ASI report far from foolproof?

Inscription Found In Debris May Have Been Planted: Irfan Habib

Akshaya Mukul, TNN, Oct 1, 2010, 05.12am IST

NEW DELHI: The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HC may have gone by the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) report submitted to it in April 2003 to rule that the disputed site is the birthplace of Ram but noted historians had drilled holes in the report when it first came out.

Though the ASI report refrained from giving a clear verdict on the existence of a temple, use of words like “interesting” and “significant” in crucial places and the body of evidence that it gave pointed to the existence of a temple.

The crucial evidence that came in the ASI report was the suggestion of a chamber near Ram Chabutra and 11 pillar bases. ASI also talked of “five levels of structure”, each comprising a “flat surface of lime-surkhi mortar”.

Another important evidence was the contentious Anayachandra inscription that VHP claimed was found from the debris of the demolition after December 6, 1992. VHP said the inscription clearly says Ram was born at the disputed site and even submitted the translation to the high court.

Eminent historian Irfan Habib, in a detailed critique of the ASI report, had pointed out that it did not mention that lime-surkhi could not have been part of an earlier Hindu temple because such mortar came with the Muslims.

What ASI found “interesting” is “that protruding out of the fifth” level there was a “squarish” block of “calcrete”. Beneath this, the excavators described a mysterious chamber without mentioning what marked its base or walls. From this, Habib said, ASI jumped to the conclusion that it was “some place of importance”.

Habib also found it strange that ASI, while describing the foundation wall, suggested there was an earlier brick wall, with decorations, but did not specify the decoration. This, Habib said, would provoke rumours of a temple wall. On ASI’s suggestion that “pillar bases” are “significant”, Habib said it was like seconding noted archaeologist B B Lal’s theory.

More interesting was the case of Anayachandra inscription. Its translation submitted by VHP in the HC said the disputed site was the birthplace of Ram. But K V Ramesh, former director (epigraphy), ASI, translated the inscription simply as: “Noble was that very family (of the donor) which was the birthplace (janmabhoomi) of honour.”

The official said the translation would lend credence to the theory that the inscription was planted. But from where was it acquired? He would not hazard a guess but Habib had pointed out that it could be Inscription No. XLIV housed in Lucknow museum which has gone missing.

Historian T P Verma had told the Lucknow bench that he tried to locate the inscription in Lucknow museum but was unable to do so. The said inscription — first mentioned in 1889 by A Fuhrer in ‘Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur’ and later by Hans Bakker in 1986 in ‘Ayodhya’ — had close resemblance to the one flaunted by VHP. Both are of sandstone and broken in two parts, the slit starting near the middle of the top, then running rather diagonally to the bottom right. Both have twenty lines. Even in terms of content, there are similarities.

Courtesy: The Times of India, October 1, 2010

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