Babri Masjid and the great Indian Muslim divide – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid (1991)

Sandhya JainThe Shia Board asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property. – Sandhya Jain

In a stunning blow to the hitherto dominant Sunni sect, the Shia Waqf Board filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on August 8, 2017 fracturing the united front put up by the Muslim community since the dramatic fall of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, asserting that the temple for Maryada Purushottam Sri Rama Chandra could come up at the Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and a mosque could be raised at a reasonable distance in a Muslim-dominated area.

As one of the parties to the dispute, the Shia Board claimed that the demolished mosque was a Shia mosque, as the alleged destroyer of the Rama Mandir was a Shia general named Mir Abdul Baqi; hence the mosque built upon the ruins of the temple was a Shia mosque. The Board indicated a desire for peaceful resolution of the dispute which the Supreme Court is not keen to adjudicate upon.

This is a stupendous development as hitherto, since 6 December 1992, all efforts to strike a deal with the Shia community have met with failure as community leaders in Lucknow always pleaded helplessness in opposing the strident Sunni community. The Babri Masjid Action Committee that spearheaded the movement against handing over the site to the Hindu claimants has been dominated by Sunnis. It was the Sunnis who reneged on the promise to the Government of India and the Supreme Court that they would surrender claims to the site if it was established that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple.

That claim was conclusively proved in a Supreme Court-ordered and monitored excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India. But far from retreating gracefully, the BMAC dug its heels in and refused to retreat from the scene, resulting in a prolonged stalemate.

The sudden divergence of views between the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards appears to reflect larger Shia-Sunni conflicts in the Muslim world, with Shias being targetted by jihadis in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, and their holy sites desecrated. Iran, the self-proclaimed protector of Shias worldwide, has facilitated the spectacular victory of the Syrian Arab Army against Islamic State jihadis in Syria, thus enabling the survival of the Alawite (Shia) regime headed by Basher al-Assad; it has also prevented Yemen from crumbling before the Saudi assault.

Now, the Shia Board explicitly asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property; hence, “only Shia Central Waqf Board UP, is entitled to negotiate and arrive at a peaceful settlement with other remaining stake holders”.

The Board further opined that proximity of “place of worships should be avoided in as much as both denominations using loudspeakers tend to disturb the religious performance of each other often leading to conflicts and acrimony”. Therefore, “to bring a quietus to the issue, Masjid can be located in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Ram.”

Reports claim that the Shia Board decided late July to stake claim to the Ayodhya site. Such a momentous decision could hardly be taken overnight. It seems likely that Yogi Adityanath, head of the non-communal Gorakhnath Peeth, was selected as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi precisely to accomplish an acrimony-free transfer of the sacred site for the Rama Temple. Should this be accomplished, it would be a far greater feat than rebuilding the Somnath Temple in Saurashtra, where the only resistance to be overcome was that of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In Civil Appeal No. 10836-10867 of 2010, the Shia Central Waqf Board through its chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi (Respondent No. 24), filed a counter affidavit asserting that the “Babari Masjid” was a Shia Waqf and not a Sunni Waqf as claimed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP. As the Allahabad High Court judgement stated that “Muslims” should get not less than one-third of the disputed area, chairman Rizvi asserted that this obviously alluded to “Shias” as the High Court had rejected the Sunni Board’s claim (based on Notification dated 16 February 1944 by the Chief Commissioner of Waqfs under the Muslim Waqfs Act, 1936) that Babari Masjid was a Sunni Waqf.

The High Court declared the said Notification of 16 February 1944 as illegal as it was issued in violation of provisions of the 1936 Act, as it was made without issuing a notice to the interested persons, which was a statutory requirement. It follows that the Waqf was a Shia Waqf as a waqf must always be Shia or Sunni, according to its creator (Waqif).

Certain Arabic inscriptions in the disputed structure, cited in previous judgments, establish beyond doubt that the mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a Shia Waqif, who created a Shia waqf. All mutawallis, including the last one (1949) were admittedly Shia and were descendants of Abdul Baqi, a Shia from Ispahan (Persia). It is notable that the Baqi family tree has not been seriously challenged. Verses engraved on a tablet in the central arch of the mosque describe Mir Baqi as an ‘Ispahani’, a resident of Ispahan.

On 30 March 1946, the Faizabad Civil Judge, S.A. Ahsan, ruled that it was inconceivable that a Sunni waqif would appoint a Shia mutawalli, or vice versa (Regular Suit No.29 of 1945).

The affidavit states that Muslims must ponder that the entire world wants to know the exact teaching of Islam in respect of the relationship of Muslims with others. Indian Muslims, it says, enjoy a unique position. They have been rulers, they have been ruled and now they are sharers in power. They are not in majority but they are also not a negligible minority and are in fact the most populous Muslim community in the world after Indonesia. As legatees of a huge corpus of religious knowledge, Indian Muslims are exceptionally placed to tell the world the true teachings of Islam, beginning with a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute.

The Allahabad High Court proclaimed Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara as joint title holders to the disputed premises and allotted them one-third share each, with the stipulation that the portion beneath the central dome, where the murti of Sri Rama is installed, would be allotted to Hindus in the final decree. The Nirmohi Akhara would receive the portion including the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi, and the parties could make minor and mutual adjustments while dividing their respective shares.

