The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court query on diggers
Police deployed to guard the disputed site in Ayodhya went on the rampage on Wednesday in protest against the death of a colleague in an accident, reports Reuters. The police, enraged by the death of a constable, who fell while climbing a watch tower at the site, smashed shops, beat up people and set a police official’s car ablaze.

Lucknow, April 9: Allahabad High Court today reserved its order on the Archaeological Survey of India plea to give it two more months for digging, but summoned Faizabad’s commissioner and the labour contractors engaged by him to explain why they couldn’t ensure adequate Muslim presence in the workforce.

The commissioner — also the Supreme Court appointed receiver of the disputed property — has been asked to appear before the Lucknow bench of the high court hearing the Ayodhya cases tomorrow. He has been asked to bring with him two PWD engineers and labour contractors entrusted with selecting the workforce.

Today’s court order follows a complaint by the Central Sunni Waqf Board that the government machinery was not complying with the court’s earlier order.

Seeking fresh directions to ensure the induction of more Muslims in the ASI team as well as the workforce, Sunni Waqf board counsel Zafaryab Jilani strongly opposed the ASI request for two more months to complete the digging. He wanted the ASI to inform the court about the progress of the excavations in the 18 trenches it had already dug and submit a detailed blueprint of the excavation plan and the time frame in which it would be completed.

“The ASI has initiated job on 18 trenches so far. Out of these, some have just been touched while in others the digging has gone deep by 15 to 20 feet. It should tell the court how many trenches it would dig and till what depth,” Jilani said.

The court said it would decide on ASI’s plea for more time tomorrow after hearing the commissioner and others. It has also asked the magistrate of Manas Bhavan and the executive engineer of the state PWD to be present at tomorrow’s hearing.

The court has already turned down a request by three Buddhist organisations to be impleaded in Ayodhya suits as defendants. These organisations had staked claim to the disputed site on the ground that the Babri Masjid was erected on the ruins of a Buddhist shrine.

In Ayodhya, the ASI today engaged more than 110 workers — the largest since it started digging on March 12 — to speed up the work. Only nine were Muslims.

The ASI team discovered 23 artefacts from three trenches today, Ram Lal Verma, counsel of Nirmohi Akhada, one of the litigants, said from Ayodhya.

He claimed that the excavations so far have revealed three levels of working floors which suggested the existence of a stone staircase underneath Ram Chabutara.

The nominees of the Muslim litigants present at the excavation site disputed his claim. “So far, no evidence indicating the existence of a temple has surfaced during the current excavations,” one said.

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