which would readily have been granted by the minister in charge, the militant
secularist Arjun Singh. They would have invited international scholars
as witnesses, and curtly demonstrated its falseness for all to see. instead,
just like B. B. Lal’s report, this inscription became a skeleton in their
closet, which they have to keep from public view as long as possible.
In fact, the BMAC
and secularist side has frequently opposed archaeological research at the
site, while the Hindu side wanted more of it, e.g.: “Nevertheless, in a
BBC interview in 1991, [B.B.] Lal argued that there had been a Hindu temple
for Rama/Vishnu on the spot now occupied by the mosque and that pillars
of that temple had been used in constructing the [Masjid]. Lal
suggested that further digging should be carried out in order to come up
with more evidence - a suggestion that was denounced in the press by the
historian Irfan Habib and others as a ploy to demolish the mosque.”61
The whole anti-temple
argumentation has nothing more to offer than such pitiable attempts to
wriggle out from under the weight of inconvenient evidence. Only
media power has so far saved the “eminent historians” and their ilk from
11.10. “The Shariat does not allow
nationalists like K.R. Malkani, along with some secularists and Muslims,
have often tried to convince us that Islam itself opposes the demolition
of non-Muslim places of worship. They even argue that a mosque built
on a demolished Hindu temple would be unlawful under Islamic law.
The authority claimed as basis for this offer is the injunction in the
Fatawa-i-Alamgiri (Aurangzeb’s codex of applied Islamic jurisprudence):
“it is not permissible to build a mosque on unlawfully acquired land.
There may be many forms of unlawful acquisition. For instance, if
some people forcibly take somebody’s house and build a mosque or even a
jama masjid on it, then namaz in such a mosque will be against
to the context, this might be read as a prohibition on forcibly replacing
Hindu temples with mosques. Sushil Srivastava has even used this
injunction as “proof” that mosques simply cannot have been built in forcible
replacement of temples. He writes that “the Quran clearly states
that prayers offered in a contentious place will not be accepted (…) Thus,
the whole purpose of constructing a masjid on the site of a mandir
would be self-defeating (…) it is highly unlikely that even the contentious
mosques in Varanasi and Mathura are located on the exact sites of
Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi is very certainly located on the exact site
of the Vishvanath temple, and visibly includes remains of the old temple
walls. Numerous other examples can be cited from inside and outside
of India, and more cases keep on being discovered.63
To mention two less-known cases from Iran, the Masjid-i-Biruñ in
Abarquh and the Jami Masjid of Aqda (still a Zoroastrian
centre of pilgrimage with a shrine in use on a mountain outside the town),
“whose origin may be traced back to fire-temples” of the Zoroastrians.64
The author reporting on them correctly introduces his finding thus: “In
the Islamic world many places of worship belonging to the earlier religion
have been converted to mosques.”
As is clear from
the Islamic law books, and as Prof. Harsh Narain has shown, the injunction
against building mosques on unlawfully acquired land only applies to inter-Muslim
disputes, because it was quite lawful and in fact
also quite common to have mosques built on temple sites grabbed from Hindus
and other heathens.65 Indeed, the forcible
takeover of non-Muslim religious places is a practice initiated by Prophet
Mohammed himself. The best example of the practice is the Kaaba itself,
a Pagan shrine forcibly transformed into the central mosque of Islam.
11.11. Tampering with the evidence
In its presentation
of evidence in the Government sponsored scholars’ debate in December 1990,
the VHP scholars have pointed out 4 cases of attempted fraud by their opponents,
attempts by BMAC sympathizers to conceal, obliterate or change evidence:
removing relevant old books from libraries, adding words on an old map.
Recent editions of Urdu books (by Maulvi Abdul Karim and by Shaikh Md.
Azamat Ali Nami) have suppressed chapters or passages relating the temple
destruction on Ramkot hill which were present in earlier editions or in
the manuscript. In an English translation of a book by Maulana Hakim
Saiyid Abdul Hai, the relevant passages present in the Urdu original had
been censored out, and an effort was discovered to remove all the copies
of the Urdu original from the libraries.