The Shia Waqf chairman observed that the intent of this judgment was that the parties amicably settle the dispute, and his sect was willing to do so. As there has been no dialogue in the matter in the past seven years, he urged the Supreme Court to appoint a Committee headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and two retired Judges of the Allahabad High Court, with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (or his nominee) and a nominee from the Prime Minister’s Office. The nominees of the Shia Central Waqf Board UP, Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu sect, would offer suggestions for an amicable settlement to this committee.

The Shia leader added that the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP was dominated by “Sunni hardliners, the fanatics, and non-believers in peaceful coexistence, who have absolutely no stake in the present case”. As Babari Masjid was a Shia Waqf, the Shia Central Waqf Board UP alone is entitled to negotiate a peaceful settlement with other remaining stakeholders.

Chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi further informed the Court that after his views became known, he had received threats from the hardliners, and had informed the Government of Uttar Pradesh, which is reportedly taking steps for his security. He reiterated the keenness of the Shia sect for amicable settlement of the dispute.

Should the Supreme Court constitute such a committee, this could be a very different Diwali. – PGurus, 9 August 2017

» Sandhya Jain writes on political and contemporary affairs. She is a post-graduate in Political Science from the University of Delhi and a student of  Indian civilisation.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

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Indian Muslims should rethink their claim on Ayodhya – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid, Ayodhya

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.“Islamic law does not sanction creation of a mosque on an occupied site. As the Babri mosque was unambiguously erected on the ruins of an extant grand temple, Muslims should withdraw from the site and the dispute. K. K. Muhammad, former Regional Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India, blames Left historians for instigating and manipulating those who were seriously considering return of the site. Muslims should rethink their association with such elements.” – Sandhya Jain

Muslims play Holi in LucknowOn Holi, last month, Muslims in some cities stepped forward to shower festival processions with petals and participate in ‘Holika dahan’, symbolising the triumph of purity over evil. This is not the first time the community has made such spontaneous gestures of goodwill. But it is a time when voices within Indian Islam are struggling to be heard on issues of fundamentalism, terrorism, and their links with certain preachers and madrassas, and on secular concerns such as triple talaq that threatens the physical and emotional security of women and children.

Ram Lalla VirajmanWith Ram Navami [over], it may be appropriate to ask our countrymen to end the tortuous litigation over the Babri Masjid / Ram Janmasthan and consider the matter dispassionately. This writer does not favour pressuring the Supreme Court to prioritise the Ram Janmabhoomi case when suits affecting the lives of lakhs of litigants are pending for decades. However, the Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010, which gave one-third of the disputed land to the Muslim litigant, is utterly unsatisfactory and unworkable. Its sole merit is that it put all evidence regarding the dispute on record; this deserves careful reading by all interested in the subject.

Some of the most compelling evidence on Ayodhya, from the location of the ancient city to the ownership and occupation of the land, was discovered by B. R. Grover (d. 2001), former Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research. Grover was justly renowned for his archival research and enjoyed a formidable reputation as an authority on Mughal land revenue administration.

His extensive study of the original land revenue documents and maps of Ayodhya, judicial records, accounts of eye-witnesses who travelled to Ayodhya in earlier periods, Babur’s memoirs, and other documents and manuscripts in various libraries (in Persian, Arabic, Chaghatay-Turkish, Urdu, Sanskrit, Punjabi and English) have since been published in a single volume, Rama Janamabhoomi: Professor B. R. Grover’s Analysis of Revenue Records and Historical Facts, ed. Amrita Grover, Dr Anju Grover Chaudhary, Originals, Delhi, 2015.

B. R. GroverGrover spent months at the district office in Faizabad, studying the abadi maps, hadbast maps and revenue settlement maps of 1851, 1893 and 1936-37. He examined the earliest revenue documentary evidence traceable to the early 18th century, including those of the Nawabi period and the British ascent, from 1856 onwards, that are linked with the Mughal pattern of revenue administration.

Examining records relating to village Ram Kot, Haveli Awadh, available at the District Record Office at Faizabad, from 1861 to 1990-91, Grover discovered that from the time of the first Regular Settlement in 1861, the land was shown as nazul (Government) and that this had not been disputed or challenged by anyone. The first Regular Settlement Report of Kot Ram Chandra, appended by two maps, was the most comprehensive document relating to the Janmasthan complex comprising Ram Janmabhoomi.

One map was prepared after an on the spot survey and measurement of the khasras relating to kishtwar and abadi. As per erstwhile Nawabi and Mughal practice, it was attested in every respect by the local zamindars / pattidars of various mahal units, the local revenue officials and witnesses.

The Settlement Report of 1861 was also based on previous summary settlements of 1858-60, and depicted the exact position of Janmasthan / Masjid and neighbouring plots as inherited from the Nawabi period. The revenue documents declared the superior ownership of the land as Sarkar Bahadur Nazul (Government) with the Mahants as under-proprietors (malikan-i-matahit) of the entire Janmasthan complex.

The Settlement Report of 1893 clearly named the sub-plot on which the masjid was situated as Sita Ki Rasoi. Subsequent Settlement Reports of 1936-37 and 1989-90 maintained the same position. There is absolutely no mention of Babri Masjid in the documents preserved by the Revenue Department at the Collectorate and Tehsil at Faizabad.

