Besides the legal issues per se related to the Ayodhya case, I suppose the verdict also sparked off a debate on the relevance of historical and archeological studies and can these findings be taken with certainty. In fact, thinking is also that the original error committed in this issue was when the court of the land was expected to decide on such an emotive issue. Thus debating now on whether a court could decide anything based on historical studies and archeological findings is perhaps only academic.
Archaeology by web dictionary Wikipedia, is the study of past human societies, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data including artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes. Also known as the study of the art, customs and beliefs of ancient times, archaeology is often considered to be both a science and a humanity.
In this context, one must take note of the Presidential reference made to the Supreme Court in January 1993 by the Narasimha Rao government seeking an advisory opinion on this question: “Whether a Hindu Temple or any Hindu religious structure existed prior to the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid (including the premises of the inner and outer courtyards of such structure) in the area on which the structure stood?”
On October 24, 1994, the Supreme Court, rightly so, declined to give any opinion saying it was “ill-equipped” to examine and evaluate matters related to archeology and history.
The matter was heard by a five-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice MN Venkatachaliah, Justice AM Ahmadi, Justice JS Verma, Justice GN Ray and Justice SP Bharucha. The majority judgement written by Justice JS Verma on behalf of Chief Justice Venkatachaliah, himself and Justice Ray had said the Presidential reference was ‘superfluous and unnecessary’.
On March 5, 2003, the Allahabad High Court ordered excavation of the land and in the ultimate analysis, the Archeological Survey of India findings were largely cited for ordering retention and continuation of the Ram Lalla’s idols at the ‘make-shift’ temple, erected after the demolition of the Mosque in December 1992.
In fact, the ASI excavation clearly showed distinctive features of a 10th century temple below the ruins of the Babri Mosque. It further mentions discovery of 50 pillar bases, decorated bricks bearing features of 10th century, deities of Hindu gods and goddesses, lotus motifs, and curved architectural pieces, say experts.
It has been also argued by historians that when the Babri Masjid was demolished an inscription was unearthed which said that 'a temple was constructed by a King Nayachandra in the 12th century to honour Ram.' But the Muslims had rejected the ASI report saying it as a 'concoction' of the ASI to please its 'political masters', the BJP-led Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board had said the report was ‘inconsistent’ with the interim report submitted earlier.
Nevertheless, in his ruling, Justice Sharma contended that “the Archaeological Survey of India has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure” even as he said “It is also established that the disputed structure cannot be treated as a mosque as it came into existence against the tenets of Islam.”
But there remained certain questions on the findings of Archeological Survey of India as well.
There is a school of thought which counters that the ASI’s report was ‘not above controversy’ as on the possibility of Hindu temple its argument rested primarily on ‘pillar basis’ – which according to them could not be ascertained as no final words could be said purely based on the pillars. In fact, the Muslims clergy in Faizabad say the alleged existence of pillars too has been debated by historians on material evidence relating to ASI’s excavation.
They maintain Archaeological Survey of India’s own excavations of certain animal bones as well as of the use of ‘surkhi’ a typical characteristic of Muslim presence would challenge the possibility of a Hindu temple.
The Sunni Board or Muslim Personal Law Board contest ASI reports but accept the authenticity of the discovery of archeological materials. They refuse to take evidence as conclusive evidence that it was a Hindu temple. Even the main advocate for Muslims in the title suit, Zafaryab Jillani, said that the ASI has 'misinterpreted the findings'. The allegation has been also that the ASI report of ignoring the discovery of glazed tiles and pottery indicative of Muslim settlements in the area before Babar's invasion.
However, from the Hindu point of view, Mahant Brijmohan Das, chief priest of Dasarth Garhi in Ayodhya countered this saying “we never disputed the fact Muslims came and set up a Mosque there. We only say they did it after demolishing a temple”.
He said three crucial questions related to Ayodhya case were - Whether the disputed structure that is, Babri Masjid was constructed over some other pre-existing structure after demolishing it? Whether that preexisting structure was a Hindu Temple? And whether that temple, if any, was located on Lord Rama’s birth place in Ayodhya?
The Hindu argument is also that originally there was a Vishnu Temple earlier at the same spot where the Masjid was erected after demolishing the same. This temple of Lord Vishnu, according to faith, existed from time immemorial. It was renovated several times and the temple as well as worship of Ram Lalla, they say is referred to in many texts and inscriptions. This temple of Vishnu was erected exactly on the same holy spot where Lord Rama was born and around the place, Sita’s kitchen, Hanuman’s house, Kaikeyi’s palace etc were all located and worshipped even since Vikramaditya era and even published in official gazettes brought out by the British government.
Those countering these versions say most of the official gazettes prepared during British rule especially in the 19th century were based on here-says.
The Muslims have on the contrary argued that there were official documentation which claimed that the Hindu claim was erroneous and the place used to be a Masjid.
On September 29, a day before the verdict IUML UP unit chief Dr Ghani was a confident person though anxious about other kind of repercussions. He said documentary evidence cannot go against Muslims. Here are some of the points, which Muslims thought would sail them through in the case.
On 23 December 1948, the Inspector of Waqfs, Mohammed Ibrahim alleged harassment and stoning of the Namazis going to the mosque and that yet prayers continued to be offered on Fridays.
Radio message on December 23, 1949, by District Magistrate K.K. Nayar to the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Home Secretary: “A few Hindus entered Babri Masjid at night when the Masjid was deserted and installed a deity there.”
The State of Uttar Pradesh, in a document signed by Deputy Commissioner, Faizabad, J.N. Ugra, on April 25, 1950 had claimed “it has for a long period been in use as a mosque for the purpose of worship by the Muslims and not a temple”.
Another strong argument from the Muslims has been that false claims have been made by Hindus on the findings of inscription of Lord Vishnu on December 6, 1992. The Hindu groups had claimed that during the demolition of the Babri mosque in December 1992, three inscriptions on stone were found. The most important one was the inscription that the temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu, slayer of Bali. The Muslim allegation was that the said Hari-Vishnu inscription corresponded to an inscription dedicated to Vishnu that was supposedly missing in the Lucknow State Museum. However, the museum authorities had denied the inscription (stone) had gone missing from the museum. He showed the inscription of his museum at a press conference and it was different in shape, colour and text contents from the Vishnu-Hari inscription.
Another argument from Muslims was that Richard M Eaton, an American historian of medieval India, in his ‘Essays on Islam and Indian History’ documented in details about 80 major instances of destruction of the Hindu temples between 1190 and 1760. But the list did not include any Ram temple at Ayodhya.
The Muslim League leader Dr Ghani had also claimed that “Litigation in the 19th century was only for permission to build a temple at and near the chabutra – and not the mosque”. Subsequently even till 1948-49, till the idol was placed, there were only efforts to build a Ram temple on the chabutra (platform) outside the mosque but within its complex.
This Ram chabutara, which has been now allotted to the sect Nirmohi Akhara, falls on the left hand side as one walks through strictly barricaded security arrangement for the make-shift Hindu temple.