For a year and a half you keep issuing statements
to the press, and writing ostensibly scholarly articles, and holding
forth in interviews that the Babri Mosque was not, most definitely
not, built by demolishing or even on a site of a temple. Documents
of the other side are sent to you. You are nominated by the All
India Babri Mosque Action Committee as an expert who will give his
assessment of them. A meeting is scheduled. Before that you meet the
then Director General of Archeology who had supervised the
excavations at the site. The day the meeting is to begin the
newspapers carry yet another categorical statement from
"intellectuals", again asserting the line convenient to the AIBMAC.
You, of course, are among them.
The meeting commences. on point after point, on
document after document, your response is that you have not studied
the evidence, that, therefore, you require time to visit it. You are
not a field archeologist, you say, and will, therefore, nominate
another person, and he too will naturally require time. The person
happens to be present. You are informed that the person has not only
studied the evidence, he has met and discussed the matter with the
Director General, Dr B B Lal, under whose supervising the
excavations had been conducted in 1975. others too are named whom he
has met for the purpose. But that was in another capacity, you say,
now you will need time.
On behalf of the Government, the officer present
says that the records of the excavation, maps, four types of
narrative accounts, photographs, are available, that Dr Lal has
agreed so that they can be inspected the very next day. No, we will
need time, you say.
You are on to a new tack. But why has Dr Lal not
stated a definite conclusion? In fact it turns out that he has: a
video cassette of the interview he gave to the BBC is produced.
Can't see it now as there is no VCP, we will need time, you say.
The next day you don't even turn up for the
meeting. An expert of the AIBMAC, a Marxist, an intellectual whose
name appears invariably in the statements propagandising the AIBMAC
point of view.
I summarize; but the account applies more or less
to the four professional "experts" who appeared as the AIBMAC's
nominees in the meeting on January 24, 1991. The other "experts" of
the AIBMAC were just its own office bearers. They went one better.
They denied the contents. Indeed they denied the very existence of
books written not just by Islamic historians and authors, the
photocopies of the relevant pages from which had all been supplied
weeks earlier, but they also denied the knowledge of even standard
works like the Encyclopedia Britannica. That done, the next day they
did not turn up either.
THE ISSUES SPECIFIED
The one thing on which Chandra Shekar's government
can claim to have catalysed progress is the Ram Janmabhoomi
controversy. This was done in two ways: by getting the two sides to
begin talking to each other, and by pin-pointing the issue. The
issue Chandra Shekar emphasised was: Was the mosque built by
demolishing a Hindu temple or structure?
And in this, Chandra Shekar was adhering to what
had been stated categorically by Shri Syed Shahbuddin: "I say that
if it is proved that the Babri Masjid has been built after
demolishing the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir on its place, then such a
mosque built on such a usurped land deserves to be destroyed. No
theologian or Alim can give a fatwa to hold Namaz on it." And this
view, in turn, reflects the classical expositions of the law. For
instance, the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri categorically states: "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 (or land) and build a mosque or even
a Jama Masjid on it, then Namaz in such a mosque will be against the
Shariat." In consultation with the two sides, therefore, Chandra
Shekar made the issue specific. Each side agreed to submit evidence
on this specific issue.
THE AIBMAC EVIDENCE
I was appalled when I saw what the AIBMAC had
furnished. It was just a pile of papers. You were expected to wade
through them and discover the relevance which flowed from them. I
read them dutifully, and was soon convinced that the leaders of the
AIBMAC and the intellectuals who had been guiding them had
themselves not read them. It wasn't just that so much of it was the
stuff of cranks, pages from the book of some chap, to the effect
that Ram was actually a Pharaoh of Egypt. Or an article by someone
based, he says, on what he has learnt from one dancer in Sri Lanka,
and setting out a folk story, knowledge of which he himself says is
confined to a small part of a small district in that country, to the
effect that Sita was Ram's sister whom he married, etc.
It was not just that so much of the rest was as
tertiary as can be -- articles after articles by sundry journalists
which set out no evidence -- it was that the overwhelming bulk of it
was just a pile of court papers selective court judgment underlying
it, some merely the plaints, i.e. the assertions of the parties that
happen at the moment to be convenient. And it was that document
after document in this lot buttressed the case not of the AIBMAC but
of the VHP!
They show that the mosque had not been in use since
1934. They show that it had been in utter neglect: the relevant
authority testifying at one point to the person-in-charge being an
opium addict, to his being thoroughly unfit to look after even the
structure. They show different groups or sects of Muslims fighting
each other for acquiring the property, and with the descendants of
Mir Baqi, the commander who built the structure. They show that the
lands, etc., which were given to them by the British were given not
so that they may maintain the structure through the proceeds but so
that they may maintain themselves, and that they were given these
for services, political and military, they had rendered to the
It was evident too that it would be difficult to
sustain the claim that the structure was a waqf, as was being
maintained now. It was not even listed in the lists of either the
Shia or Sunni Waqf Boards, as the law required all waqf properties
to be. While the AIBMAC has striven now to rule out of court British
gazetteers -- as these, after meticulous examination of written and
other evidence, record unambiguously that the mosque was built after
demolishing the Ram Janmabhoomi temple -- the rulings and
judgments filed by the AIBMAC rely on, reproduce at length and
accept the gazetteers on the very point of the issue, indeed, they
explicitly decree that the gazetteers are admissible as
They show the Hindus waging an unremitting struggle
to regain this place, held, the documents say, "most sacred" by
them. They show them continuing to worship the ground inspite of the
mosque having been super imposed on it. They show them constructing
structures and temples on the peripheral spots when they are
debarred from the main one. They show the current suit being filed
well past the time limit allowed by our laws.