More pertinently, there is no mention in the revenue records from 1858 to 1991 of any land in Ramkot attached to the masjid as ‘waqf’, for its maintenance. In 1936, the Commissioner of Waqfs ordered an Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Baburinquiry under the UP Muslim Waqfs Act into the ownership of the property. The inquiry asserted that Babri Masjid was built by Babar, a Sunni Muslim, in 1528.

Even Mohammad Zaki, descendant of the Mutawalli family, claimed in 1938 that Babar built the mosque and appointed Abdul Baqi its Mutawalli and Khattib and provided an annual grant for maintenance of the mosque and the family of the Mutawalli. After the fall of the Mughals, the Awadh Nawab increased the grant. Later, the British provided cash grant till 1864, with some conditions, and entered the mutawalli family in the revenue records as superior proprietors and possessors in possession of the property (malik-i-ala qabiz wa mutsarif jadaid).

The descendants argued that property listed as malkiyat-i-ala could not be regarded a Muslim waqf. Further, grants made by the British Government, a non-Muslim body, could not constitute a Muslim waqf. Neither the Sunni nor Shia Boards of Waqfs, constituted by the UP Muslim Waqfs Act of 1936, made any provisions for the upkeep of the masjid. Thereafter, the disputed mosque found no mention in the list of waqfs published in the Government Gazette of 1944.

With such tenuous title, Muslims can easily relinquish claim to the site. A mosque is a congregational space, whereas Hindu temples are dwellings of God on earth. In Hindu law and sacred texts, temple property cannot be lost under any circumstances, even if dispossessed for hundreds of years. The Dharma Shastras assert that the rights of a deity are in perpetuity and cannot be curtailed even by a king. The deity (murti) is a legal person and the concept of juristic personality extends to place (stan), if held sacred by devotees.

K. K. MuhammedFinally, Islamic law does not sanction creation of a mosque on an occupied site. As the Babri mosque was unambiguously erected on the ruins of an extant grand temple, Muslims should withdraw from the site and the dispute. K. K. Muhammed, former Regional Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India, blames Left historians for instigating and manipulating those who were seriously considering return of the site. Muslims should rethink their association with such elements. – The Pioneer, 5 April 2016

» Sandhya Jain is an author and senior journalist in New Delhi.

Muslim boy wearing a 'Reconstruct Babri Masjid' cap in Mumbai

K. K. Muhammed: Left historians thwarted Babri compromise – S. Rama Krishna

K. K. Muhammed

“Left-leaning historians led by Irfan Habib, who was the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research at the time, impelled Muslim groups active on the Babri Action Committee not to accept the Hindu groups’ argument that they had a claim on the site owing to the existence of a temple beneath the mosque’s structure.” – K. K. Muhammed

Prof Irfan HabibArchaeologist K. K. Muhammed has alleged that Left-leaning historians are to blame for not letting a compromise take place between Hindus and Muslims on the building of a Ram temple at Ayodhya even though archaeological evidence pointed to the presence of a Hindu temple beneath the site of the now demolished Babri Masjid.

“Left-leaning historians led by Irfan Habib, who was the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research at the time, impelled Muslim groups active on the Babri Action Committee not to accept the Hindu groups’ argument that they had a claim on the site owing to the existence of a temple beneath the mosque’s structure,” Muhammed told this newspaper. Muhammed has mentioned in his recently published autobiography, Njan Enna Bharatiyan (I am an Indian), that a temple existed at the site, a revelation that created ripples.

Muhammed, 63, was born in the Muslim dominated Calicut. He studied in Delhi and worked at various places in North India. When he was studying at the School of Archaeology in Delhi, he participated in the excavation works at the Babri Masjid site in 1976-77. He was a part of a team led by the then ASI director general, Professor B. B. Lal. “We had found 14 pillars of a temple, which must have belonged to the 11th or 12th century. The masjid was apparently built on the debris of the temple,” Muhammed has mentioned in his autobiography written in Malayalam.

Muhammed said this was not the first time that he had mentioned about the existence of a temple pre-dating the mosque. “An amicable settlement should take place in the Babri Masjid dispute. The site can be handed over to Hindus for the construction of a Ram temple, but Hindus should take the initiative to offer an honourable settlement to Muslims. Direct talks should be held between Hindus and Muslims and no third-party should be involved,” Muhammed told this newspaper.

Muhammed, however, denied media reports that he had commented on the Taj Mahal or other monuments built by Muslim rulers. “I am an archaeologist and historical facts are important to me. I am not a spokesperson of the RSS or VHP,” he said.

K. K. Muhammed's book in MalayalamMuhammed is surprised to see the response to his autobiography. The 159-page book hit the stands on 16 January, and its first edition got sold within two weeks. Mathrubhumi, which published the book, is planning a second edition, while talks are also underway to translate the book into English and several other Indian languages.

When asked about the reaction of Muslims to his book, Muhammed said that most of them have appreciated his observations. “There are several Muslims who think that a reasonable solution can be found to the dispute. After all, Ram temple is to Hindus what Mecca and Madina are to Muslims,” said Muhammed, who retired from ASI two years ago and is currently working as project director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Hyderabad. The trust has taken up the restoration of world heritage monuments Qutb Shahi Tombs at a budget of around Rs 100 crore.

