For the last two years a furious agitation has been organised in this country under the aegis of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its allies over what has come to be known as the Ram Janambhumi-Baburi Masjid Dispute. Precious lives have been lost, communal riots have broken out, and for the first time since independence the secular nature of our State has come under serious threat, all seemingly over the issue of what is to be done to a 16th-century structure at Ayodhya.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad demands that this structure, a mosque built in 1528-29 known as the Baburi Masjid, stands on the very site where Lord Rama was born ("Ram Janambhumi" or "Ram Janamsthan"), and at which sacred spot there existed a Rama temple, which was destroyed in order to build the mosque. This historical wrong done to the Hindu community nearly 450 years ago is now sought to be set right, the mosque pulled down or shifted, and a new, magnificent Rama temple built on the same spot. The legalities of the dispute – the entire case is before the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow bench) – are to be brushed aside, in view of the higher verdict of History, which the VHP has already beclared to be in its favour.
The government of India, under circumstances that are well known, began negotiations [December 1990] with the VHP and the Baburi Masjid Action Committee (BMAC), with a view to examine the historical and legal merits of the case of both the parties. Thus the dispute over the facts of history were now to be decided by the litigants, with the government of India as an umpire, and not by any independent forum of historians: a very unhappy procedure. We therefore approached the Government of India to include impartial historians in the process of forming judgement on historical facts and to let us have access to such evidence, archaeological and textual, as has been presented to it or is in possession of Government organisations, such as the Archeological Survey of India. We regret to say that the Government of India's response to this was largely on of silence. The BMAC declared that it was ready to abide by the findings of a set of independent historians, but this position was not acceptable to the VHP.
However, in spite of these obstacles, we thought that national interest required an unbiased and impartial inquiry, so that people should be clear about what the historical facts are. We scrutinised most carefully the evidence submitted to Government by the VHP and BMAC, and collected historical material on our own. Two of us went to Ayodhya to examine and survey the site and the structure of the Baburi Masjid. We also examined archeological material from Professor A.K.Narian's excavations at Ayodhya, now preserved at the Banaras Hindu University. To our regret, through no lack of trying on our part, material from B.B.Lal's excavations at Ayodhya was not made available for inspection for us; and we had to depend on published reports only.
Having undertaken this effort, we place in all humility the results of our enquiry before the nation. We will at least have the satisfaction that, within the limits of our capacity, we have done our duty. The VHP's case rests on the following four major claims:
- The Hindus have always, and certainly over a long period before the construction of the Baburi Masjid, believed in there being a very sacred spot at Ayodhya, where Lord Rama was born.
- This spot was the very site where the Baburi Masjid now stands.
- A temple dedicated to Rama stood at this holy site long before the Baburi Masjid was built.
- The temple was pulled down to construct the Baburi Masjid at this spot.
We now proceed to examine these claims, largely in the order as they are listed above.
We have, first, to see what substance there is in claims (1) and (2), namely that Hindus have for a very long time believed in the sanctity of Ram Janamsthan at Ayodhya, and in its existence at the very site of the Baburi Masjid."