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Excavation raises hopes of rival parties
Sharat Pradhan in Ayodhya | March 13, 2003 00:47 IST
The excavation work at the site where the Babri masjid once stood has generated a lot of hope among rival parties who now see the possibility of an end to the centuries-old dispute over the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Both sides are confident that the excavation would go a long way in helping establish their respective claims over the disputed site.
Some people contend that the 16th century Babri mosque, razed by violent kar sewaks on December 6, 1992, was built on the debris of an ancient Hindu temple that marked Lord Ram's birthplace.
The Archaeological Survey of India commenced excavation work at four spots its experts had earmarked earlier. The public is not allowed to view this work, though representatives of the parties involved in the case can.
Raju, a shopkeeper who sells puja material on the long winding path leading to the entrance of the makeshift temple on the disputed site, said, "The day is not far when the much awaited grand Ram temple would see the light of the day."
Sushila, a middle-aged devotee from neighbouring Gonda district who had come with her children to offer prayers at the makeshift temple, was equally confident that the digging would eventually provide testimony to the Hindu contention about the existence of an ancient temple at the disputed spot.
An otherwise mild-mannered Hashim Ansari, the oldest Muslim litigant in the half-a-century-old legal tangle, however, raised a voice of dissent.
"I have boycotted the excavation as I have grave suspicion about the impartiality of the ASI. It is directly answerable to Union HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who is not only an advocate of the temple but is also among the prime accused in the Babri masjid demolition case," Ansari told rediff.com.
However, Ansari is believed to have stationed a representative, his lawyer, at the disputed site where digging commenced at four spots (4 x 4 metres each), which are cordoned off by magenta coloured cloth screens and covered with a saffron tent.
"Digging is being undertaken on the eastern side of the makeshift temple that lies where a platform popularly known as Ram Chabootra stood until December 6, 1992 when the Babri mosque was razed," Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) convener Zafaryab Jilani told rediff.com.
Hindus have been allowed access to the Ram Chabootra right from the time of Mughal emperor Akbar (the grandson of Babur in whose name the Babri mosque was erected).
The last excavation, carried out by a team of archaeologists led by former ASI chief B B Lal in 1978, had revealed the existence of a twelfth century temple at a spot close to the Ram Chabootra.
Even as the excavation work commenced amidst high security, people in the ancient temple town went on with their lives as usual.
"There appears to be some increase in the number of devotees ever since the news about the excavation broke out,” a policemen on duty noted.
Peeping through some slits in the screen around the excavation site, members of the ASI team, other senior government and police officials could be seen sitting on chairs as 23-odd labourers went about with the digging.
"Archaeological excavation is a slow process and is often carried out using bare hands,” remarked an ASI official.
Earlier, rival parties were satisfied after the ASI carried out a fresh survey of the site before proceeding with the excavation, following a court order to that effect.
Zafaryab Jilani, who is also the official counsel of the Sunni Central Waqf Board, Ranjit Lal Verma, who represents the Nirmohi Akhara, which is the oldest claimant among the Hindus to the disputed site, and Madan Mohan Pandey, counsel for yet another group, expressed satisfaction with the excavation work so far and were optimistic of the outcome.
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