Muhammed is also known for his restoration of the millennium old Bateshwar temples in Madhya Pradesh. He had also persuaded the Maoists in Chhattisgarh to join the restoration work of many temples in the forest areas. “The uniqueness of India is its secular credentials. We should all work to protect them,” he told this newspaper. – Sunday Guardian, 31 January 2016

K. K. Muhammed with Obamas

The “eminent historians” have blood on their hands – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst“As a weapon against Hinduism, and as a way to whip up Muslim emotion, they alleged that the Hindu claimants of the Ram Janmabhumi site had been using false history. In fact, history was only peripheral to the Hindu claim on the site: it is a Hindu pilgrimage site today, and that ought to suffice to leave it to the Hindus. Yet, secularism’s favoured ’eminent historians’ insisted on interfering and said that there had never been a temple at the site.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

K. K. MuhammedLast week a few marginal media reported that archaeologist K. K. Muhammed had a startling revelation on the responsibility for the Ayodhya controversy and all its concomitant bloodshed.

Young people may not know what the affair, around 1990, was all about. Briefly, Hindus had wanted to build proper temple architecture on one of their sacred sites, the Rama Janmabhumi (“Rama’s birthplace”). So far, the most natural thing in the world. However, a mosque had been built in forcible replacement of the temple that had anciently adorned the site: the Babri Masjid. Not that this should have been a problem, because the structure was already in use as a temple, and the site was of no importance to the Muslims, who never go on pilgrimage there. So, Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress government was manoeuvring towards a compromise allotting the site definitively to the Hindus all while appeasing the Muslim leadership. This was not too principled, just pragmatic, but it had the merit of being bloodless.

Unfortunately, this non-violent formula was thwarted. An unexpected factor came in between. It stimulated and hardened Muslim resistance and especially, it made politicians hesitant to move forward on Ayodhya. As a consequence, street rowdies took over, killing hundreds. The Hindu-Muslim violence culminated in a multiple Muslim terror attack in Mumbai on 12 March 1993, which set the pattern for later terrorist attacks from New York and Paris to Mumbai again. On the other hand, it threw the issue into the BJP’s lap, making it the principal opposition party in 1991 and ultimately bringing it to power.

Ram Lalla VirajmanSo, who thwarted the Ayodhya solution, thus creating a new type of terrorism as well as setting the BJP on a course towards power? Though the contentious site had no special value for the Muslims at first, it had suddenly become the Mecca of another influential community: the secularists. They made it the touchstone of secularism’s resistance against “aggressive Hindu fundamentalism”.

As a weapon against Hinduism, and as a way to whip up Muslim emotion, they alleged that the Hindu claimants of the site had been using false history. In fact, history was only peripheral to the Hindu claim on the site: it is a Hindu pilgrimage site today, and that ought to suffice to leave it to the Hindus. Yet, secularism’s favoured “eminent historians” insisted on interfering and said that there had never been a temple at the site.

Then already, the existence of the temple was known from written testimonies (Muslim and European) and from B. B. Lal’s partial excavations at the site in 1973-4. Until the 1980s, the forcible replacement of the temple by the mosque had been a matter of consensus, as when a 19th-century judge ruled that a temple had indeed been destroyed, but that it had become too late to remedy this condition. The British rulers favoured the status-quo, but agreed that there had been a temple, as did the local Muslims. It is allowed for historians to question a consensus provided they have new evidence, but here they failed to produce any.

Yet, in a statement of 1989, JNU’s “eminent historians” turned an unchallenged consensus into a mere “Hindutva claim”. It is symptomatic for the power equation in India and in Indology that this is a repeating pattern. Thus, in the Aryan Homeland debate, the identification of the Vedic Saraswati river with the Ghaggar in Haryana is likewise being ridiculed by secularist academics and their foreign dupes as a “Hindutva concoction”, though it had first been proposed in 1855 by a French archaeologist and has been accepted ever since by most scholars.

Rama & Ayodhya by Meenakshi JainAfter the historians’ interference, the Indian mainstream politicians did not dare to go against the judgment of these authorities. The international media and India-watchers were also taken in and shared their hatred of these ugly Hindu history-falsifiers. Only, the Court-ordered excavations of 2003 have fully vindicated the old consensus: temple remains were found underneath the mosque. Moreover, the eminences asked to witness in Court had to confess their incompetence one after another (as documented by Meenakshi Jain: Rama and Ayodhya, 2013): one had never been to the site, the next one had never studied any archaeology, a third had only fallen in line with some hearsay, etc. Abroad this news has hardly been reported, and experts who know it make sure that no conclusions are drawn from it. After the false and disproven narrative of the eminent historians has reigned supreme for two decades, no one has yet bothered to demythologize their undeserved authority.

For close observers, the news of the eminent historians’ destructive role was not surprising. I had spoken on it in passing in my paper “The three Ayodhya debates” (St Petersburg 2011, available online), and in an interview with India Facts (8 Jan. 2016): “The secular intelligentsia … could reasonably have taken the position that a temple was indeed demolished to make way for a mosque but that we should let bygones be bygones. Instead, they went out of their way to deny facts of history. Rajiv Gandhi thought he could settle this dispute with some Congressite horse-trading: give the Hindus their toy in Ayodhya and the Muslims some other goodies, that will keep everyone happy. But this solution became unfeasible when many academics construed this contention as a holy war for a frontline symbol of secularism.”

