Ayodhya, the Finale
This book is Elst's latest book on the Ayodhya debate, and is an intervention in favour of the controversial report by the Archaeological Survey of India on the history of Ram Janmabhoomi. He writes that he is surprised that there is a controversy at all, when the matter "could be decided by Scientists". The book compares the Ayodhya debate to Galileo, whose scientific findings were also opposed by many people. He writes that "when dogmatic ideologues are giving scientists the kind of treatment which the experts of the Archaeological Survey of Indian have been receiving from the “eminent historians”, and assorted Babri Masjid lobbyists, it is time to stand up and be counted. I for one want to be counted among those who defend the freedom of research and the scientific method..."
Elst: " Ayodhya, the Finale: Science versus Secularism in the Excavations Debate (Voice of India 2003): A survey of the “secularist” reactions to the Court-mandated excavations at the contentious site in Ayodhya, carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India and of which the findings favoured the Hindu claim. While the truth of the scientific findings is of one piece, it was fascinating to see how many different and contradictory lies were thought up by “secularists” unwilling to face the facts. "
- The true story has been explained threadbare long ago, but for poor listeners like Mr. Engineer, we may repeat that Lal’s excavation focused on the ancient period and that from the viewpoint of Ramayana studies, the medieval layer with its unmistakable temple foundations was indeed devoid of much interest. The discovery of temple remains was nothing unexpected or controversial at the time, given the consensus (still prevalent in the late 1970s) on the site’s known history of Islamic iconoclasm. Yet, after the normal bureaucratic and human-inertial delays, as the 1980s were advancing, the ASI started deliberately postponing the formal publication of Lal’s findings because secularist opinion had started mobilizing against the longstanding historical consensus. The reason for the endless procrastination must have been the same reason why the court case has been dragging on for decades: fear of getting involved in controversy, particularly one where the facts would force a stance favoured by the Hindu side. In other words, fear of being demonized by the secularist establishment with its bloodhound attitude towards dissent.
- One such secularist, a modern man ready to deal with the matter pragmatically, was Rajiv Gandhi. He allowed the Hindus to prepare for the construction of a new temple with the ceremonial laying of a foundation stone (shilanyas) on November 9, 1989. He pressured the Chandra Shekhar government, which was dependent on Congress support, into organizing the scholars’ debate about the historical evidence, in the full knowledge that the temple party would win such a debate hands down. The thrust of his Ayodhya policy was to buy off Muslim acquiescence with some of the usual currency of the Congress culture: maybe nominating a few more Mians as ministers, banning a few Islam-unfriendly books (hence the Satanic Verses affair), raising the Hajj subsidy, providing cheap loans to the Shahi Imam’s constituency, donating government land for some Islamic purpose, things like that. Meanwhile, Hindus would get their temple. Muslims would have scolded their leaders for selling out, Hindus would have lambasted theirs for cheapening a noble cause with such horse-trading, but in the end, everybody would have accepted it....Whatever may be said about and against Rajiv Gandhi, he had the calibre and the cool secular distance from religious passions to see such a policy through....But in 1991 India’s top pilot was killed, and worse, in his years as India’s most important politician, dark forces had started fighting his reasonable and pragmatic policy tooth and nail. The problem was not with the obscurantist Mullahs, because in those days, a seasoned Congress leader knew how to strike win-win deals with them. The poison issued from the secularist intellectuals who raised a media storm against the historical consensus, the one factual certainty underlying all the political confusion. Their stance hardened Muslim intransigence, emboldened the Left in its anti-Hindu strategy and created international public opinion against the temple plan... The irresponsible and downright evil campaign of history denial by the secularist opinion-makers has prolonged the Ayodhya dispute by at least a decade. Denouncing all pragmatic deals, these secular fundamentalists insisted on having it their way for the full 100%, meaning the total humiliation of the Hindus. They exercised verbal terror against Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and all politicians suspected of wanting to compromise with the Hindu movement, making them postpone the needed steps towards the solution. This way, they exacerbated the tensions in return for the pleasure of indulging their self-image as implacable secularists. A real secularist would have sought to minimize a religious conflict, but this lot insisted on magnifying it and turning it into a national crisis. For them, it was a holy war, a jihad, just as it was for their Islamist pupils and paymasters.
