The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Impatient Singhal & irate Jilani in digging row

Ayodhya, March 17: On his first visit to Ayodhya after the Archaeological Survey of India started digging at the disputed site, Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal today asked Muslims to give up their claim without waiting for the results.

The statement evoked sharp reactions from the Central Sunni Waqf Board, which threatened to haul the VHP leader to court for contempt.

“This only confirms that the VHP is not interested in reaching the truth but wants to use the ongoing excavations to generate acrimony,” the board’s counsel and All India Babri Masjid Action Committee convener Zafaryab Jilani said.

Jilani alleged that VHP and RSS activists were trying to influence the ASI team and said he would demand induction of more Muslim archaeologists in the team when the matter comes up before the court on March 24.

The ASI team — which started work on March 12 under Allahabad High Court’s order — has dug up a few more minor artefacts, which were sealed and locked after they were videographed.

According to ASI sources, the team today recovered a terracotta vessel from one of the four trenches where digging is continuing on the outer portion of the Ram chabutra (platform).

“This is only the preliminary stage of excavations. No real evidence is likely to come up till the ASI has dug deeper. This could take weeks, even months,” said one of the litigants present during today’s digging.

Sources indicated that in its progress report to the court on March 24, the ASI might ask for more time. In its March 5 order, the special bench had asked the ASI to complete the work within a month.

While the Waqf board is yet to finalise a response to the possible ASI application for more time, the VHP is set to use the “delay” as an excuse for stepping up its agitation for immediate transfer of the undisputed land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust.

Singhal gave an indication of this when he described the ongoing excavation as a “slow and time consuming exercise”.

A Parliament legislation to facilitate temple construction was the only viable solution to the dispute, the VHP leader said, warning that further delay could lead to “another Mahabharat” between Hindus and Muslims.

“The excavation will take a long time. Then the matter will go to the Supreme Court and it would be improper to suppress Hindu sentiments till then,” Singhal said.

Refusing to give a direct reply whether he was satisfied with the excavation, Singhal iterated that the ground-penetrating radar survey of the site, conducted earlier this year, had corroborated the VHP’s case.

He dismissed the claims of Jains and Buddhists about the disputed site. “Where were these organisations for the past 50 years while the case was pending in court' How come they have suddenly woken up with these claims'” he asked.

The VHP leader reminded that the government had been given the deadline of March 26 to hand over the undisputed land to the Hindus, failing which a “satyagraha” would be organised in Delhi from March 27 to April 2.

“An initiative must be taken through Parliament to hand over the undisputed land in the acquired area to the Hindus even while the ASI’s excavation is underway,” Singhal said.

The VHP would contact MPs of all parties, including the BJP and the Congress, he added.

A state official said that on the request of the Waqf board, three Muslim workers were engaged in the excavation today. But Jilani remained unsatisfied.

“The ASI team is not taking counter-signs on the site notes from any representative of the different parties involved in the Babri tangle,” he said.

“These notes are prepared by the ASI team daily to record proceedings of the day and technically it should have signs of all the parties concerned. But they (the ASI) claimed it was not necessary. Anything can be written on these notes, especially when none of the representatives is taken into confidence,” he alleged.

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