The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Who wrote it' God knows
- ASI officials distance themselves from controversial content

New Delhi, Sept. 14: The hunt for the author of paragraph 20 has begun.

The Archaeological Survey of India is being blamed for the assertion questioning Ram’s historical existence in the government affidavit on the Sethusamudram project, but senior ASI officials say they had no inkling of the controversial contents of the document.

They said the ministries of shipping, culture and law, too, were consulted when the affidavit was drafted. The Centre today withdrew the entire affidavit after saying yesterday that only the “offending” parts would be removed.

The government is learnt to have suspended two ASI officials. Culture ministry sources had said the ASI may become the scapegoat.

The officials said the ASI could not have submitted the affidavit in court without the culture ministry’s clearance. “Besides, an affidavit of this kind is always vetted by the law ministry,” an official said.

“This was a mischievous act,” government sources said. “This paragraph was carefully crafted.”

ASI officials cited the cautious statement the archaeological body had made last month on Adam’s Bridge, a part of which the Sethusamudram project looks to dredge.

In reply to a question in Parliament, the ASI had merely said that in the light of current scientific evidence, the lime shoals do not “fulfil the criteria to be declared as a monument of national importance”, avoiding any remark about whether Ram existed.

Culture ministry sources said that even technical experts within the ASI were not consulted about the affidavit. But they feared that ASI officials would be the easiest to blame.

“The government is under pressure to find the person responsible. It is easiest to blame someone there rather than higher individuals in any of the ministries,” a source said.

Pushed by the Congress leadership, the government today launched a high-level inquiry to find those responsible for inserting paragraph 20 in the affidavit.

A former ASI director-general said he couldn’t believe the organisation would do such a thing. “The ASI is familiar with controversy. Why would it do something as foolish as this'”

The ASI had played it safe when submerged structures were found off Dwarka, warding off potential claims about Krishna’s lost city.

It had refused to assign dates to the structures without authentication by scientific procedures.

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