On maps included
in the Settlement Record of 1861, which describe the disputed area as Janamsthan,
“birthplace”, someone had added “Babari Masjid”; the interpolation was
obvious after comparison with a copy of the document kept in another office.
The fact that this official document could be tampered with, may well be
related to the fact that the then Revenue Minister of Uttar Pradesh was
an office-bearer of the BMAC.
In my opinion,
these petty and clumsy attempts to tamper with the corpus of evidence,
are child’s play compared with the concealment of evidence by professional
scholars sympathetic to the Babri Masjid cause. In their publications
on this dispute, A.A. Engineer and Prof. S. Gopal have simply kept all
the inconvenient (mainly pre-British) testimonies out of the picture, and
just acted as if these did not exist. In his
reply to the anti-Janmabhoomi statement The Political Abuse of History
by 25 historians of JNU, Prof. A.R. Khan shows grounds to accuse the
eminent JNU historians of “not only concealment but also distortion
It is not unfair
to conclude that some of the pro-BMAC authors have committed serious breaches
of academic deontology. For me personally, seeing this shameless
overruling of historical evidence with a high-handed use of academic and
media power, was the immediate reason to involve myself in this controversial
A.K. Chatterjee had presented the testimony by 18-century traveller Father
Tieffenthaler as evidence, Syed Shahabuddin revealed in his reply that
he possessed a copy of this text (in German translation) and that he was
thoroughly familiar with the text.67 This
seems to imply that while he was challenging his opponents to come up with
any pre-British evidence, he was fully aware that such evidence did exist
(or at the very least a document which might reasonably be claimed to contain
such evidence, even if one were to be persuaded by Shahabuddin’s extremely
contrived attempt to explain it away), but remained sitting on top of it
in the hope that nobody would discover it.
The above are
cases where the attempts to suppress evidence have failed. It is
quite probable that other attempts have succeeded. There may well
be documents containing pertinent information, particularly about the site’s
history during the Sultanate period (1206-1525), which have escaped the
notice of Prof. Harsh Narain (the only scholar of Persian and Arabic in
the VHP team) because they had been removed in time from the places where
they could normally be found. Such documents would mostly be in Persian
and available only in the libraries of Muslim institutions. In some
of these, Prof. Harsh Narain has effectively been denied access as soon
as his involvement in the Ayodhya argument became known. How many
pieces of pertinent material have been concealed, removed, destroyed or
altered is anybody’s guess.
result of the Ayodhya evidence debate is still not widely known.
Most of the Indian English-language papers, as well as the official electronic
media, have all along been on the side of the BMAC, and they have strictly
kept the lid on this information. Their reporting on the scholars’
debate has been very partial and, from the moment the BMAC’s defeat became
clear, increasingly vague.
If any proof is
needed that the BMAC has been defeated in this de e, it is this: no one
sympathetic to the Babri Masjid cause has made any reference to the outcome
of this debate all through the subsequent years, eventhough the Ayodhya
issue frequently reappeared in the news. Politicians have made a
show of their “secularism” and their opposition to “religious fanaticism”
by organizing “fact-finding missions” to Ayodhya and issuing statements
on the dispute, but they have not made any reference to the outcome of
the scholars’ debate at all. When reading about the subsequent course
of the Ayodhya controversy, one might get the impression that the scholars’
debate never took place.
