Acknowledgement: Inspired by the writings of Koenraad Elst and Sita Ram Goyalji.
Bharat, the land of Hindus, is a continuing civilization, and perhaps the only one which can boldly claim to have had a longstanding tradition of settling disputes, both religious and secular, through discussion and debate which were conducted fairly, before it was tuckered out of existence by Islamic tyranny like so many other things Hindu.
It is a shame to learn that the Ayodhya dispute even after so many years of outcry and bloodshed has remained unresolved. Why? Where is the problem? The problem is the truth or more precisely the inability of the Indian establishment to deal with it. Truth can be inconvenient, and it takes courage and conviction to stand by it, qualities that the Indian establishment lacks totally.
The Indian establishment has been opposed to everything that doesn’t fit into its flimsy idea of India ever since its inception. And what is this Idea of India? It is an idea based not so much on objective truth and historical verities but on the whims and fancies of a bigoted man called Nehru. The crucible of Nehruvian ideas has survived until this day, it dies hard. Even those who claim to have sprung from ideologies rooted in the civilizational past of India have done little to break away from it. On the contrary, they have embraced it shamelessly to gain acceptance.
The slaughter of Hindus at the hands of Muslim conquerors has been unprecedented in the history of mankind. Compared to it, the holocaust of the Jews in Nazi Germany appears but a mild undertaking. Yet, the history books are silent. And even when a mention of such extreme hostilities on Hindus becomes unavoidable, the facts are either distorted or glossed over in the favor of the invader.
This has been the norm in the intellectual fraternity of India, which is largely dominated even today by the left leaning thinkers and historians. It is these shoddy scholars who have been peddling the anti-temple argument even when there is a mountain of evidence to suggest to the contrary. What is interesting to note is that so far none of them have actually refuted any of the arguments based on material evidence advanced by the pro-temple right leaning scholars. Far from taking on those arguments head on, they conveniently ignore them in favor of more vulnerable, badly put together, pamphlets meant for the consumption of common man.
The anti-temple scholars maintain that the temple never existed without giving any positive evidence for holding such a position. If it is true that there was no temple at the site, then what existed there before the mosque was built? There is no reason why the site must be unable to throw up facts about its history. As much as it is incumbent upon the pro-temple proponents to provide evidence for the temple, the anti-temple scholars must provide positive evidence to prove their point. So far, the anti-temple scholars have relied upon finding faults with the evidence furnished by the pro-temple party without advancing their own hypothesis as to what might have existed, if not a temple, at the site before the mosque was built.
The most important work of scholarship in the context of temple controversy is Sita Ram Goyal’s “ Hindu Temples, what happened to them?”. The book provides a comprehensive account of several cases of temple demolition, and more importantly a holistic account of the Islamic theology of iconoclasm to which this wholesale destruction of temples should be rightfully attributed.
The author has claimed that a large scale demolition of Hindu temples took place during the Muslim rule, and he has produced a list of 2000 specific cases. It is astonishing to note, however, that none of the anti-temple scholars have found it worth their time to debunk even a single claim out of the total of 2000 demolitions. What is even more brazen is that none of the works aimed at debunking the temple hypothesis even cursorily mention this work in their bibliographies.
In the second volume the author has produced a copious mass of literary and epigraphical evidence from various historical accounts of the Muslim period to back his temple demolition hypothesis.
A sample from the second volume is produced below:
“Starting with Al-Biladhuri who wrote in Arabic in the second half of the ninth century, and coming down to Bashiruddin Ahmad who wrote in Urdu in the second decade of the twentieth, we have cited from seventy histories spanning a period of more than a thousand years. Our citations mention fifty kings, six military commanders and three sufis who destroyed Hindu temples in one hundred and seven localities…”
The epigraphical evidence produced by the author is off course not complete and categorical as he himself remarks that it was just the tip of the iceberg. The limitations of his work notwithstanding, the author has at-least established beyond all reasonable doubt that the demolition of temple at Ayodhya was not an anomaly but just another chapter in the long and bloody history of Islamic iconoclasm.
Synonymous with the work of Goyal, several others intellectuals of international repute such as Koenraad Elst have produced excellent analysis of the Ayodhya dispute and given a very objective account of the arguments on both sides. But, the mainstream scholars of the Indian left have completely disregarded all such evidence. This is normal, anyone who may have read “Eminent Historians” by Arun shourie will attest to this my claim. The only exception to this general disregard of evidence comes from the position maintained by the members of the Babri Masjid action committee.
The Central line of argument of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC henceforth) is that until 18th century, no literary source mentions a temple or an act of demolition of a temple at the site.