Facile dismissals are sure to be tried against me. They will be harder when the allegation comes from an on-site archaeologist, moreover a Muslim.

The media had allotted an enormous weight to the Ayodhya affair: “Secularism in danger”, “India on the brink” and similar headlines were daily fare. When the Babri Masjid was demolished by impatient Hindu youngsters on 6 December 1992, the Times of India titled its editorial: “A requiem for norms”, no less. Given all the drama and moralistic bombast with which they used to surround this controversy, one would have expected their eagerness to report K. K. Muhammed’s eyewitness account. But no, they were extremely sparing in their coverage, reluctant to face an unpleasant fact: the guilt of their heroes, the “eminent historians”. These people outsourced the dirty work to Hindu and Muslim street fighters and to Islamic terrorists, but in fact it is they who have blood on their hands. – The Pioneer, 26 January 2016

Babri Masjid Demolition

K. K. Muhammed’s autobiography reveals Left is not right about Ayodhya – Balbir Punj

ASI Ayodhya Excavation Graphic

Balbir Punj“[Former ASI Regional Director] Muhammed, who was in-charge of the excavations at Ayodhya, has revealed two important things: one is that the Left historians of the day led by Prof Irfan Habib ensured that the proposal to hand over the [Ram Janmabhumi] site to the Hindu community did not succeed. … The second revelation is the conclusion of the excavation team of the Archeological Survey of India that the  disputed mosque at Ayodhya was indeed built over and with the parts of the temple that existed there by Mughal Emperor Babar’s commander Mir Baqi.” – Balbir Punj

K. K. MuhammedFresh light on the events before the demolition of the old mosque built over the Ramjanmabhumi temple surfaced the other day in  the then superintendent archaeologist K. K.  Muhammed’s recent book, Njan Enna Bharatiyan (“I an Indian”), his autobiography in his native Malayalam.  As yet I have seen only the news report on the release of the book brought out by the prestigious Kerala newspaper publishers of the Mathrubhumi. An English rendering of the book, I hope, will soon be brought out as it will have countrywide readers.

Mr Muhammed, who was in-charge of the excavations at Ayodhya, has revealed two important things: one is that the Left historians of the day led by Prof Irfan Habib ensured that the proposal to hand over the site to the Hindu community did not succeed. They encouraged the extremist view among the Muslims against any agreed and peaceful transfer. Such an agreed transfer was one of the solutions being considered in the late 1989-91. The second revelation is the conclusion of the excavation team of the Archeological Survey of India that the  disputed mosque at Ayodhya was indeed built over and with the parts of the temple that existed there by Mughal Emperor Babar’s commander Mir Baqi.

Mir BaqiThe conclusion was based on the evidence of, among other things, basalt stone pillars with the Hindu symbol of  Poorna Kalasha in the construction of the mosque structure and underneath it. This matter has been discussed so often and in so detail that we need not go into it. What is evident in Mr Muhammed’s revelation is his intense devotion to facts and truth, a trait alien to most of the secularists. It is the Left historians’ role in distorting historic truth that should be a matter of public concern. Under successive Congress governments at the Centre, distortion of Indian history through the ancient technique of suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, had been turned into a fine art by the so-called academicians.

Siraj ud-DaulahThe distortions have been widespread. Siraj ud-Daulah of Bengal was a cruel despot but he is projected as a patriot just because he fought against British colonialists. Tipu Sultan of Mysore has to be upheld as a patriot and his evident misdeeds against the Hindu majority and minority Christians is to be pushed under the carpet. The Congress government in Karnataka recently dug up the past to showcase Tipu with an obvious communal motive. The Left historians have done much damage to Indian history in many other ways. They have found apologies for Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu and anti-Sikh guru massacres by picking up a few donations the emperor made to some temples. They have sought to obfuscate the terrible pain inflicted by successive Muslim invaders on the majority population of the country and the choice these invaders placed before the people: convert or be killed.

Tipu SultanNobody in his senses would even suggest that the present day followers of the religion should pay for the sins of their ancestors. But at least, a seeker of truth for its own sake would agree that what academicians should present is the fact and leave the interpretation of the past in the context of the present to the others. One readily agrees that present values should not be applied to a past generation. For the Left movement, ideology is supreme, truth and facts secondary. Interpretation of ideology is obviously the prerogative of the leadership. Needless to say, the caucus of the day controlling the organization constitutes the leadership. So, everything—history, economics, human relations, international affairs—is subordinate to the whims of those at the helm at a point of time.

As  a result, there is usually an ocean of difference between what the Left preaches and practises. Communists claim to be fighters against imperialism. But during the Quit India Movement of 1942, they abused national leaders such as Gandhiji and Netaji and worked as spies for the British Empire. After India became independent, they launched an armed war against free India.

M. A. JinnahHowever, the worst sin Communists committed was to work for the vivisection of India and join hands with Jinnah and the British for the creation of a theocratic Pakistan. And now, they claim to be flag bearers of secularism! While the Communist Party of India, both factions, have sought to win power through the parliamentary system, some starry-eyed academics continue to nurse the Marxist-Leninist dreams of violent overthrow of the state apparatus even in our country, giving the Naxalites an ideological justification for their armed insurrection against the democratic system.

