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Scholars dig up ASI report holes

New Delhi, Aug. 29: A group of scholars led by historian Irfan Habib has described the report of the Archaeological Survey of India on its excavation at the Babri Masjid site as “fraudulent” and tailored to buttress the Sangh parivar view of the mosque being built over a temple to Ram.

The group, comprising archaeologist Suraj Bhan, lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, economist Prabhat Patnaik and Habib, is supported by a Left outfit, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat).

In its study, the group alleged that the ASI report “is an absolutely unprofessional document, full of gross omissions, one-sided presentations of evidence, fraudulent falsifications and motivated inferences”.

Habib and his comrades listed eight major failures of the report, among which are:

The ASI did not study animal remains. Bones found during the dig negate the possibility of a temple at the site because they are a sure sign of animals having been eaten there. “Any serious archaeological report would have tabulated the bones, by periods, levels and trenches, and identified the species of the animals (which in bulk seem to be of sheep and goats)”

The “Muslim” glazed ware found during excavation is a definite piece of evidence that disproves the existence of a temple

The ASI found four floors in the mound. Floor No. 4 is the lowest and so the oldest. This was a floor, it said, of “lime mixed with fine clay and brick crush”. Habib claims this is a typically Muslim-style surkhi and lime-mortar floor, and obviously the floor of an earlier mosque

The report has manipulated nomenclature to make evidence of material found from the medieval Sultanate period appear like traces from the early medieval, pre-Sultanate “Hindu” period. Such traces from the medieval Sultanate period are to be found in the glazed ware or lime-mortar bonding of the lowest floor

The report has highlighted what is said to be a “circular shrine” and made comparisons with circular Shaivite and Vaishnavite shrines. However, there was no comparison made with circular walls and buildings of Muslim construction

Habib said the ASI has also not found any Vaishnavite images. (In Hindu mythology, Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu).

“National honour was compromised when the Babri Masjid was demolished. The reputation of the ASI is now demolished. What the kar sevaks began by demolishing the Babri Masjid, the ASI has completed,” Habib charged.

A scholar said “the bias, partisanship and saffronised outlook of the ASI’s report takes one’s breath away. In almost everything, the lack of elementary archaeological controls is manifest”.

In a separate statement, Sahmat alleged that the ASI study is actually a report on the total data collected and does not stick to its brief.

“It practically abides by the perspective of rewriting of history school. In doing so, the date of the NBPW (northern black polished ware) period (early historic era) has been pushed back to at least 1000 B.C. (three to four centuries earlier than the established date).”

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