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History overtaken by politics
By Bulbul Roy Mishra

The Hindus do not pay much attention to the historical order of things,’’ wrote Al beruni in 1030 A.D. ‘‘They are very careless in relating the chronological succession of things.’’ The millennium-old censure of the Hindu’s lack of historic sense by a medieval historian appears to still apply, particularly to Indian historians of the present day.

It is bizarre that the eminent historians like Irfan Habib, Suraj Bhan and K.M. Shrimali have opposed the excavation of the Ayodhya site on rather flimsy grounds.

An interview with Professor Irfan Habib, the former chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, was published in The Indian Express on March 12, with the headline ‘‘Digging won’t resolve Ayodhya dispute’’. A historian of the repute of Irfan Habib would be expected to talk about possible historic finds on excavation of the site rather than resolution of Ayodhya dispute.

His apprehension is that ‘‘such a post facto rationalisation of what was done on December 6, 1992, would place in jeopardy the fate of numerous historical monuments all over the country.’’ Such apprehension is rather unfounded for two reasons.

First, it is nobody’s case that all existing historic monuments should be demolished in order to carry out excavations. The demolition of Babri mosque has been condemned by one and all, including top BJP leaders. The question of excavation of the site has become relevant only because there is no structure at present on the disputed site.

Secondly, excavation is pertinent in the context of the observation by leaders like Syed Shahabuddin that if it was proved that the Babri masjid had been built after demolishing the Ramjanmabhoomi mandir, then a mosque on such usurped land deserved to be destroyed in conformity with the tenets of the Shariat.

Professor Habib has also remarked that the archaeological finds are subject to many interpretations. But given the core issue to find a permanent solution to the age-old dispute, archaeologists will have to only find whether or not a temple pre-existed the mosque. The dating of any such a temple structure can be scientifically attempted by the carbon 14 method. Whether such a temple was a Ram temple or Shiva temple or for that matter a temple for worship of any other deity is irrelevant. In any case, the disputed site has been known for a very long time as Ramjanmabhoomi where Ram has been worshipped in the mosque even during the heyday of the Mughal empire, down to the present day.

The temple, if any, can therefore, be logically taken as Ram temple. Thus it is difficult to understand why Professor Habib was apprehensive that the archaeological finds at the site would be subject to many interpretations. According to Professor Habib, there is no acceptable proof that the Babri masjid had been built at the site of a Hindu temple. This being the case, there is all the more reason for him to seek archaeological evidence.

The shortsightedness of historians like Professor Irfan Habib is patently evident from the fact that they have totally ignored the revelation from the radar survey to Tojo Vikas International, suggesting the existence of ancient structures at a layer that may be of two to three millennium B.C. These findings of course are not conclusive, but are sufficient to inspire a historian to demand excavation of the site.

If one considers the fact that not a single ancient structure of the early Vedic period has so far been unearthed to establish the antiquity of the much vaunted Vedic civilisation, one will understand the immense importance of the excavation of the Ayodhya site.

According to western scholars, the period of early Vedic civilisation commenced from 1500 B.C. Assuming that an ancient temple structure of 2000 B.C. depicting well-known Vedic deities on its pillars, is unearthed at the disputed site, such a find will at once demolish the existing theories of Aryan invasion around 1500 B.C. and warrant a reconstruction of ancient Indian history. Thus, in view of the radar survey, all historians including the eminent ones like Professor Habib should have welcome the excavation. If the excavation leads to any such find, it will far outweigh in importance the issue on hand, viz. whether or not a temple existed at the mosque site.

The writer is a freelance journalist






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