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiMuch the parallel situation prevails among some extremists among the worldwide Islamic community. The so-called Islamic State (IS/ISIS) is an outgrowth of that. What leads some members of the followers of Islam in countries from India to Britain is this Middle Age hangover. Most of the victims of this Middle Age hangover are the Muslims themselves with mosques of one set of followers being attacked with bombs by the other set, civilian population under the constant threat of annihilation by rival claimants to being true followers of one religion.

American President Obama in his State of the Union message to the US Congress mentioned the need for the religious community to look inward and find out why the call for violence and the appeal of forcing their religion over the whole world through brutality are finding response within the community. He wanted an internal movement to scotch such beliefs.

A handout picture released by the King Faisal Foundation on March 1, 2015 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (L) presenting Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, with the 2015 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Riyadh. Naik was honoured for being one of the most renowned non-Arabic speaking promoters of Islam. He founded the Peace TV channel, billed as the world's only channel specialising in comparative religion. AFP PHOTO / HO / King Faisal Foundation == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - (MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / King Faisal Foundation" )The interior change cannot come and the attraction of thrusting your faith down the throats of resisting people cannot go away so long as the theology that nurses this sick mindset is not discussed and disowned by the faithful.

Those claiming to fight faith-inspired terror are shy of doing this unpleasant job. Look at the contradictions. Saudi Arabia has joined other nations in an international effort to eradicate the power and reach of organizations like the IS and al-Qaeda. But the same royalty is funding a vast network of religious schools among Muslims that exclusively plant and promote dreams of Islamic glory of the past, including in India.

Musharraf & Bush (2006)Same is true of Pakistan. It’s a petri dish of terror and it’s victim as well. Interestingly, both are close allies of the US in its fight against terror! The world can hardly hope to vanquish terror with such dishonesty. The Indian archeologist, a practising Muslim who proudly calls himself a “Bhartiya” in his autobiography, is a shining example of academic honesty, a trait anathema to the Left. Wait for the Communist-Muslim communal pack’s reaction to Mohammad’s revelation on Ayodhya. – The New Indian Express, 23 January 2016

» Balbir Punj is a Delhi-based commentator on political and social issues and a BJP member of the Raja Sabha. E-mail: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Dr. R. Nagaswamy with Ayodhya Hindu artefact photo.

Book Review: Meenakshi Jain’s definitive Ayodhya chronicle – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst“Another chapter gives an exhaustive enumeration of all the testimonies … for the tradition that the Babri mosque had replaced a Hindu temple. It includes pre-colonial European testimonies as well as reports by colonial officers, but most numerous are the testimonies by local Muslims. It also cites the verdicts and internal correspondence of the magistrates, and some statements by politicians. They all prove that until the 1980s, it was a matter of consensus that the Babri mosque had been built in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

Rama & Ayodhya by Meenakshi JainThere are very few publications giving a factual account of historical facts underlying the Ayodhya controversy. Yet this controversy has played a decisive role in recent Indian politics, giving the BJP the electoral breakthrough that ultimately brought it to power. Therefore, it ought to be a matter for surprise that the professional India-watchers and the academics concerned remain satisfied with the handful of very partial and highly partisan treatments available in print. But the prevailing poverty of information on at least the factual basis of the affair has now been remedied. This book Rama & Ayodhya by Dr. Meenakshi Jain (Aryan Books International, New Delhi 2013) will henceforth be required reading for anyone pronouncing on Ayodhya.>

Dr. Meenakshi Jain is a historian formerly with the Nehru Memorial Library, presently Associate Professor in History at Gargi College, University of Delhi. In this book she gives a very detailed enumeration of all the sources of a pre-Muslim veneration for the cult of Rama: inscriptions, sculptures and literary references. These already start in the pre-Christian age and soon cover all of India. Yet, the Marxist historians started the Ayodhya controversy in the late 1980s by claiming that there could not have been a pre-Muslim Rama temple in Ayodhya as Rama worship is of more recent vintage. This chapter concurs with the testimonies to Rama worship of the historians employed by the Vishva Hindu Parishad in the Government-sponsored scholars’ debate of 1990-91, except that it is far more complete.

Highly original is the chapter on Hindu testimonies of Muslim iconoclasm and the counter-measures which Hindu society took to prevent or remedy instances of iconoclasm. Particularly under Maratha rule, Hindu ownership of Muslim-occupied places was often restored. But this process was not easy and even in the Maratha domains far from complete. Often there was a factual Maratha but a nominal Moghul sovereignty to which lip-service had to be paid. Sometimes also, the local Brahmins were so fearful of a Muslim return to power that they preferred whatever humiliating makeshift arrangement they had negotiated to a full restoration of the erstwhile Hindu temple. Often idols were dug up from their shelters in the ground and rituals were prescribed in the event of their restoration. These testimonies supplement the Muslim testimonies of iconoclasm presented by Sita Ram Goel in his epoch-making book Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them. Significantly, the “eminent historians” do not touch the subject with a barge pole.