- Since some ignorant dupes of these Marxists denounce as “McCarthyist” anyone who points out their ideological inspiration, it deserves to be emphasized that acclaimed secularist historians like Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib are certified as Marxists in standard Marxist sources like Tom Bottomore’s Dictionary of Marxist Thought. The BMAC team’s argumentation of 1991 and several other anti-temple pamphlets were published by the People’s Publishing House, a Communist Party outfit. One of the textbook innovations most furiously denounced as “saffronization” was the truism that Lenin’s armed seizing of power in October/November 1917 was a “coup d’état”. And while they were unchaining all their devils against glasnost, in early 2003, the Marxists ruling West Bengal deleted from a textbook a passage in which Mahatma Gandhi’s biographer Louis Fischer called Stalin “at least as ruthless as Hitler”. Such are the true concerns of the “secularists” warning the world against the ongoing glasnost in India’s national history curriculum.
- Likewise, in the Central-Indian town of Jhabua, a quarrel among mostly christianized tribals led to the rape of four nuns. With no Hindu nationalists in sight, the media decided nonetheless that this was an act of Hindu nationalist cruelty against the poor hapless Christian minority. Though the official investigation confirmed the total innocence of the Hindu nationalists in this affair (more details on these and similar cases in Arun Shourie, Harvesting Our Souls, ch.1), their guilt has been consecrated by endless repetition in the media. While the media in India couldn’t prevent the truth from quietly making itself known, the international media have never published a correction, and the story of “four nuns in Jhabua raped by Hindu nationalists” now keeps on reappearing as an evergreen of anti-Hindu hate propaganda.
- Irfan Habib is also counting on the readers’ forgetfulness concerning one of the central findings in the ASI report: there was a very large temple, the foundations of which far exceed the circumference of the Babri mosque. He wants us to believe that the pillar-bases were actually the floor of the Babri Masjid, but a large part of the foundations was located outside the confines of the mosque and hence cannot possibly be confused with the mosque floor, except by a highly prejudiced mind.
- This shows what accomplished liars the Marxists are: they posit not just one lie, as amateurs would, but also all the ramifications of that lie.
- Their effort has indeed been very strenuous... They were issuing statements all the time, grim one day, furious the next, scholarly never.
- In disinformation campaigns, the first stage of planting false news must be followed up with a second stage of making the false news into a familiar presence. ...Clearly, some people were leaving no stone unturned to make this claim part of the received wisdom.
Other Ayodhya articles
- Admittedly, a Muslim lobby had been formed which insisted on reoccupying this Hindu sacred site. However, the existing Congress culture notoriously knew how to deal with such problems: give the Muslim lobbyists some ministerial posts, some public largesse for their institutes or a raise in the Hajj subsidies, and they will come around. A small application of this approach was the annulment of Syed Shahabuddin's announced march on Ayodhya in 1988 in exchange for the governmental ban on Salman Rushdie's freshly-released book The Satanic Verses. A similar but bigger concession might have annulled the Muslim claim on the Ayodhya site. It would not have been the most principled policy, but it would have avoided a lot of communal blood-letting.
- The sudden denial of this history by a circle of Marxist historians was not based on any new evidence but purely on political compulsions. It seems that their long enjoyment of a hegemonic power position in academe had gone to their heads, so they thought they could get away with crude history falsification.
- Nonetheless, the Marxist historians had their way. In their shrill manifestoes, these secular fundamentalists slandered the genuine historians who stood by the facts, and they denounced the Hindus' perfectly reasonable expectation that a Hindu sacred site be left in the exclusive care of the Hindus. They did this with such titanic vehemence that the pragmatists were thrown on the defensive.
- In a normal course of events, i.e. without the interference of secularist shrieks and howls, this would have set the stage for the peaceful construction of a new temple in the 1990s...
- Architecturally, the building was and remained a mosque, while functionally, it had been and continued to be a Hindu temple.
- What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn't unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986? 'Outlook India' (issue dt. 23 August 2004) at the URL http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20040823&fname=UCol+Koenraad&sid=1
- Without exaggeration, the BJP's Ayodhya campaign was the single biggest public relations disaster in world history.
- In the BJP statements of the last few years the most prominent 'communal' item is the Common Civil Code demand; but pushing that one would be a grave mistake. True, this is an impeccably secular concern, amounting to no more than the implementation of the existing Article 44 of the Constitution.But precisely for these reasons, this initiative should be left to the secularists, whose inaction on this point is a permanent measure of their dishonesty. There are excellent arguments against polygamy and unilateral talaq, but nobody will believe the BJP if it says that it was concerned about the plight of Muslim women.
- Instead, the BJP ought first of all to take up an issue which really matters for Hindu communal life abolishing the legal and constitutional discriminations against the Hindu majority, most urgently those in education and temple management. The constitutional bedrock of these discriminations is Article 30, which accords to the minorities the right to set up and administer their own schools and colleges, preserving their communal identity (through the course contents and by selectively recruiting teachers and students), all while receiving state subsidies. That right is not guaranteed to the majority, but should be.
