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Singhal claim sinks in survey
- No mention of temple in site report

Lucknow, Feb. 25: The survey at the disputed Ayodhya site does not report finding the “remains of a temple”, as claimed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal.

Excavation alone can give an idea of the nature of structures that could exist — the report hints at such a possibility — and of the era to which they belong, sources quoted the survey as saying. They were categorical that the word “temple” does not figure anywhere in the survey report.

First, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee suggested last week that historical evidence exists indicating that there was a temple at the site. If that was only a hint, Singhal followed it up with the VHP’s customary thunder: “Mandir remains were found. The Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government said the report was embargoed but we decided to talk about it.”

“Talking about” the ground penetrating radar survey conducted by a Canadian company with a presence in New Delhi might now lead to Singhal being taken to court by the Babri Masjid Action Committee for contempt. But of more interest will be the VHP’s stand if Allahabad High Court, which had ordered the survey, directs excavation.

The VHP and Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas leader Ramchandradas Paramhans had stoutly opposed excavation, a suggestion on which the court had sought the opinion of the parties concerned last year.

They had said that excavation would undermine the sanctity of the Ram temple and threatened agitation. Their attitude had irked the court so much that it had hauled up Paramhans and other VHP leaders for contempt and told them to keep their mouths shut on any issue pending before the court in the future.

Singhal has chosen to do just that. A contempt petition is planned to be moved at the court’s next hearing on March 4, which is expected to be followed by Singhal being summoned.

“The survey was ordered by the court to find out if actual excavation was required, and we have submitted its report to the court. It is now for the court to decide if it should go ahead with its plan to get the site excavated,” an official of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said.

Tojo Vikas International was engaged by the ASI to perform the survey. “The Canadian firm started surveying the site from December 30 last year and completed the work by January 17 this year. Its report was submitted to the court before January 25,” the ASI official said, refusing to divulge its contents.

A 3,900-square-metre area around the site was surveyed and Claud Robilard, a pioneer in such surveys, had flown in from China to supervise the work.

“Ground penetrating radar systems or geo-radiology can only tell us about shapes or the presence of structures at a certain depth. They cannot locate anything if there is a lot of material between the ground surface and the deeper layers as is the case in Ayodhya,” said a former ASI official familiar with the technique.

Legal experts are waiting for the court’s response to the report. “Apart from the question of contempt by Singhal, it may also have to decide whether it should go ahead with its excavation plan,” an advocate engaged in the Ayodhya cases said.

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