The spirit of Ram Janmabhoomi movement is based on the crucial premise that the disputed structure was created after dismantling the Temple. Even before the movement the archaeological exercise was undertaken. The archaeological evidence collected by Prof Lal and his team, of which Dr K K Mohammad was a part, confirmed the presence of a huge pre-existing temple beneath the disputed structure. In his book, Njan Enna Bharatiyan, originally written in Malayalam, Dr K K Mohammad elaborated the whole process in this scientific exercise of revisiting history. Here are the excerpts from his book which can be crucial while discussing and deliberating on the Ayodhya issue.
My life story will not be complete without narrating this part. This is not to offend anyone’s religious sentiments and thereby, encourage someone else’s sentiments. This should not be used for any such purpose either.
It was in 1990 that the issue of Ayodhya became hot. Before that, in 1978 itself, as an archeology student, I had the opportunity to survey Ayodhya.
As a student of School of Archeology, Delhi, I was a member of the team headed by Prof B B Lal, which was carrying out an extensive survey at Ayodhya. We found that there existed brick foundations which supported the pillars of a pre-existed temple. No one had viewed such findings as controversial those days. We examined the facts with due sense of history as archeological experts.
There were temple-pillars embedded on the walls of Babri Masjid. These pillars were made of a particular stone called Black Basalt. There were ‘Poorna Kalasas’ engraved at the bottom of the pillars as was the practice in the 11th – 12th centuries. In the temple art, ‘Poorna Kalas’ is one among the eight auspicious symbols of prosperity. Not one or two, fourteen such pillars were there before the mosque was demolished in 1992. Though the mosque was under police protection and no one was allowed inside, we were not prevented because we were members of the research team. Therefore I could see the pillars closely. The team headed by Prof B B Lal included officials of the ASI and us, the twelve students of School of Archeology. We spent around two months in various explorations at Ayodhya. Mir, the chief of the army of Babar constructed this mosque using remnants of a temple which was either demolished by him or was already demolished by someone else.
While excavating on the back and sides of the mosque, we found brick platforms on which the Black Basalt pillars used to rest. It was based on these facts that I made a statement in 1990 that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. By then the atmosphere had surcharged. The Hindu and Muslim leaders had taken opposite positions. Moderates on both sides were making some efforts to bring about a rapprochement. But the strident VHP had already taken over the Ram Janmabhumi issue as its agenda. The moderates among Muslims started thinking that it is better to leave Ayodhya for Hindus and solve the dispute. A few Muslim leaders were also of this opinion but no one dared say this. I knew that at least some Muslim leaders felt that leaving Ayodhya to Hindus would take wind out of the sails of VHP. Had such voices got prominence, it would have been possible to diffuse the situation. But a few Leftist historians allied themselves with the confrontationist Muslims and distorted the matter.
Few historians under the leadership of S. Gopal, Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra started questioning the historicity of the Ramayana. They argued that there is no record of demolition of a temple before 19th century. They even declared that Ayodhya is a Buddhist – Jain Centre. This group assumed gigantic size with the induction of Prof R S Sharma, Aktar Ali, D N Jha, Suraj Bhan, Irfan Habib etc. Among them Suraj Bhan was the only archeologist. The historians of R S Sharma’s group took part in various official meetings as experts from the side of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC).
Many of the BMAC meetings were conducted under the leadership of Dr. Irfan Habib who was the Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) . Though the Member Secretary M G S Narayanan of ICHR objected to the meetings of BMAC being conducted in ICHR, he was overruled by Irfan Habib. These Leftist group of historians had tremendous influence in newspapers and periodicals and articles published by them questioning the facts of Ayodhya created confusion in the minds of general public. It were these historians and publications which acted like their exclusive mouth piece and were responsible for the volte – face of even the moderates among the Muslims, who had favoured settlement. It was unfortunate that this atmosphere gifted legitimacy and a resultant belligerence to BMAC. The common Muslims who, at some point of time, toyed with the idea of ceding their claim in favour of Hindus, slowly started changing their position. Consequently moderates also took a stand that the Masjid cannot be given up. The interventions of the Communist historians brainwashed them. The joint mischief of these two groups resulted in blocking the doors of settlement rather permanently.
Had only this compromise worked out it would have been a major turning point in the history of Hindu – Muslim relations in our country. This would have resulted in the natural solution to other various contentious issues also.