- An analogous problem exists for the Hindu temples. Mosques and churches are exclusively managed by the respective communities, but Hindu temples are routinely taken over by the secular authorities. This results in misappropriation of the temple's income and its redirection to non‑Hindu purposes. It is also a major factor in the grinding poverty afflicting most Hindu temple priests and their families.
- Recently, the authorities moved court (unsuccessfully) to get the Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Hyderabad registered as a Hindu temple, all for wresting control of the institution and its funds. The BJP does not deserve to get a single Hindu vote if it doesn't address to this injustice.
- BJP Retreat from Ayodhya The Observer Of Business And Politics(New Delhi, December, 1996.)
- After the historians’ interference, the Indian mainstream politicians did not dare to go against the judgment of these authorities. The international media and India-watchers were also taken in and shared their hatred of these ugly Hindu history-falsifiers. Only, the Court-ordered excavations of 2003 have fully vindicated the old consensus: temple remains were found underneath the mosque. Moreover, the eminences asked to witness in Court had to confess their incompetence one after another (as documented by Meenakshi Jain: Rama and Ayodhya, 2013): one had never been to the site, the next one had never studied any archaeology, a third had only fallen in line with some hearsay, etc. Abroad this news has hardly been reported, and experts who know it make sure that no conclusions are drawn from it. After the false and disproven narrative of the eminent historians has reigned supreme for two decades, no one has yet bothered to demythologize their undeserved authority.
- The media had allotted an enormous weight to the Ayodhya affair: "Secularism in danger", "India on the brink" and similar headlines were daily fare. When the Babri Masjid was demolished by impatient Hindu youngsters on 6 December 1992, the Times of India titled its editorial: "A requiem for norms", no less. Given all the drama and moralistic bombast with which they used to surround this controversy, one would have expected their eagerness to report KK Muhammad's eyewitness account. But no, they were extremely sparing in their coverage, reluctant to face an unpleasant fact: the guilt of their heroes, the "eminent historians". These people outsourced the dirty work to Hindu and Muslim streetfighters and to Islamic terrorists, but in fact it is they who have blood on their hands.
- The guilt of the "eminent historians" (published in The Pioneer, 26 Jan. 2016)
- It is in the Ayodhya debate that I have learned the power of historical scholarship. After the 1989 statement by the JNU historians, starring Romila Thapar, the historical position, though having been a matter of consensus between all the parties involved, was suddenly tabooed. There had already been partial archaeological excavations confirming that there had been a temple on the site where the Babri Masjid was built. Even if you decided to doubt the consensus, the balance of evidence was already clearly on the side of the temple. Yet, the whole mediatic and political class, and all the foreign India-watchers, suddenly had to pretend that the historical position was but a ridiculous Hindutva concoction. Well, through all this commotion, the historical facts remained what they were, and they were amply confirmed by the excavations of 2003. There are still a few Leftists maintaining that there had never been a temple at the site, but most people concerned just look the other way, embarrassed at having been led by the nose so badly. And with such a death toll as a result. .... But no, the “eminent historians” preferred lies and bloodshed (and apparently also the rise of the BJP). It is not often in history that the intervention of intellectuals has had so much effect at the mass level.... Why, in fact, has Romila Thapar been interviewed? Though she was already well-known, her hour of glory came with the unnecessary and artificial Ayodhya controversy. But in that controversy, she was on the wrong side. It doesn’t always come about, but in this case it did happen: justice. The wrong side, though absolutely dominant for more than a decade, was proven wrong. Her major claim to fame is now as the historian who was proven wrong, and this in a self-created controversy. I feel for her, she threw away her good reputation at the end of her career. Then again, she can still win it back by crossing the floor in time. She is in an excellent position, for instance, to create the much-needed dialogue between the different schools and disciplines in East and West; to stop the stonewalling, the guilt-by-association and the ridiculing that obstruct or poison the debate.
- Interview about Romila Thapar, 2015
- But in 1989-92, that option was thwarted by the offensive of Babri ultras, and by this I don’t mean the warriors for Islam but the conformistic intellectuals shrieking and howling that the contentious building was the last bastion of “secularism”, a matter of high principle, of life and death. Under their fierce calls for “hard secularism”, no administrator dared to reduce the controversy to its true and manageable proportions anymore. Not the Congress, not the various left-populist parties, and not the BJP either. They were all paralysed and consequently bought time all while taking sides against the weaker party, the pro-temple movement with its vacillating and politically incompetent leadership.