On regarding the papers, the AIBMAC 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.
THE VHP DOCUMENTS
In complete contrast, the VHP documents are
pertinent to the point, and have not as yet been shown to be
deficient in any way. They contain the unambiguous statement of
Islamic historians, of Muslim narrators, of the grand-daughter of
Aurangzeb, to the effect that the mosque was built by demolishing
the Ram temple. They contain accounts of European travelers as well
as official publications of the British period -- the gazetteers of
1854, 1877, 1881, 1892, 1905; the Settlement Report of 1880; the
Surveyor's Report of 1838; the Archeological Survey Reports of 1891
and 1934 -- all of them reaffirming what the Muslim historians had
stated: that the mosque was built by destroying the temple, that
some of the pillars are in the mosque still, that the Hindus
continue to revere the spot and struggle unremittingly to reacquire
They contain revenue records of a hundred years and
more, which list the site as "Janmasthan" and specify it to be the
property of the mahants. They also show how attempts have been made
to erase things from these records and superimpose convenient
nomenclatures on them -- crude and unsuccessful attempts, for while
the forgers have been able to get at the records in some offices
they have not been able to get at them in all the offices!
Most important of all, they contain accounts of the
archeological excavations which were conducted at the site from 1975
to 1980. These are conclusive: the bases and the pillars, the stone
of which the pillars are made, everything coheres. And everything
answers the issue the government and the two sides had specified in
the affirmative, and unambiguously so.
"But where is a contemporary account of the temple
being destroyed?" At first it was, "Show us any document." When the
gazetteers were produced, it was, "But the British wrote only to
divide and rule." (Why, then, do you keep producing judgments of
British Magistrates, pray?) "Show us some non-British document, some
pre-British document." Now that these too are at hand, the demand is
for contemporary account. This when it is well-known that in the
contemporary account of the period -- Babar's own memoir -- the
pages from the time he reaches Ayodhya, 2nd April 1528 to 18th
September 1528 are missing lost, it is hypothesised, in a storm or
in the vicissitudes which Humayan's library suffered during his
It is not just that this latest demand is an after
thought. It is that in the face of what exists at the site to this
day -- the pillars, etc. -- and in the face of archeological
findings, and what has been the universal practice as well as the
fundamental faith of Islamic evangelists and conquerors such
accounts are not necessary. But there is even more conclusive
consideration. Today a contemporary account is being demanded in the
case of the Babri Mosque. 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
This entry for 2nd September 1669, for instance, is
as contemporary an account as any can ask for: "News came to Court
that in accordance with the Emperor's command his officers had
demolished the temple of Vishwanath at Banaras." The entry for
January 1670 set out the fact for the great temple at Mathura: "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 center of
infidelity was accomplished. A grand mosque was built on its site at
vast expenditure. The idols, large and small, set with costly jewels
which had been set up in the temple were brought to Agra and buried
under the steps of the Mosque of Begum Sahib in order to be
continually trodden upon. The name of Mathura was changed to
Islamabad." The entry for 1st January 1705 says: "The Emperor
summoning Muhammed Khalid and Khidmat Rai, the darogha of
hatchetmen, ordered them to demolish the temple at Pandarpur, and to
take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the
temple. It was done."
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.
"But there is no proof that Ram himself existed;
nor are any of the other facts about him proven."
The four Gospels themselves, to say nothing of the
work that has been done in the last hundred years, differ on fact
after fact about Jesus - from the names of his ancestors to the
crucifixion and resurrection. The Quran repudiates even the most
basic facts about Jesus Christ - it emphatically denounces the
notion that he was the Son of God, it repudiates the notion of his
virgin birth, it insists that he was not the one who was crucified
but a look alike, thereby putting the question of resurrection out
altogether. And which member of the AIBMAC will say that the Quran
is not an authentic recounting of the facts? Does that mean that
every single church rests on myth?
Nor is the historicity of the Prophet the
distinguishing feature about him. Every ordinary person living today
is historically verifiable after all. The unique feature about the
Prophet is that Allah chose him to transmit the Quran, but it would
be absurd to ask anyone to prove the fact of Allah having chosen
him. It is a matter of faith.
Indeed, the uniqueness of the Quran itself is a
matter of faith. What we have read, and revere, is the reproduction
of the original which lies in heaven inscribed on tablets of gold.
And it is the contents of that original which Allah transmitted
through the angel Gabriel to the Prophet. Heave, the original on
tablets of gold, Allah's decision, Gabriel -- do we prove these?
They, too, are matters of faith. And every mosque
is a celebration of those separate foci of faith.
Specific mosques are even more so. The great
Al-Aqsa mosque marks the print which the Prophet's foot made as he
alighted from the winged horse which had carried him on his journey.
The winged horse, the imprint of one particular foot -- in regard to
these would we entertain a demand for "proof"? The Hazratbal mosque
in Kashmir enshrines what we revere as the hair of the Prophet.
Would we think of proving the matter?
And yet that is what we are insisting the devotees
of Ram do.
The Muslim laity have been badly misled, and now
been badly let down by those who set themselves up as their
guardians and sole spokesmen. First, they created the scare that
were any reasonable solution to be accepted on this matter, Islam
would be endangered. Now they have failed to substantiate their
rhetoric. Now that they seem to be finding excuses to withdraw from
examining the evidence, we are liable to be plunged back into the
vicious politics of manipulating politicians by tempting them with
promises of delivering banks of votes -- that is, the precise
politics which has fermented the current reaction.
We can stem the relapse. As the "experts" have
withdrawn, each of us should secure the documents submitted by the
two sides and examine them in the minutest detail. Once we do so it
will be that much more difficult for propagandists to thwart this
singular effort to introduce reason and reasonableness into the