This lost opportunity demonstrated that not only the Hindu – Muslim fanaticism but the Communist fanaticism is equally dangerous to our nation.
My statement came out on December 15, 1990. By then the historians and archeologists had started fierce arguments from both sides. I made it clear in my statement that I have seen remnants of a temple beneath the Masjid.
I was working in Chennai as Deputy Superintending Archeologist in ASI. I happened to read an article by Iravataam Mahadevan IAS in the Indian Express. Iravatam, who wrote extensively on the Sindhu script, was a widely respected scholar. After retiring he was working as editor of the widely read Tamil newspaper Dinamani.
He wrote:- “If historians still doubt whether a temple existed beneath, such doubt can be removed by excavating once again. But it is wrong to say that to correct a historical wrong a historical monument (Babri Masjid) shall be demolished.”
I respected his balanced opinion and wrote a letter appreciating him. I mentioned that I was a member of the team which carried out excavations during 1976-77. “Your opinion that it is wrong to demolish a monument to avenge a historical wrong is laudable. You have shared your liberal views.” On the date of receipt of my letter he came to my office at Clive building at the Tamil Nadu Secretariat. He wanted permission to publish my letter. He said: “Since you are a govt. servant, writing on such sensitive matters without permission from the Government will be suicidal. It is sure that permission will not be granted by your superiors. Nevertheless, truth should not be kept hidden. Decide suitably.”
We discussed with Superintendent Archeologist B Narasimhayya and decided that such important information should not be concealed. Narasimhayya was the General Supervisor when we discovered the brick platforms while excavating under the guidance of Prof B B Lal. But we did not want to play into the hands of fanatic Hindus. We must keep equal distance from all communal elements.
Finally my statement came in the Letters to the Editor column in all editions of Indian Express. Subsequently it was also published by all other papers in all languages. I got many phone calls – threatening and appreciating me. But as decided I kept aloof from all that was going around me.
Those days we conducted a UNESCO sponsored Silk Route Seminar in Chennai. I, along with one Shri KT Narasimhan, was the organiser. From Delhi, the Joint Secretary (Culture) Shri RC Tripathi and the Director General of ASI Shri MC Joshi came to attend. Both appreciated me for the successful conduct of the seminar. Dr Joshi said “If that Aligarh Professor were here, he would have felt ashamed.” He was referring to Dr Irfan Habib. Dr Joshi also told my personal details to Dr Tripathi.
Thereafter Dr Joshi said:-“Now we have questions about your press statement. How did you go public on such an important issue without the permission of the Govt.? We are going to suspend you right now pending enquiry.”
I said “Sir I knew that I was not going to get permission for such a matter. I spoke the truth in public interest.” I also recited a Sanskrit shloka – Lokasamgramevapi Sampasyan Kartumarhasi.
“Are you teaching me? I am a Brahmin from Allahabad” – Tripathi shouted. He added “I will suspend you right now.” Calmly I told him – “Swadharme nidhanam shreya” – meaning even death is preferable while on duty. Tripathi became cool and said – “Mohammed, I appreciate your firm stand. This is expected from an archeologist. But I am under pressure from the top to take action against you.” I said “I know Sir. I issued the statement after considering all consequences.”
Joshi was still not happy and asked – “Why did you give your name, address and designation on the newspaper?” “I thought it is required because no one should think that it is some insignificant Mohammed”.
Mahadevan met both of them next day and got the suspension changed into a transfer, from Chennai to Goa.
On December 6, 1992 I was in conversation with the Rector of Bom Jesus Church, Goa where the holy relics of St. Xavier are kept. Then came the news of the demolition of Babri Masjid. Next year Fr. Rigo feared that there will be attacks by Hindu fanatics on Christian churches of Old Goa on the anniversary of the demolition. We formed two teams. One team camped at Bom Jesus Church under Fr. Rigo and the second one under me in St. Cathedral and St. Assisi throughout the night. It was a thrilling example of Indian secularism that a Muslim, Hindu and Christian stood guard to protect a national monument.
The most important artefact which came out during demolition at Ayodhya was the stone plaque called Vishnu Hari Shila. On the plaque it was inscribed in Nagari script of 11-12 century in Sanskrit that this temple is dedicated to Vishnu (Rama is the avatar of Vishnu) who killed Bali and the 10- headed (Ravana).