However, it did
take place, and it has yielded sufficient evidence to consider the matter
as practically closed. The Babri Masjid was built in forcible replacement
of a Hindu temple. With the historical question decided, that leaves
only the political question to be resolved.
question has not been the topic of this paper, but for those who care to
know, I may briefly state my position. The Rama-Janmabhoomi site
has been a Hindu sacred site since many centuries. Even the JNU historians
admit that it was a pilgrimage site since the 13th century. It may
have been one since much earlier, but alright: Catholic pilgrimage sites
like Lourdes and Fatima are not even two centuries old and still they are
respected. So, seven centuries is quite sufficient to certify its
status of sanctity. Today, judges and governments in Australia, New
Zealand and the Americas are increasingly conceding the right of indigenous
communities to restart worship at their sacred sites. Considering
the human right to freedom of religion, it is obvious that communities
have a right to their sacred sites, and no modem and humane person would
ever countenance thwarting this right for other than the most compelling
So, it is completely
evident that Hindus have a right to use and properly adorn their own sacred
sites, including Rama-Janmabhoomi at Ayodhya. The problem with Ayodhya,
the cause of all this rioting and waste of lives and political energy,
is not that Hindus want to adorn their own sacred site with proper temple
architecture: that is the most normal thing in the world. The problem
is that another party, the Islamist-Christian-Marxist combine in India,
is trying to obstruct this perfectly unobjectionable project of architectural
renovation. Against the near-universal consensus that all sacred
sites are to be respected, Islam is taking the position that it has the
right to occupy and desecrate the sacred sites of other religions.
Genuine secularists must oppose and thwart this obscurantist design, and
allow the normal process of Hindu architectural renovation to take its
Elst: “The Ayodhya debate”, in Gilbert Pollet, ed.: Indian Epic Values.
Râmâyana and Its Impact, Peeters, Leuven 1995. As
is all too common with conference proceedings, this book was assembled
only three years after the conference, so the published version of my paper
was finalized only in 1994.
the 1961 Faizabad Gazetteer, Mrs. E.B. Joshi, while not yet denying the
traditional account relayed in the earlier Gazetteers, suppresses it without
giving any reason for doing so, probably on orders of the Government of
India under Jawaharlal Nehru. But neutral scholarly publications
like the 1989 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittannica (entry Ayodhya)
confirm the temple destruction scenario.
of the first scholarly publications on the dispute was my Ram Janmabhoomi
vs. Babri Masjid, A Case Study in Hindu-Muslim Conflict (Voice of India,
Delhi, July 1990), partly a reply to the statement The Political Abuse
of History: Babri Masjid/Rama Janmabhumi Controversy, by Bipin Chandra
and 24 other historians of Jawaharlal Nehru University. A large part
of my book has been included in Vinay Chandra Mishra and Parmanand Singh,
eds.: Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid, Historical Documents, Legal Opinions
& Judgments, Bar Council of India Trust, Delhi 1991.
VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad, “World Hindu Council”) was founded in 1964
by Guru Golwalkar, chief of the Rashtriya Swayarwevak Sangh (RSS,
“National Volunteer Corps”) as an instrument for the spread of Hindu culture
and religion. It takes its guidelines from an assembly of traditional
B.B. Lal has formulated this conclusion on different occasions, including
articles in Purâtitattva no. 16, 1987, and in Manthan,
October 1990. In a letter to the Times of India, published on 1-3-1991,
he concludes that “what is known as Ayodhya today was indeed the Ayodhya
of the Valmiki Ramayana”.
Kamal Salibi of Beirut has proposed the theory that all the Biblical sites
including Abraham’s Hebron and king David’s Jerusalem, were situated in
the Hejaz area of Western Arabia (in his 1985 book The Bible Came from
Arabia: a Radical Reinterpretation of Old Testament Geography).
The double political motivation is obvious: undermining Israel’s historical
legitimacy and giving a foundation to Islam’s claim to an Abrahamic heritage
including the Ka’aba. Established Bible scholars have dismissed
this theory as wishful thinking.
Ayodhya dispute and the Rushdie affair are indeed connected. The
ban on The Satanic Verses was part of a package of concessions by
the Rajiv Gandhi Government to calm down Syed Shahabuddin, who had threatened
a Muslim “march on Ayodhya” on the same day when the VHP would hold a rally
for rebuttal from Shahabuddin’s own monthly Muslim India by Harsh Narain
in his article Ram Janmabhoomi: Muslim Testimony, published in the
Lucknow Pioneer (5-2-90) and in Indian Express (26-2-90),
and included in S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.1, 2nd ed., Voice
of India, Delhi 1998. In the ensuing debate between Prof. Narain,
Mr. A.K. Chatterjee and Syed Shahabuddin, the latter has never denied nor
cancelled his offer.