Babri Masjid, AyodhyaAnother chapter gives an exhaustive enumeration of all the testimonies, including statements made in court, for the tradition that the Babri mosque had replaced a Hindu temple. Here again, many instances will sound familiar to those who have closely followed the debate, but the list stands out by its completeness. It includes pre-colonial European testimonies as well as reports by colonial officers, but most numerous are the testimonies by local Muslims. It also cites the verdicts and internal correspondence of the magistrates, and some statements by politicians. They all prove that until the 1980s, it was a matter of consensus that the Babri mosque had been built in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple. It was shared by all parties concerned: Hindus, Muslims, European travellers as well as British administrators and scholars. Yet, in a very sudden reversal, a statement by the “eminent historians” from JNU in 1989, a statement which already was questionable at the time and has been proven false since, managed to make practically all media and all Indian and foreign observers turn against the established consensus and present it as the “Hindu fundamentalist myth”. I am proud to say I was an exception. But now, that consensus has been restored, and unwilling secularists still denying and lambasting it are fighting a fruitless rearguard action.

An even more damaging part for the secularists is Meenakshi Jain’s presentation of their own testimonies in court.  For the first time, we get to see how one after another, the secular “experts” collapse or lose their credibility when subjected to cross-examination. One after another admits under oath that he or she has no experience with or no professional competence on the history or archaeology of Ayodhya. Their bluff was enough to fool the mass of secular politicians and gullible press correspondents, but failed to stand up to critical questioning. The Indologists who have invoked those “experts” as arguments of authority, can somewhat restore their lost honour by publicly naming and shaming them and by apologizing for following in their footsteps and ridiculing the old consensus – rather than, at best, looking away and pretending there never was an Ayodhya controversy in the first place; or, worse, still keeping up the false allegations that once swept the concerned public opinion across the globe.

The book also discusses related court cases, the strange fact that a deity can act as a juridical person (though, like a minor, it has to be represented by a fully empowered citizen), and the archaeological findings as well as the unsavoury controversy around these. Ultimately, they all turn out to support the old assumption that the Babri mosque was built on a demolished Hindu temple.

Sri RamaOne point I disagree with, is her seeming acceptance of the VHP thesis that the Babri mosque replaced a “magnificent” Rama temple.  Some temples which lay out of the way of the population centres and military routes failed to attract attention and thus survived; the famous temples of Khajuraho come to mind. But Ayodhya became a provincial capital of the Delhi Sultanate, and it is simply unthinkable that a sizable Hindu temple, a place of pilgrimage moreover, could have survived the Muslim conquest and occupation. This scenario denies the large-scale and systematic Islamic iconoclasm which could not have spared a major place of Hindu pilgrimage; a deluded secularist could have thought it up, but those who believed the VHP was anti-Islamic will be surprised to learn of the whitewash of Islam implicit in the thesis that a Rama temple could subsist for centuries in a centre of Sultanate power. More likely, Babar found an existing mosque on the spot, in dilapidated condition (as a consequence of the collapse of the pre-Moghul Lodi dynasty) or, like in the recent past, under Hindu occupation. Only because he restored it as a mosque has it been called the Babri mosque. Early in the Ayodhya debate already, a theory surfaced that the “Babri” mosque had been built in the preceding Sultanate period, as testified by its building style.

On closer inspection, this position is truthfully described in some detail on p. 292-4 as coming from the pro-temple archaeologist R. Nath as well as from the pro-Babri (and otherwise also disgraced) historian Sushil Srivastava, but without evaluation. In the preface (p. xvii), she only says that Babar “allegedly” destroyed the Rama Janmabhumi temple, so the reader cannot find anything wrong in her presentation of the controversy. At any rate, the mosque called Babri Masjid was certainly built after the demolition of a Hindu temple, but it is not sure that this was done by Babar. Not everything in this case is known, but the core of the matter, viz. that Islamic iconoclasm motivated by Prophet Mohammed’s precedent destroyed a major Hindu temple, has been firmly established.

This is henceforth the standard book on the Ayodhya affair. Any so-called expert who now fails to refer to it, is not to be taken seriously.

» Dr. Koenraad Elst was born in Leuven, Belgium into a Flemish (Dutch-speaking Belgian) Catholic family. He graduated in Philosophy, Chinese Studies and Indo-Iranian Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven. During a stay at the Benares Hindu University, he discovered India’s communal problem and wrote his first book about the budding Ayodhya conflict which was published by Voice of India.

Proposed Ram Temple for Ayodhya

See also

Ayodhya: When did the Centre abandon Sri Ram? – K.N. Bhat

Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, UP

K. N. Bhat“The Sunni Wakf Board, one of the plaintiffs, raised detailed objections against the ASI’s report [on its Ayodhya excavations]. ASI officials were cross-examined to discredit the findings, but the high court by its historical judgement on September 30, 2010, held that there was a temple on which the mosque was built. … Where are those Muslim leade­rs who were ready to hand ov­er the place to the Hindus, if it was found that a Hindu temple existed beneath the mos­que? ” – K.N. Bhat

Amit ShahLast Saturday, when Amit Shah, BJP national general secretary and in-charge of Uttar Pradesh for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, told reporters, “I have prayed that we together build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya as soon as possible and restore Lord Ram to his rightful place,” there were frenzied reactions and comments by self-appointed secularists, and this was reflected in the media as if a heinous offence had been committed.

As a lawyer of respectable vintage, I dare say that wishing for a Ram temple in Ayodhya, on the disputed site, is not an offence not legally. Recalling the recent recorded history relating to Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid tells us that the temple issue was in the past treated as a national problem and that it continues to be one.

