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Court cloud on Ayodhya digging

Lucknow, March 19: Barely a week into the digging, Muslim organisations have decided to challenge the Ayodhya excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The Central Sunni Waqf Board plans to petition Allahabad High Court, seeking reconstitution of the ASI team and appointment of an independent panel of “non-partisan” archaeologists to supervise the exercise, its counsel Zafaryab Jilani said today.

“We will also seek appointment of a court observer who should be present at the spot and address day-to-day problems that come up during the excavation since the ASI team appears to be working with a bias,” he added.

The board intends to file its review petition tomorrow so that the special bench of the high court, which is hearing the Ayodhya cases, can take it up on March 24, when the ASI’s progress report comes up for its consideration.

The high court had on March 5 ordered the ASI to dig around the disputed site to settle once and for all whether a temple predated the Babri mosque.

Jilani said the Waqf board will remind the court of its August 1, 2002, order that assured the contending parties that if excavation is carried out at the disputed site, it would be done by the ASI “under the supervision of five eminent archaeologists, including two Muslims”.

He said Muslim litigants had communicated their apprehensions about the ASI working under the influence of human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi. “Every day, since the work started, our apprehensions have been proved true,” he said, adding that the court’s order last August had been passed only to allay these fears.

“It is unfortunate that the ASI has skillfully sidelined that part of the court’s order and inducted only one member of the minority community in its team,” Jilani said.

The Muslim litigants also want that they be shown the daily site notes prepared by the ASI and their signatures be taken on them to prevent tampering.

They have also accused the ASI of being selective in recording the artefacts discovered during the excavation. “While they seem to be looking for pillars and other evidence of a temple, they are not recording findings of bones and glazed objects,” said Mohammed Hashim, a plaintiff in the original suit.

The diggers took a two-day break because of Holi. Monday’s excavations unearthed three concrete chulhas (stoves) of 1934 and a part of a road.

Mayavati Holi snub

Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders today stayed away from a Holi milan organised by chief minister Mayavati. Barring a brief appearance by urban development minister Lalji Tandon, none of the BJP ministers turned up.

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