This is preposterous. The absence of testimony by itself does not guarantee that a particular event didn’t take place at all. Moreover, what this argument fails to see is that a work of literature is composed by its author with a particular objective in mind. When the legendary Tulsidas in his great work of “Ramacharitramanas” doesn’t mention anything about Ayodhya, he has a reason to do so. Simply put, it was not his job to act as a chronicler of his times. Moreover, as the inscription at the Mosque itself reveals that it was finished around 1528 AD long before Tulsidas around 1600 AD, what need was there for him to mention about it? If one were to go by the logic of BMAC scholars, Tulsidas hasn’t even mentioned the name of emperor Akbar in his work who was his contemporary, does that mean Akbar didn’t exist at all? Therefore, the argument that the literary sources are silent about the temple or its demolition cannot be admitted as an argument at all.
That there existed a Hindu temple at the now disputed site in Ayodhya was universally accepted by all parties until the British era cannot be disputed at all. Even the erstwhile Muslims involved in the dispute never challenged this fact, on the contrary, the Babri structure was viewed then as a triumphant monument of victory of Islam over idolatry.
What changed after Independence?
The facts surrounding the dispute haven’t changed, the political narrative and compulsions have, and that explains why the issue on which there existed a universal consensus has been re-opened for a discussion without a shred of new evidence emerging to the contrary.
In order to move the debate forward, the GOI provided a forum for an open debate to the parties involved in 1991 and subsequently in 1992 as well. But, this initiative didn’t achieve much. On both occasions in 1991 and 1992 the talks were unilaterally broken off by the Babri Masjid Party (BMP).
As we have already pointed out that the only party which made an attempt to nullify the temple hypothesis is the BMP, but in this undertaking they have never moved beyond their pet assertion that no literary evidence anterior to 18th century can be produced to corroborate the fact of temple existing at the site or any act of its alleged demolition. But this is no argument at all as already explained in part-2 of this discussion.
Let us begin today with Babri Masjid itself.
It is a matter of common knowledge that there existed a monument called the Babri Masjid at the supposed site of Lord Rama’s birth, which was demolished by a mob in the events that transpired on the fateful day of December 6, 1992.
The monument continues to be known by the name of Babri Masjid. It was so called because an inscription at the site stands testimony to the fact that the monument was commissioned at the order of Mughal invader Babur in 1528. But until the beginning of this century the official government documents carried the name Masjid-i-janmasthana i.e. “ The Masjid of the birthplace”, and the hill on which it stood is known by the name of “Ramkot”.
Why was the structure so called? Was it made after demolishing a pre-existing temple? This is the fundamental question to be discussed. And if it could be established that a temple pre-existed at the site before the mosque came in to being, the BMAC must rest its case. In fact Syed Shahabubuddin has agreed with the VHP that this is the moot issue. Infact in November 1990, in a letter to the then PM Chandrashekhar, Rajeev Gandhi had proposed the same that the scope be narrowed down to the question whether a temple pre-existed at the site? But of course the larger spectrum of the BMAC scholars continue to disagree on this. In fact it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they don’t want the dispute to be settled in the light of evidence.
Now let me discuss the pro temple evidence.
The VHP furnished a corpus of documentary evidence at the time of the debate to prove this point beyond any reasonable doubt that there has been a consensus among the people of Ayodhya, both Hindus and Muslims, that there existed a temple before a mosque in its place was forcibly erected. Not a single scrum of documentary or archaeological evidence produced by the anti-temple party so far has been able to put in place an alternate hypothesis that could call this long standing consensus in to question. Moreover, the archaeological findings of the noted scholar BB. Lal has only rendered more weight to the VHP hypothesis. Findings of burnt-brick pillar bases dated to the 11th century in trenches a few meters from the disputed structure prove that a pillared building stood in alignment with, and on the same foundation system as the Babri Masjid. To add to this there are several independent literary sources by local Muslims, European travelers, and others that establish it beyond doubt that the temple existed.
But, the BMAC scholars are not impressed. They demand eye witness account of destruction. What a joke! It is in fact astonishing and preposterous at the same time. Should they be not asked the same kind of evidence then to supports their case? Where is the eye-witness account to suggest that Babri Masjid was made on a desolate ground?
“About this demand for eye-witness accounts, Arun Shourie has remarked: “Today a contemporary account is being demanded in the case of the Babri Masjid, Are those who make this demand prepared to accept this as the criterion – that if a contemporary account exists of the destruction of a temple for constructing a mosque, the case is made?” Shourie goes on to quote from Aurangzeb’s court chronicles: “News came to Court that in accordance with the Emperor’s command his officers had demolished the temple of Vishvanath at Benares (2/9/1669)In the month of Ramzan, the religious-minded Emperor ordered the demolition of the temple at Mathura*.In a short time by the great exertions of his officers the destruction of this strong center of infidelity was accomplished*.A grand mosque was built on its site*.January 1670)”. These accounts are as contemporary as you can get.”
Shourie concludes: “If the fact that a contemporary account of the temple at Ayodhya is not available leaves the matter unsettled, does the fact that contemporary accounts are available for the temples at Kashi, Mathura, Pandharpur and a host of other places settle the matter? One has only to ask the question to know that the ‘experts’ and ‘intellectuals’ will immediately ask for something else”.