Jehadi attack in Ayodhya
Janmabhoomi temple on centrestage
By Sandhya Jain
Given the political diffidence of the establishment towards the Ram Mandir, it would be premature to conclude that the terrorist attack has revived the Ayodhya issue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil made uninspiring statements about the assault upon Hindu Dharma'spre-eminent holy site, while Congress president Sonia Gandhi issued a formal statement through a party functionary. The Sangh Parivar formally called for mature and peaceful nationwide protests.
Whoever equipped six terrorists with AK 47 and AK 56 rifles, hand grenades, and even prepared the ubiquitous human bomb for the 5 July 2005 assault upon the Janmabhoomi, did so with a purpose. I believe the objective was to seize a psychologically vantage site with easily available hostages and make demands upon the Indian State. That the attempt failed due to the quick responses and valour of CRPF personnel was an unexpected setback, as many things favoured the terrorists? success.
First, of course, was the advantage of surprise, which always vests with the aggressor, no matter how high the state of alert. Second, the fact that the Mulayam Singh government in Uttar Pradesh and the UPA at the Centre are both inimical to the BJP and the demand for the Ram Temple, could have misled the terrorists to believe that Ayodhya was vulnerable for a hostile takeover.
A successful seizure of the Ram Janmabhoomi could have killed many birds with one stone. Removal or destruction of the idols in the sanctum sanctorum?which was not disturbed even during the High Court-sponsored excavations in 2003?would have denuded the site of its current sanctity and levelled the playing field for rival communal claims. This aspect of Jehadi iconoclasm, which caused the loss of the Janmabhoomi 400 years ago, must not be lost sight of. Those fighting the title suit in the Allahabad High Court would do well to ask the Hon?ble Court to order status quo on the site. Thus, if the mandir is attacked again, its status as a temple would have to be restored.
That the attempt failed due to the quick responses and valour of CRPF personnel was an unexpected setback, as many things favoured the terrorists? success.
The capture of Ayodhya by a handful of possibly Pak-sponsored terrorists would have seen the international community breathing down heavily upon India for the state of its relations with neighbouring Pakistan and its treatment of minorities. One has only to recall how the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid justified Taliban destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas as revenge for Babri, to appreciate the heavy price we would have to pay for the Janmabhoomi. At the very least, Western diplomats and Indian secularists would demand concessions to Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir.
Some observers feel Congress? appeasement of Muslims with reservations in jobs, educational institutions and local bodies in Andhra Pradesh, has led to a belief that more concessions could be extracted by force. With the death of all terrorists, however, we shall never know for sure the calculations behind the attack.
On the flip side, the unsolicited return of Ayodhya to national consciousness may be the best time to revisit it for a final resolution. ASI excavations in 2003 established that Ayodhya had an uninterrupted human (read Hindu) presence from the first millennium b.c. Although the Allahabad High Court prohibited publication of the complete findings, the summary released to the press is adequa-tely illuminating.
The first inhabitants of the site used Northern Block Polished Ware (NBPW), and the remains of their material culture included terracotta figurines of female deities with archaic features, beads of terracotta and glass, wheels and fragments of votive tanks, etc. A round signet with legend in Ashokan Brahmi was found at this level, probably circa 1000 b.c. to 300 b.c. The next layers show the Sunga period (second-first century b.c.) with the typical terracotta Mother Goddess, human and animal figurines, beads, hairpin, and pottery including black slipped, red and grey wares. This is followed by the Kushan period (first to third century a.d.) and the Guptas (fourth to sixth century a.d.).
UPA failure in focus
The post-Gupta-Rajput period (seventh to tenth century a.d.) reveals structural activity with burnt bricks, most important of which is a circular brick shrine, which is internally squarish and has an entrance from the east. Though damaged, the northern wall shows the pranala (water-chute), a distinct feature of contemporary temples of the Ganga-Yamuna plain. ASI also found a huge structure dating to the eleventh?twelfth century a.d., nearly 50 metres in north-south orientation, but having a short life-span as only four of the 50 pillar bases exposed during excavations belonged to this level.
The conclusive finding, however, was of a massive structure with at least three structural phases. Architectural members of the previous structure with stencil cut foliage pattern and other decorative motifs were reused in this building which had a huge pillared hall (or two halls), and show evidence of a public building with a minimum dimension of 50 x 30 metres. This lasted a long time during period VII (Medieval-Sultanate level, twelfth to sixteenth century a.d.). The disputed Babri structure was erected directly over this twelfth-century temple complex in the early sixteenth century.
Summing up the totality of archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed structure and the continuity in structural phases from the tenth century onwards up to the construction of the Babri structure, along with the findings of stone and decorated bricks, mutilated sculpture of a divine couple, carved architectural members including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapolapali doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranala (water-chute) in the north, 50 pillar bases, etc., ASI concluded that the remains found are indicative of the distinctive features associated with temples of north India.
This is fairly definitive. Given the fact that neither the courts nor the negotiation process has yielded fruits so far, it is high time that we faced the fact that Ayodhya is not?as falsely claimed in the courts?a mere property dispute (title suit). Indeed, the Jehadi attack proves it is universally perceived as the heart of Hindu Dharma'shighest reverence.
A new beginning should be made by approaching the High Court to permit publication and dissemination of the complete ASI findings for public information and debate. At the same time, political parties must rise above partisan considerations and seriously consider a national legislation to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya.