New Delhi, March 5: “A right step in the right direction” was how BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand described the order to excavate the Ayodhya land by the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court.
Chinmayanand, a member of the VHP’s apex steering committee on the Ram temple construction, maintained that if there was one point on which the litigants in the Ayodhya case agreed, it was on whether the Babri mosque was built after demolishing a temple.
“When both sides came face to face during a dialogue initiated by (former Prime Minister) Chandra Sekhar, the one point on which they agreed was whether a temple was broken to build the Babri mosque. Even the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court accepted that this question would have to be settled before the title suits were disposed,” he said.
BJP, VHP and government sources conceded that today’s order was a “logical follow-up” to the earlier Ground Penetrating Radar System survey done by a private firm commissioned by the court to go into this question. “It is ultimately the excavations that will establish the direction (of the case) pursuant to the earlier approach. A clear indication that such a ruling would come was apparent from the radar report,” said a highly-placed source.
The last line of the court order suggested that if it thought necessary, it could confirm the survey’s findings by ordering physical excavation. A point which, ironically, made the VHP jittery despite its earlier bravado.
A legal counsel for the VHP admitted on condition of anonymity that he had filed objections before the Lucknow bench to the effect that a further excavation order would “stretch the case interminably”.
When pointed out that the court had set a month’s deadline for the Archaeological Survey of India, he said: “If there were shortfalls in the radar survey report, the court could have asked the same agency to fill them up. The agency itself is to be blamed for recommending to the court to corroborate its findings when it is not empowered to give advice.”
However, VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia, who blasted the BJP hours before the ruling for “extracting political mileage from the temple issue and discarding it after coming to power”, was a changed man when this correspondent spoke to him on phone.
“If the excavation corroborates our earlier findings of pillars and other remains of ancient temples, which were recovered after the demolition of the Babri mosque, it will have a positive impact on the hearings by the Lucknow bench. The judiciary and executive are separate entities and we will judge who is more helpful,” he said.
The Babri Masjid Action Committee sounded equally positive. Its legal counsel, Zafaryab Jilani, said: “We had filed objections to the extent that the order (of the Lucknow bench) may not violate the Supreme Court order (prohibiting religious activity in the complex) and the excavations should not delay the hearing. The order does not flout either.”
But, according to Jilani, the findings of the excavation would “establish once and for all”, whether an 84-pillared temple, which the VHP cited to buttress its claim, existed.
The claim was based on a report filed by the VHP’s historian, B.B. Lal, in 1979 after which the temple movement gained momentum.