R.S. Sharma: Communal History and Rama’s Ayodhya, People’s Publishing
House, Delhi 1990.
Sharma et al.: Ramjanmabhumi Babari Masjid, A Historians’ Report to
the Nation, People’s Publishing House, Delhi 1991, p.4.
VHP evidence bundle, its rebuttal of the BMAC argumentation, a press brief,
and some articles generally supporting the VHP viewpoint, have been published
as History versus Casuistry, Evidence of the Ramajanmabhoomi Mandir
presented by the Vishva Hindu Parishad to the Government of India in December-January
1990-91, Voice of India, Delhi 199 1. Most of it was also included
in Sita Ram Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 1, at least in its 2nd edition, Voice
of India, Delhi 1998. The BMAC evidence bundle has not been published.
Durant: Story of Civilization, vol. 1, New York 1972, p.459.
incorporation of Hindu temple materials in mosques is cynically held up
as a showpiece of “composite culture” and a “living evidence of secularism”
by the friends of Islam such as Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar, cited to
this effect by Swapan Dasgupta, Sunday, 10-5-1992.
testimony to the same effect is also given by the Portuguese historian
Gaspar Correa, who describes how Hindus continued their annual procession
to the site of the Kapalishwara temple on Mylapore beach (Madras), even
after the temple had been forcibly replaced with a Catholic church, vide
Ishwar Sharan: The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple,
Voice of India, p.18-19 (1st ed., 1991) or p-93-94 (2nd ed., 1995).
Noorani: “The Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Question” (originally published
in Economic and Political Weekly), in A.A. Engineer ed.: Babri
Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, AJanta, Delhi 1990, p.66.
Jan: Hadiqa-i Shahada (“The garden of martyrdom”), Lucknow 1856, included
in the VHP evidence bundle: History vs. Casuistry, Voice of India,
Delhi 1991, p.14.
Chatterjee: “Ram Janmabhoomi: some more evidence”, Indian Express,
27-3-1990. It is included, with the whole ensuing polemical exchange
with Syed Shahabuddin, as appendix 4 in History versus Casuistry.
title of the princess’s text is given as Sahifa-i Chahal Nasaih Bahadur
Shahi (Persian: “Letter of the Forty Advices of Bahadur Shah”).
It is included in the VHP evidence bundle: History vs. Casuistry,
Spear has the effrontery to declare: “Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance
is little more than a hostile legend” (Penguin History of India,
vol.2, p.56). The contemporary records show Aurangzeb as a pious man who
faithfully practised his religion and therefore persecuted the unbelievers
and destroyed their temples by the thousands. About the denial of
Islamic crimes against humanity, vide Sita Ram Goel: Story of Islamic
Imperialism in India, Voice of India, Delhi 1984.
Shourie: “Take over from the experts”, syndicated column, included in History
versus Casuistry as appendix 1, and in A. Shourie: Indian Controversies,
ASA, Delhi 1992, p.411-418.
by the VHP-mandated experts in their rejoinder to the BMAC: History
vs. Casuistry, p.61.
text does not figure in the original BMAC evidence bundle, but its words
“very ill-founded” are quoted by Prof. Irfan Habib in a speech to the Aligarh
Historians Group (12/2/1992, published in Muslim India, 5/1991).