In 1992, when Dr Y D Sharma and Dr K M Srivastava studied the site they could find small statues of Vishnu’s avataras, Shiva, Parvati etc. made of clay. These belonged to the Kusana period (100 – 300 AD). In 2003, when excavations were again conducted as ordered by the Allahabad High Court, more than fifty brick foundations which once supported the pillars of the temple were found. The ‘amalaka’ which is usually found on the top of the temple and ‘makar pranali’ through which the ‘abhisheka’ water flows, were also excavated. The Uttar Pradesh Archeology Director Dr Ragesh Tiwari submitted a report that when the front yard of the Babri Masjid was leveled, 263 temple related artefacts were found.
After a comprehensive analysis of the evidences that had surfaced during the excavation and the discovery of historical artefacts, the Archeological Survey Of India came to the conclusion that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court also reached the same conclusion. To make the excavation impartial it was ensured that 52 Muslims were included in the team of 131 of excavators. Not only that, the excavation was conducted in the presence of the representatives and archeological historians belonging to the BMAC group viz Suraj Bhan, Mondal, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon.
Could the excavation have been made more impartial?
Even after the judgment of the High Court, the Leftist historians continued their somersaults. They had changed their positions previously also without any qualms. The reason behind this inconsistency was that those who participated in the excavations as representatives of the BMAC were mere historians. Three or four of them had some knowledge of archeology but even they were absolutely ignorant about the Field Archeology. Therefore they were mere dwarfs in front of eminent archeologists like Dr B R Mani. The people from the JNU and Aligarh Universities, who represented the BMAC, for their lack of knowledge of field archeology, were not counted by other archeologists of the ASI. The ASI was committed to truth and impartiality.
Meanwhile, an officer of the ASI claiming proximity to the VHP tried to usurp the position of Dr Mani. Had he succeeded in his design, the enthusiasm to establish the existence of a temple would have landed Ayodhya into a different battle. But the ASI did not budge and Dr Mani was not removed. The ASI once again proved its impartiality.
One of the prominent leaders of the BMAC Syed Shahabudin, in a letter to the then Union Minister Anantha Kumar appreciated the ASI for boldly preventing the expansion of the temple by Jawahar Prasad, a BJP MLA, even while the BJP was ruling at the Centre. This official letter was forwarded to me by the Director General of ASI. I wrote a detailed response to Syed Shahabudin in which I mentioned Ayodhya issue also. I wrote that I took part in the Ayodhya excavation under Prof B B Lal and I had seen the remains of a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. I pleaded with him to understand this truth and create favourable Muslim opinion and take initiative to solve the Ayodhya issue. He assured me that he would discuss these facts in the next meeting with the Muslim leaders. After the said meeting he informed me that no one had agreed to handover the Masjid to Hindus.
Later I had a long discussion with him. He did not agree to handover Babri Masjid to the Hindus.
While travelling back I deeply contemplated. If India were a Muslim majority-secular country (a Muslim majority country will never be secular though) and if a Muslim leader had tried to illegally expand a mosque within the precincts of a temple (which is also a national monument) and if a Hindu officer had opposed it, how many Muslims would have supported the officer? This is the greatness of Indian secularism.
Exceptions could be shown – that there were mass killings of Muslims etc. Considering everything in the proper perspective let me make one thing clear – communalism of Hindus is not of a fundamental trait. Mostly it starts as a reaction to some incidents. This is true of the Godhra as well.
Once I went to Salala in Oman for an international excavation team based in Germany. The purpose was to excavate an underground city Al Balid. I came into contact with few Keralites there. They were from the Kannur-Thalassery area of Kerala and were sympathisers of SIMI. They invited me to a programme. Some of them knew my opinion about Ayodhya. But I put forth certain conditions. I will come and speak. My opinions can be questioned. But since I have come here on an invitation by Germans there shall not be any untoward incident. Discipline shall be maintained and counter point shall be tolerated. They agreed and I spoke about Rama Janma Bhumi. I started with the initial tolerant period of Islam. My recital of Koran was a surprise to them. I spoke in detail about the excavations and the discovery of artefacts. They listened in rapt attention. I concluded my speech thus:
“Ayodhya for a Hindu is as important as Mecca and Medina for a Muslim. A Muslim cannot think of Mecca or Medina in the custody of another religion. Muslims should listen to the cry of a helpless Hindu who suffers the ignominy of his temples being in Muslim custody despite ours being a Hindu majority land. While Hindus believe Babri Masjid to be the birth place of Rama, this spot has nothing to do with Prophet Muhammed. This place has no relation with Sahabis or Khulafaur Rasyidins; neither with Tabiun nor Aulia or Salaf us-Salih. This is related only to the Mughal King Babar. Why such an importance is to be attached to this Masjid?”
