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Dig for truth 

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court deserves to be congratulated for ordering the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Wednesday to excavate the disputed site in Ayodhya to ascertain whether a temple existed underneath the demolished Babri Masjid. It has adopted a rational approach which seeks archaeololgical evidence, gathered with the help of sophisticated technology, on which to base its verdict. Besides, it has sought to prevent the excavation delaying matters by ordering the ASI to begin work within a week from Wednesday and complete it within a month, informing it on March 24 of the progress made. 

Nor can there be any question about the competence of the Delhi-based Canadian firm, Tojo-Vikas International Limited, whose assistance the ASI has been asked to seek. It had earlier used the same ground-penetrating radar technology to survey the stretch between Delhi University and the Central Secretariat, for the Delhi Metro Rail project. Unfortunately, despite all this, a predictable clutch of historians have resorted to their familiar game of throwing red herrings. This time, the burden of their song is that, even if the ruins of a temple are found, one would still have to prove that it was destroyed by Babar's general Mir Baqi, that it was for the worship of Ram Lalla, and that the latter was born at the disputed site at Ayodhya. It is not difficult to understand why they have done so. A survey by the same firm, using the same technology and undertaken at the ASI's behest, in January, had established the existence underground of a structure with pillars at the Ram Janmabhoomi site. Though the survey has not said whether the structure was a temple, the 'secular' historians are clearly worried that it may turn out to be so and, hence, have started preparing for shifting the ground of battle. Their worry must be all the greater because, after the Babri Masjid was demolished, Hindu idols and fragments of a destroyed temple were found among the debris. 

Needless to say, their discordant notes should be dismissed with contempt. It should be enough if the court, on the basis of the evidence unearthed by the excavation, concludes that a temple did exist at the Ram Janmabhoomi site. Even Muslim leaders have claimed that they would forego their claim to the latter if this indeed turned out to be the case. Foolproof evidence showing that the temple was indeed for the worship of Ram Lalla and that the latter was born at the place, would be impossible to find. To continue looking for it would only be to prolong a dispute which needs to be buried as soon as possible in the interest of communal harmony, of which the 'secular' historians claim to be the exclusive champions. If anything, there should be restraint and a desire for mutual accommodation on all sides. The Islamic Council of India, an umbrella body of Muslim clerics, has shown the way by urging Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to allow Hindus to start religious activity on the undisputed land. Organisations like the VHP should conduct themselves in kindred spirit so that a final settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute on the basis of a judicial verdict marks the beginning of a new chapter of communal harmony in the country. 




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