The paragraph containing these words (but not the entire relevant passage)
is quoted by R.S. Sharma, M. Athar Ali, D.N. Jha and Suraj Bhan, the historians
for the BMAC, in their joint publication: Ramjanmabhumi Babari Masjid,
A Historians’ Report to the Nation, People’s Publishing House, Delhi,
May 1991, p.20-21.
in Harsh Narain: The Ayodhya Temple/Mosque Dispute, Penman, Delhi
1993, p.8, emphasis added. Father Joseph Tieffenthaler records that
the temple destruction was being attributed to Aurangzeb by some, to Babar
by others, but this minor confusion never affected the consensus that the
mosque had forcibly replaced a Hindu temple.
1608, William Finch (quoted in the VHP evidence bundle: History vs.
Casuistry, p. 19) had witnessed the “ruins of Ramkot”, i.e. of the
Hindu temple which kept alive the tradition that that very site had once
been Rama’s castle. The entire hill was called Ramkot, “Rama’s castle”,
and the temple complex was certainly larger than the Babri Masjid, so that
Finch may well have seen some leftovers still standing there beside the
Buchanan’s report has been put into perspective by Mr. A.K. Chatterjee,
in an article intended as an episode of his Ayodhya debate with Syed Shahabuddin
on the opinion page of the Indian Express, sent on 14-8-1990 but
not published; but included in History versus Casuistry, appendix
instance, Syed Shahabuddin blames “propaganda by the British” (Indian
Express, 12-5-1990), and according to Md. Abdul Rahim Qureshi,
secretary of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, “the Britishers...
planted false stories and succeeded in misleading the masses to believe
that Babri Masjid stood in the premises of a Rama temple which was demolished
by Babar” (Indian Express, 13-3-1990).
a rebuttal of the British conspiracy hyothesis, vide K. Elst: “Party-line
history-writing”, The Pioneer (Lucknow edition), 19/20-12-1990,
reproduced in History vs. Casuistry, app.6.
should be borne in mind that the Qur’an contains dozens of injunctions
to wage war against the unbelievers, e.g.: “Make war on them until idolatry
is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme” (2:193 and 8:39); “Those
who follow Mohammed are merciless to the unbelievers but kind to one another”
(48:29); “Enmity and hate shall reign between us until ye believe in Allah
alone” (60:4), etc. The same attitude is found in the jihad
chapters of the Hadis collections and the Islamic law codices. In
Indian history, these verses and the precedent set by the Prophet have
been systematically invoked to justify persecutions and temple demolitions.
Noorani (A.A. Engineer ed.: Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy,
p.65) claims that Tulsidas “was over thirty in 1528 when the mosque was
built. He lived and wrote his great work [the Rama-Charit Manas]
in Ayodhya.” In fact, he wrote it in Varanasi, on what is now called Tulsi
Ghat, and he died in 1623, which means that he was born after 1528.
Srivastava: The Disputed Mosque, Vistaar Publ., Delhi 1991, ch.5;
R. Nath: The Babari Masjid of Ayodhya, Historical Research Documentation
Programme, Jaipur 1991. The latter has clearly stated that this revision
of who built the Masjid, in no way invalidates the claim that it had replaced
a Hindu temple: “I have been to the site and have had occasion to study
the mosque, privately, and I have absolutely no doubt that the mosque stands
on the site of a Hindu temple on the north-western corner of the temple-fortress
Ramkot.” (letter in Indian Express, 2-1-91)
(in A.A. Engineer ed.: Babari Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy,
p.36) quotes Shamsur Rehman Farooqui, a scholar of Persian, who considers
the inscription written in a younger style of calligraphy common in the
19th century, and by someone not well-versed in Persian. The latter
observation may as well be explained by the fact that Babar’s Turkish scribes
had only recently learned Persian; whereas most literate Muslims in 19th-century
India were very well-versed in Persian.
Ram Sharma: Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors (1940), p.24-25.
The same position has been taken by Mrs. Beveridge, the translator of Babar’s
memoirs, and other historians. Several hypotheses of who forged this
“testament” and why are explored J.N. Tiwari and V.S. Pathak (BHU): “Rama
Janmabhoomi Bhavana. The testimony of the Ayodhya Mahatmya”, in Lallanji
Gopal, ed.: Ayodhya, History, Archaeology and Tradition, papers
presented in the seminar held on 13-15 February 1992, All-India Kashiraj
Trust, Varanasi 1994, p.282-296.
in Mrs. A.S. Beveridge: Babur Nama, Delhi 1970 reprint, 574-575.
