By R Vaidyanathan
It runs to more than 8,000 pages and it contains is a marvelous set of documents on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri case. On the 20th anniversary of the demolition, it is worth looking at some aspects of the judgment delivered by the full bench of the Allahabad High Court in September 2012.
The judgment, which awarded two parts of the disputed land to Hindu groups and one to the Muslim one, is now being contested by the parties in the Supreme Court, but it offers an extraordinary insight in to our culture, history, and civilisational ethos. It dwells at length on Persian sources, German writings, French observations, Urdu literature and, of course, Sanskrit evidence. It deals with archeology, history, linguistics, anthropology, zoology, literature, the puranas, the jataka tales and many other subjects and disciplines.
The sweep of the judgment and the canvas covered is mind-boggling and it makes one proud of our judiciary. This judgment will be quoted discussed and dissected by legal as well as academic experts for several decades.
But we shall not discuss the judgment’s core aspects, and focus instead on what it has to say on our “eminent historians” who were shown to be not so eminent, and their attitudes fairly unacademic.
Many “independent experts”, historians and archeologists appeared on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board but in the end the special bench of three judges unanimously dismissed the objections raised by them about the ruins of a temple under the demolished structure. It was Justice Sudhir Agarwal who put their claims to judicial scrutiny.
Interestingly many of these “experts” had deposed twice in the court — once before the ASI excavations and another after. Before the excavations they asserted that there was no temple beneath the disputed structure and after it was dug up they began to claim that what was unearthed was a mosque or stupa. Not only that, they found themselves withering under judicial scrutiny in spite of writing signed articles and issuing pamphlets and long public letters.
The judge asked pointed queries which might never been asked by their students.
The cross-examination covers several pages and a gripping reading. It shows the levels to which our academics have fallen and become hand maidens of the political machinery. Let us look at some of their statements, and how they do nothing to enhance their profession’s reputation.
Supriya Verma an, “expert” who challenged the excavations done by the ASI, had not read the radar survey report on ground penetration that led to the court order for excavation. Verma and Jaya Menon, another “expert,” were not present at the time of actual excavations but alleged that pillar bases at the excavated sites were planted.
Suvira Jaiswal says: “Whatever knowledge I gained with respect to the disputed site is based on newspaper reports or what others told.” She also confessed that she “prepared a report on the Babri dispute after reading newspaper reports and on the basis of discussion with my medieval history expert in my department”.
Jaiswal made an important clarification: “I am not giving (my) statement on oath regarding Babri Mosque without any probe and not on the basis of my knowledge; rather I am giving the statement on the basis of my opinion.”
When opinion can be history why are they all screaming that "faith" cannot be an equally relevant criterion?
Archaeologist Shereen Ratnagar admitted she did not have any “field” experience as far as Babri was concerned and had written an “introduction” to the book of another “expert” who deposed before the court, namely Prof D Mandal. This expert witness for the Waqf Board admitted he wrote his “Ayodhya: Archaeology after Demolition” without even visiting Ayodhya and with an eye to the presidential reference to the Supreme Court. Mandal also admitted that “Whatsoever little knowledge I have of Babur is only that Babur was (a) ruler of the 16th century. Except for this I do not have any knowledge of Babur.” The judge, Agarwal, was sufficiently moved to say about Mandal that “the statements made by him in cross-examination show the shallowness of his knowledge on the subject”.