The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VHP wants longer dig & on telly too

Lucknow, May 14: First they opposed the excavations. Now they want more time for the Ayodhya diggers.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal leaders seem to have developed a new love for archaeology after the Archaeological Survey of India found four more “squarish and circular structural bases” north and south of the makeshift temple last week.

They now want live telecast of the exercise.

“Closed-circuit televisions should be installed at the excavation site to enable the people to know what has been found. After all, the excavations are being conducted on judicial orders and any judicial proceeding must be transparent,” says Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Vinay Katiyar.

Buoyed by the ASI findings, the Sangh parivar leaders want the digging to continue beyond the June 15 deadline fixed by Allahabad High Court, forgetting that they had vehemently opposed the move.

Ramchandradas Paramhans, the chief of the VHP-sponsored Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas who was hauled up by the high court for his public criticism of the excavation, wants the digging to continue “till the archaeologists are satisfied that a temple existed at the site where the (demolished Babri) mosque stood”.

The VHP claims that the “11 squarish or circular structural bases” — mentioned in the ASI’s report to the high court on April 28 — are parts of pillars of a Hindu temple that once existed here.

The Centre’s stand before the Liberhan Commission on Monday that the disputed site was Ram’s janmabhoomi and the only dispute was whether a temple pre-dated a mosque has also given these leaders a shot in the arm.

Ignoring protests from a group of leading historians and archaeologists that such an inference does not stand scientific scrutiny, the VHP has decided to project the excavations as “a vindication of the stand” of the leaders of the temple movement.

Led by Professor Irfan Habib, the critics of the ASI have claimed that the discovery of glazed tiles and graves is a clear pointer that a Muslim civilisation existed in the town much before the Babri Masjid was built in 1528.

Delhi University’s Z.A. Jaffri, one of the archaeologists appointed by the court to supervise the excavations, says the graves are “distinctly Muslim” as the skulls pointed west and “the shards of glazed pottery were the hallmark of settlers from Central Asia”.

The Muslim litigants seem to have decided to highlight these discoveries. “The Sunni Central Waqf Board will move an application in the court if the ASI continues to ignore organic material found during the digging,” says the board’s counsel, Zafaryab Jilani.

Jilani says he would oppose any move by the Hindu litigants to prolong the digging “since the ASI has already dug up deep enough to reach beyond Babar’s period and has reached natural soil in some of the trenches”.

Away from the polemics surrounding its tentative findings, the ASI has stepped up efforts to meet the court deadline. Today, it dug up 26 artefacts, including a stone inscription in Brahmi script.

The ASI has started sending these artefacts and material discovered so far to its Hyderabad laboratory to determine their period. It plans to get a thermo luminescence test done on the potteries and carbon date the organic material and bones. A senior ASI official has also contacted the Birbal Sahani Institute of Palaeobotany in Lucknow.

Sources indicated that the ASI is not in a mood to ask the court for more time and wants to complete its work by June 15. According to an official, the ASI team has “already started winding up the operation” and the dug-up items are being sent for laboratory tests so that the archaeologists can “submit their final report” in time.

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