Following the razing of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the President of India made a reference to the Supreme Court on March 9, 1993, for its opinion on whether a Hindu temple or any Hindu religious structure existed where the Babri Masjid stood.

During the hearing of the special reference and petitions filed by the residents of Ayodhya challenging the Central Ordinance of 1993 that sought to acquire the entire disputed area, the Supreme Court asked the Central government to clarify the purpose of the special reference.

Sri RamaThe then solicitor general of India, Dipankar Gupta, made a statement in writing on behalf of the Union of India on September 14, 1994, that said: The government stands by the policy of secularism and of even-handed treatment of all religious communities.

The Ac­quisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993 as well as the presidential reference, ha­ve the objective of maintaining public order and promoting communal harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst the people of India.

The government is committed to the construction of a Ram temple and a mosque, but their actual location will be de­termined only after the Sup­reme Court renders its opinion in the presidential reference.

The government will treat the finding of the Supreme Court on the question of fact referred under Article 143 of the Constitution as a verdict, which is final and binding. In the light of the Supreme Court’s opinion and consistent with it, the government will make efforts to resolve the controversy by a process of negotiations.

Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.Government is confident that the opinion of the Supreme Court will have a salutary effect on the attitudes of the communities and they will no longer take conflicting positions on the factual issue settled by the Supreme Court.

“If efforts at a negotiated settlement as aforesaid do not succeed, the government is committed to enforce a solution in the light of the Supreme Court’s opinion and consistent with it. The government’s action in this regard will be even-handed in respect of both the communities. If the question referred is answered in the affirmative, namely, that a Hindu temple/structure did exist prior to the construction of the demolished structure, the government action will be in support of the wishes of the Hindu community. If, on the other hand, the question is answered in the negative, namely, that no such Hindu temple/ structure existed at the relevant time, then government action will be in support of the wishes of the Muslim community.”

This statement was preceded by a White Paper published by the Central government that stated: “During the negotiations aimed at finding an amicable solution to the dispute, one issue which came to the fore was whether a Hindu temple had existed on the site Hari Vishnu inscription found at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya.occupied by the disputed structure and whether it was demolished on Babar’s orders for the construction of the masjid. It was stated on behalf of the Muslim organisations, as well as by certain eminent historians, that there was no evidence in favour of either of these two assertions. It was also stated by certain Muslim leaders that if these assertions were pro­ved, the Muslims would voluntarily hand over the disputed shrine to the Hindus. Natu­rally, this became the central issue in the negotiations bet­ween the Vishwa Hindu Pari­shad and the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee.”

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court declined to respond to the special referen­ce. Instead, it in turn revived and restored the five suits be­fore the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, each claiming title to the disputed land, thus creating ample opp­o­rtunity to find an answer to the query raised by the refere­n­ce. (The five suits had been an­nulled by the 1993 Ordinance.)

Dwarapala from Ayodhya masjid site.The high court, during the course of hearing of the pending litigations in 2003, directed that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should conduct an excavation of the site where the Babri Masjid stood. Stra­n­gely, the Hindus seem to have opposed the move for excavation while the Muslims welcomed it.

The excavation was completed and the ASI submitted a voluminous report in 2003 itself, with photographs and sketches of the details of the revelations and discoveries. The categorical finding was that there was a Hindu temple of antiquity and on its four walls stood the Babri Masjid.

The Sunni Wakf Board, one of the plaintiffs, raised detailed objections against the ASI’s report. ASI officials were cross-examined to discredit the findings, but the high court by its historical judgement on September 30, 2010, held that there was a temple on which the mosque was built.

The high court also recorded a significant finding, stating that the place immediately below the central dome of the demolished structure was, according to the belief of the Hindus, the birthplace of Lord Rama.

Appeals against the judgement of the high court are pending before the Supreme Court, but the ASI’s findings as recorded by the high court should be sufficient to settle the dispute.

Haji MehboobThe nature of the dispute is such that it cannot be resolved through litigation; it will have to be settled amicably.

The pertinent question is, where are those Muslim leade­rs who were ready to hand ov­er the place to the Hindus, if it was found that a Hindu temple existed beneath the mos­que? The Congress governme­nt, not too long ago, made conciliatory efforts. They can do that even now, if they have the will. – Deccan Chronicle, 10 July 2013

HVHI K.N. Bhat, senior advocate,  Supreme Court of India, represented “Ram Lalla” as senior counsel in the litigation before the Allahabad High Court.

Proposed Ram Temple on Babri Masjid site.

See also

  1. Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya – J. Venkatesan

  2. “The material unearthed included pillars with engravings on them and an outlet for water in the form of a crocodile mouth” – Dr. R. Nagaswamy

  3. Ayodhya: Deciding battle for the Hindu Nation – Radha Rajan

  4. Video: Dr. Koenraad Elst comments on Ayodhya history and the Ayodhya verdict 2010 – India Nationalist Post

  5. Ayodhya: Mosque can be relocated according to Islamic principles – Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

  6. Ayodhya: Triumph of Truth – Sandhya Jain

  7. Ayodhya: A Historical Watershed – Girilal Jain

  8. Faith, history, archaeology and logic support the rebuilding of the Ram temple at Ayodhya – R. Balashankar

  9. Sri Ramajanmabhumi and the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission Report – Ashok Singhal

  10. Book Review: Is Sri Rama a modern deity? – Rohit Srivastava