- The BJP and the Ayodhya demolition
- Yet, in 1989, all this evidence was brushed aside by a group of 25 academics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi), mostly declared Marxists, who issued a statement denying the existence of any evidence for the temple: The Political Abuse of History. Not that they offered any newfound data to support this dramatic reversal of the consensus, all they had to show was some totally contrived reinterpretations of a few of the existing data plus the worn-out slogans against "Hindu communalism". But the sympathy of the Indian and international media for their purported motive of "upholding secularism" assured the immediate worldwide adoption of the new party-line as Gospel truth: the demolished Rama temple had merely been a malicious invention of the ugly Hindu nationalists.
- This was reckless, for if the political choice for the preservation of the mosque were based on the historical non-existence of the medieval temple at the site, then the eventual discovery of such a temple would justify a contrario the replacement of the mosque with a restored temple. At least in theory, but the Marxists were confident that their opponents would never get the chance to press this point. Under the prevailing power equation, they expected to get away with a plain denial of history rather than a mere insistence on divorcing history from politics.
- In December 1990, the short-lived Socialist-dominated government of Chandra Shekhar invited the two lobby groups involved, the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Babri Masjid Action Committee, to mandate a team of scholars for discussing the historical truth of the matter. Misled by the media into believing that the Hindu claims were pure fantasy, the BMAC office-bearers arrived ill-prepared, expecting a cakewalk over the discredited case of the VHP fanatics. They were speechless when the VHP team presented dozens of documents supporting their case.
- Found and Lost: The Ayodhya Evidence
- But the secularist historians publicly intervened and put everyone on notice that the misplaced Babri Masjid which Muslims had imposed on the site centuries ago was the last bulwark of secularism.
- However, the Muslim hardliners could console themselves that, on present demographic trends, India will turn Islamic-majority anyway, at which time all open accounts can still be settled.
- And, of course, they never asked of the Muslim party by what right a mosque had been imposed on the temple site, even though it directly implicates their scriptures and the example set by their Prophet, who had personally destroyed the murtis in the main pilgrimage site of the Pagan Arabs, the Kaaba in Mecca.
- In her book 'Rama and Ayodhya' (2013), she had already shown that the Leftist academics who had fought for the Babri Masjid, had crumbled under judicial court-examination. This time, we are given to deal not just with their lack of genuine expertise, but with actual deceit and deliberate lies by some of them. Back in 1990, in his article “Hideaway communalism”, Arun Shourie had already brought to light four cases where Muslim authorities had tampered with old documents that showed how the Muslim community itself had always taken for granted the mosque’s location on land venerated as Rama’s birthplace. Now, Irfan Habib’s seemingly strongest piece of evidence (not for the temple’s non-existence, of course, but at least for the untrustworthiness of some pro-temple spokesmen) turned out to be false.
- During the demolition on 6 December 1992, many Hindu artefacts had turned up, albeit in less than desirable circumstances from an archaeological viewpoint. Proper excavations at the site in mid-1993 found some more, before the thorough Court-ordered excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2003 uncovered the famous pillar-bases, long ridiculed as a “Hindutva concoction” by the secularists but henceforth undeniable. Among the first findings during the demolition was the Vishnu Hari inscription, dating from the mid-11th century Rajput temple, which the Babri Masjid masons had placed between the outer and inner wall. Several Babri historians dismissed the inscription as fake, as of much later date, or as actually brought by the Kar Sevaks during the demolition itself.
- Prof. Irfan Habib, in a combine with Dr. Jahnawi Roy and Dr. Pushpa Prasad, dismissed this inscription as stolen from the Lucknow Museum and to be nothing other than the Treta ka Thakur inscription. The curator kept this inscription under lock, but after some trying, Kishore Kunal, author of another Ayodhya book (Ayodhya Revisited, 2016), could finally gain access to it and publish a photograph. What had been suspected all along, turns out to be true: Prof. Habib, who must have known both inscriptions, has told a blatant lie. Both inscriptions exist and are different. Here they have been neatly juxtaposed on p.104-5. Yet, none of the three scholars has “responded to the publication of the photograph of the Treta ka Thakur inscription, which falsifies the arguments they have been persistently advocating for over two decades.” (p.112)
- It is no news if a secularist tells a lie: they have been doing it all along. Only, in the past they could get away with it, as the media and the publishers toed their line and withheld the publication of facts that pin-pricked their authority. ... Since the suppression of the truth concerning Ayodhya was part of a power equation to the secularists’ advantage, the waning of that power equation means that future scholars will now become free to take the mendaciousness of the then secularists into account.
- Congress PM Rajiv Gandhi thought he could handle this challenge, but the initiative was wrested from his hands by the secularist historians. With their shrill statements about “secularism in danger”, they raised the stakes enormously. The rest is history.
- Epitaph for the Ayodhya affair,  2017