I further narrated an incident of my childhood. “When the Baitul Muqaddas of Jerusalem fell to Jews we assembled in Koduvally Juma Mazjid and cried to Allah to get back Baitul Muqaddas. An ordinary Hindu suffers the same pain which we suffered at the loss of Baitul Muqadda. I am not speaking about the educated and progressive Hindu. I am speaking about that Hindu of North India who, in extreme cold weather, wearing not even a shirt, without chappals, walks great distances just to have glance of Sri Ram. Can we not respect his pain and religious feelings a little?”
The audience went through a spell of introspection. I continued:- After independence an exclusive country was carved out for Muslims. Bharat could have very well declared itself a Hindu Nation. But since Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel, Azad etc all were great personalities, they refrained from doing it. Even after giving the Muslim minority a country of their own, Bharat was declared a secular country. You will not find such large-heartedness anywhere in the world. For this gesture, that old man in a dhoti had to sacrifice his life on the altar of secularism.
I stopped briefly for the audience to think further. I continued after a pause:-“But would Bharat have been a secular country if it were a Muslim majority land?” When there was no answer I said:-“No. If Bharat were a Muslim majority country it would never have declared itself secular after giving a separate nation to minority Hindus. This is the liberal mind embedded in Hinduism; the tolerant nature of Hinduism. We must understand this mind. We must respect this mentality. It will be good if you think about what would have been the plight of Muslims if people of some other religion were in majority in India in place of Hindus. Everyone shall understand such historical facts and be prepared to compromise. Then only we will become a secular country in the real sense. I have named this thought Reverse Thinking. If you are a Hindu, imagine that you are a Muslim and approach the problem. And if you are a Muslim, approach the problem as if you are a Hindu and try to solve it. We all belong to different religions, it is quite accidental.”
A question came from the audience:-“If we surrender these three places what if VHP demands three thousand? Is not their list too big?”
I answered:-“We are on the path of reconciliation. We dream of a dawn of peace through negotiations. Muslims are not needed to stand up against unreasonable demands; Hindus will do that themselves. That is the greatness of Hinduism. Do not forget that fanatic Hindu organizations like Bajrang Dal, VHP, Ram Sena etc. have not been granted general acceptance by Hindu society.”
I felt the audience agreed with my opinion that the problem shall be solved by abandoning the claim on Babri Mazjid in favour of Hindus. But no one openly admitted. Sometimes we get the answers from the body language. The audience were mostly youngsters. After the program the organisers took me to a small room and asked:-“Why did you not inform all these facts to top leaders like Syed Shahabudin?”
“I did not know him at that point of time. I came into contact with him after the Sher Shah Suri Maqbara incident and I wrote to him in detail thereafter.”
There are so many religions in Bharat. In Europe, religiosity has reduced substantially. Religions in the West are existing today just because of inheritance and culture. Remember, it was largely Hindus who raised their voice against the growing Hindu intolerance. So also against atrocities like what happened in Dadri. They blocked the surging intolerance by returning their awards. People like Infosys Narayan Murthy and RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan reacted.
In India religion influences every facet of our life. Every religion has its own archeology and building technology. Bharat is the confluence of all these cultural barter. Hindu culture is the foundation of all these transformations. Buddhism and Jainism are offshoots of Hinduism. Islamic architecture added beauty to this Hindu-Buddha-Jain foundation. Christian architecture further enriched the beauty. Qutub Minar and Taj Mahal are examples of this. Iran Iraq and Turkey are the birth places of Minars and Domes. But they do not have any structure comparable to Qutub Minar, why? Why they could not construct at least a shadow of Taj Mahal? India could do this because we could mix Indian handicraft with Islamic structural ideas. We are growing in a composite culture. Let there be a Brahmadutt in every Muhammed and a Muhammed in every Brahmadutt. We must build up such a composite cultural Bharat. (Translated by TG Mohandas)