The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ASI hands in temple report

Lucknow, Aug. 22: The Archaeological Survey of India today submitted its final report on the Ayodhya excavation to an officer appointed by Allahabad High Court.

The 574-page report was presented in a sealed envelope to the officer on special duty appointed by the court’s Lucknow bench, which is hearing the Ayodhya cases.

The survey had excavated the disputed site for five months to ascertain whether a temple existed at the spot where the Babri Masjid once stood. It was demolished on December 6, 1992.

The court will examine the report — in a volume each of text and photographs-photographic plates — on Monday. Later, copies will be handed to the parties involved in the cases. The survey today submitted 15 copies, as directed by the court.

Though the contents of the report are yet to be revealed, litigants in the two rival camps do not appear to be satisfied by the excavations.

According to Sunni Central Waqf Board counsel Zafaryab Jilani, the seven Muslim parties to the Ayodhya suits, led by the board, are preparing to challenge the survey’s findings.

All India Hindu Mahasabha counsel R.P. Mehrotra is as dissatisfied. “We are not happy with the excavations because we wanted the ASI to dig deeper to ascertain whether a temple or mosque existed at the site in Ayodhya.”

The high court had ordered the excavation on March 5 after an India-based Canadian firm Tojo Vikas International’s ground penetration radar survey of the disputed site indicated the existence of “anomalies” (structures) at various depths.

The Waqf board has formed six core groups of renowned historians and archaeologists to examine the survey’s report and help draft objections to be submitted to the high court.

The board is consulting only those experts who visited the disputed site in Ayodhya and observed the survey’s work at various periods. The core groups include Suraj Bhan, Shirin Ratnakar, D. Mandal, Sitaram Rai, Ashok Dutt and Irfan Habib.

A team of 20 archaeologists, historians and research scholars had followed the excavations.

“These experts had closely followed the ASI excavation in Ayodhya and have already submitted their reports. They would now match their comments with what the ASI has to say in its final report,” Jilani said.

The Waqf board has already filed its objections to the three interim reports the survey had submitted. The board has taken exception to the survey team’s “pillar theory” mooted in these reports in support of the Tojo Vikas survey.

“We have already demolished the pillar theory, proudly mentioned by the ASI in its three interim reports,” Jilani said. “If required, we will also challenge the dating of the archaeological findings done at the ASI laboratory in Dehra Dun and Lucknow’s Birbal Sahani Institute of Palaeobotany,” he added.

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