Ghazi has the same meaning as mujahid, though it is often used in
the more precise sense of “one who has effectively killed infidels with
his own hands”.
B.P. Sinha claims to know how this disuse of the Masjid came about: “As
early as 1936-37, a bill was introduced in the legislative council of U.P.
to transfer the site to the Hindus (... ) the bill was withdrawn on an
unwritten understanding that no namaz [be] performed.” (in annexure
29 to the VHP evidence bundle, unpublished)
Shourie: “Take over from the experts”, syndicated column, 27-1-91, included
in History vs. Casuistry as appendix 1. Arun Shourie was sacked
as Indian Express editor, apparently under government pressure,
after revealing that, in October 1990, Prime Minister V.P. Singh had aborted
his own compromise arrangement on Ayodhya under pressure from Imam Bukhari,
prominent member of the BMAC.
in Peter Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p.157, with reference
to New York Times, 22-12-1991.
the Taj Mahal was obviously never a Hindu temple, the story of its construction
may be a bit more complicated than simply one of an original Indo-Saracen
construction on virgin land, vide Marvin H. Mills (Professor of
Architecture, Pratt Institute, New York): “An architect looks at the Taj
legend”, a review of Wayne Edison Begley & Ziyauddin Ahmad Desai: Taj
Mahal, the Illumined Tomb, University of Washington Press, Seattle
Kumar: “Babri: another twist to the issue!”, Maharashtra Herald,
9-12-1990, based on an interview with P.N. Oak.
Tilak: Arctic Home in the Vedas, 1903, and M.S. Golwalkar: We, Our
Nationhood Defined, 1939.
and Mridula Mukherjee: “No challenge from communalists”, Sunday Observer,
may be noted that the no-temple school is not necessarily less communalist,
for it imposes explanations by religious conflict where no such conflicts
existed, e.g. in his president’s address before the Panjab History Conference
held at Patiala in march 1999, “Against communalising history”, D.N. Jha
communalizes history by repeating the myth of Saint Thomas’ “martyrdom”
at the hands of Hindus as a “well known” fact. [note added in January 2002]
Thapar, Bipan Chandra et al.: “The political abuse of history”, in Asghar
Ali Engineer: Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, p.235.
signed by Romila Thapar, Muzaffar Alam, Bipan Chandra, R. Champaka Lakshmi,
S. Battacharya, H. Mukhia, Suvira Jaiswal, S. Ratnagar, M.K. Palat, Satish
Sabarwal, S. Gopal and Mridula Mukherjee, datelined 21-10-1986, published
in Times of India, 28-10-1986.
“The Babri Masjid/Ramjanmabhoomi Question”, Asghar Ali Engineer: Babri
Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, p.66.
in The Statesman, 22-10-1989, quoted by A.G. Noorani: “The Babri
Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi Question”, Asghar Ali Engineer: Babari Masjid/Ram
Janmabhoomi Controversy, p.66-67.
Carnegy: A Historical Sketch of Tehsil Fyzabad, Lucknow 1870, quoted
by Harsh Narain: The Ayodhya Temple/Mosque Dispute, Penman, Delhi
1993, p.8-9, and by Peter Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p.153;
Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p. 160.
Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p. 159-160.
Yadav: “Temple issue built on weak base”, in The Tribune, 7-3-1992.
in Y.D. Sharma et al.: Ramajanma Bhumi: Ayodhya. New Archaeological
Discoveries, published by Prof. K.S. Lal for the Historians’ Forum,
Delhi 1992. An earlier smaller find of religious artefacts on 10
March 1992 in diggings by the Uttar Pradesh tourism department was reported
in the press, e.g. Anil Rana: “Artifacts found near Babari Masjid”, Statesman,
11-3-1992. A further discovery was made a month after the demolition,
vide: “New evidence at temple site found”, Pioneer, 8-1-1993.
