The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Diggers rally amid blast scare

Lucknow, March 6: The Archaeological Survey of India is getting ready to send a team to Ayodhya after yesterday’s Allahabad High Court special bench order that the ASI excavate at the disputed site within a week.

Security has been beefed up in anticipation of the team’s visit and after an explosion near the disputed site yesterday.

Sources said a team of ASI experts was scheduled to visit Ayodhya in the next two days to finalise details of the excavation process. They will be accompanied by a representative of Tojo-Vikas International Pvt. Ltd, the firm that conducted the site’s ground penetration radar survey in January on court orders.

ASI’s new director-general Gauri Chatterjee met senior officials in Delhi today to select the team for the excavation. “The work will be done by the excavation branch people, and we are suspending excavation at other sites to make the required staff available to us,” an ASI official in Delhi said on phone.

Narendra Prasad, the officer on special duty (Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid) appointed by the high court, is yet to receive word from the ASI on when it will start excavating.

According to the court, the ASI must start work within a week of the court order and tell Prasad the date so that he can ask the contending parties to send a representative each to be present during the excavation.

The Uttar Pradesh government today reviewed the security in Ayodhya. A state home department official said yesterday’s explosion had exposed some weak links in the current security arrangement.

Police investigations, he said, had so far not indicated that the explosion was the result of a deep-rooted conspiracy, “but we are not ruling out anything”.

“The explosion did not hit anyone or damage any structure, but we are sending explosive experts and mine detectors to sanitise the area to prevent any recurrence,” said Vikram Singh, state additional director-general of police (law and order). “We can’t take any chances — especially now that the site is to be excavated.”

Though none of the parties concerned in the dispute have so far opposed the excavation order, some such as the Central Sunni Waqf Board expressed scepticism about its evidentiary value in deciding the issues raised by the litigation.

Zafaryab Jilani, the board lawyer and All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee convener, said the issue before the court was not whether an ancient temple once existed at the site but whether Ram was born there.

“The opposite party has made the claim (on Ram’s birth) and it is for that party to prove it through evidence. I doubt if the excavation will help decide the issue,” Jilani said.

Some archaeologists endorse this view.

Like the radar survey report, the excavation report, too, would be suggestive at best, they said.

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