| A group of men on top of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. (AFP)
Lucknow, Aug. 25: The Archaeological Survey of India has told Allahabad High Court that it found distinctive features of a 10th-century temple under the ruins of the Babri Masjid, giving a new twist to the Ayodhya dispute as Muslims reacted strongly.
The Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the litigants in the dispute, said the excavation report was “vague and self-contradictory”.
The 574-page report, submitted on Friday, was opened before the full Lucknow bench of the high court this morning. The document — consisting of written opinions, maps and drawings — mentions the discovery of 50 pillar bases, decorated bricks, figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses, lotus motifs and carved architectural pieces.
It concluded that these indicate the existence of a Hindu temple at the site where the 16th-century mosque was subsequently built. “There is sufficient proof of existence of a massive and monumental structure having a minimum dimension of 50x30 metres in the north-south and east-west directions, respectively, just below the disputed structure,” the report said.
The ASI said the pillar bases exposed in the northern and southern areas also give an idea of the length of the massive wall of the earlier construction with which they are associated and which might have been originally around 60 metres.
The centre of the main chamber of the disputed structure falls just over the central point of the length of the massive wall of the preceding period which could not be excavated because of the presence of the idol of the infant Ram in the make-shift structure, it added.
The report said that towards the east of this central point, a circular depression signified the place where some important object was placed.
It said the area below the disputed site remained a place for public use till the Mughal period when the disputed structure was built which was confined to a limited area and the population settled around it as evidenced by the increase in contemporary archaeological material.
It went on to say that this observation was further attested by the conspicuous absence of habitational structures such as house complexes, soakage pits and jars, ring wells, drains, hearths, kilns or furnaces.
The report immediately led to fireworks. While pro-temple groups demanded that Muslims voluntarily give up their claim over the disputed site, Muslims described the report as a “concoction” of the ASI to please its “political masters”.
Muslim litigants accused the ASI — which began excavations in March after the high court decided to settle once and for all whether a temple predated the mosque — of ignoring the discovery of glazed tiles and pottery indicative of Muslim settlements in the area before Babar’s invasion.
“The ASI report is baseless, misinterpreted, based on wrong facts and has been drafted under intense political pressure,” Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Waqf board, said. Jilani said the board and other Muslim litigants would produce “irrefutable” historical and archaeological evidence to challenge the findings.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board today alleged that the ASI findings were “without any basis” and have been “concocted” at the instance of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. “This report is totally inconsistent with the interim reports submitted earlier,” board secretary Mohammed Abdul Rahim Quraishi said in a statement.
The report, however, came as a shot in the arm for the saffron brigade, which is bent upon constructing a Ram temple at the disputed site. “Now that the ASI report has unearthed remnants of such a temple during the digging of the disputed site, there is no need for further evidence,” said Ranjana Agnihotri and P.. Mishra, counsel for the Nirmohi Akhara and the Hindu Mahasabha, respectively.
The BJP asked Muslim organisations to “rethink on their rigid stand” on Ayodhya.