Mandal: Ayodhya Archaeology after Demolition. A Critique of the
‘New’ and ‘Fresh’ Discoveries, Orient Longman, Delhi 1993, p.xi.
Mandal: Ayodhya Archaeology after Demolition, p.63.
Mandal: Ayodhya Archaeology after Demolition, p.65.
“No Pillar-bases at Ayodhya: ASI Report”, Times of India, 7-12-90,
and A.G. Noorani: “The Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi question”, in A.A.
Engineer: Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, p.64.
Lal explained this matter and restated his long-held positions in his article:
“Facts of history cannot be altered”, The Hindu, 1-7-1998, in reply
to a slanderous editorial, “Tampering with history”, The Hindu,
12-6-1998. Undaunted, D.N. Jha attempted to restore the confusion:
“We were not shown Ayodhya notebook”, The Hindu, 27-7-1998. [note
added in January 2002]
Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p-157. On several occasions,
Marxist historians had insinuated that B.B. Lal, one of the greatest living
archaeologists, has changed his conclusions about the pre-existent temple
in order to satisfy the “requirements of VHP politics” (thus the JNU historians
Romila Thapar, S. Gopal and K.N. Panikkar in Indian Express, 5-12-1990).
Among those who came out in Prof. Lal’s defence and certified his statements
are: K.V. Soundarajan (ASI), I. Mahadevan, R. Nath, K.V. Raman, and K.
K. Mohammed (ASI, the only Muslim who participated in the Ayodhya excavations,
letter in Indian Express, 15-12-1990). In a speech to the Aligarh
Historians Group (12-2-1991, published in Muslim India, 5/1991),
Prof. Irfan Habib has made similar personal attacks on Prof. B.R. Grover,
Prof. B.P. Sinha, Prof. K.S. Lal and Dr. S.P. Gupta, who have represented
the VHP in the scholars’ debate, and on Prof. B.B. Lal.
by Dina Nath Mishra: “Writing in the debris”, Telegraph, 1-1-1993.
pick holes in ‘evidence’”, Times of India, 26-12-1992.
Van der Veer: Religious Nationalism, p. 1 58-159.
Srivastava: “The Ayodhya controversy”, in A.A. Engineer ed.: Babri Masjid/Ram
Janmabhoomi Controversy, p.38.
“One night during the monsoon of 1991, the rain was so heavy that it washed
away the wall that was concealing the frontage of the Bijamandal mosque
raised by Aurangzeb in 1682” in Vidisha, and “the broken wall exposed so
many Hindu idols that the Archaeological Survey of India had no choice
but to excavate”, as mentioned by Prafull Goradia: “Heritage hushed up”,
Pioneer, 12-12-2000. [note added in January 2002]
Shokoohy: “Two fire temples converted to mosques in central Iran”, Papers
in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce, EJ. Brill, Leiden 1985, p.546.
Narain: “Ram Janmabhoomi: Muslim testimony”, in Lucknow Pioneer
(5-2-90) and Indian Express (26-2-90), included in S.R. Goel: Hindu
Temples, vol. 1, 2nd ed. (1998), p. 169-175.
A.R. Khan: “In the name of ‘history’” (originally published in Indian
Express, 25-2-1990) and the whole subsequent exchange with the JNU
historians has been included in History vs. Casuistry, app.2, and
in S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 1, 2nd ed. (Voice of India, Delhi
1998), p. 243-263. We have to give the JNU historians credit for
trying at least this once to refute criticism, but we cannot commend the
secretiveness about this exchange in their later writings. On the
other hand, their secretiveness is quite eloquent in its own way.
whole debate between A.K. Chatterjee and Syed Shahabuddin is included in
S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.1, 2nd ed., p.176-211; Shahabuddin’s
claim to “have the German text” is on p. 198.
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