The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddhists join temple fray

Lucknow, April 4: As the battle between Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid votaries drags on in Allahabad High Court, Buddhists have jumped into the fray with the claim that a Buddhist Vihar, and not a Ram temple, was demolished to make way for the 16th century mosque.

In a petition, the Buddha Education Foundation, Lord Buddha Club and the All-India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations have sought permission to plead as one of the defendants in the Ayodhya title suits.

The court has reserved its verdict on the admissibility of the petition, but the Central Sunni Waqf Board as well as the Hindu litigants indicated that they would oppose the plea.

“There is no reason to implead an additional party at this stage of the cases,” said Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Waqf board. The Nirmohi Akhara and other parties claiming the disputed land for a temple agreed with him.

Udit Raj, chairman of the three organisations that moved court today, said: “We are hopeful that not only will the petition be accepted, the decision will also be in our favour.” But if the petition is rejected, “we would be compelled to launch an agitation”.

Babar’s commander Meer Baqui had built the Babri Masjid after destroying a Buddha Vihar, where “Lord Buddha had spent 16 monsoons”, he said. No Ram temple ever existed at that site, he stressed.

Chinese travellers Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsang had mentioned Ayishya as the site of a Buddha Vihar in their travelogues, Raj pointed out.

The Dalit leader referred to Tulsidas, the author of Ramayana, to discredit the VHP’s claim that a temple was demolished to build the mosque. “Tulsidas wrote Ramayana many years after the rule of Babar but he did not give any hint in the epic that the Ram temple in Ayodhya was converted into a mosque,” he said.

According to Raj, a five-foot pillar with the lotus inscribed on it — one of the artefacts recovered during the current excavation in Ayodhya — proved that the Buddhist shrine existed at the spot where the Babri Masjid later came up.

“We felt the need to lay claim on the site following the high court’s order for its excavation,” the Dalit leader said. He added that Buddhists wanted to be present during the excavations.

“We are confident that as the excavation process continues, many more artefacts which were part of Buddhist culture would be found, supporting our case,” he said.

Legal experts felt that allowing the Buddhists to join the Ayodhya case might open the floodgates for others.

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