Ayodhya: Old Consensus, Simple Solution — A Talk by Koenraad Elst
Koenraad Elst delivered a talk at the Press Club of India. The talk was organized by the Srijan Foundation on the topic ‘Ayodhya Ram temple’. This is the transcript of Elst’s Speech.
Again Mr. chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your outstanding patients as you are all still here. I don’t know if the enemy has sent a death squad, you know in that case I welcome them too. Now we’re going to talk about Ayodhya and all consensuses and a simple solution. The old consensus will need a fairly long talk, the simple consensus is extremely simple.
So first question was this Rama’s birthplace. Did Rama live in Ayodhya? And if you can narrow it down, if he was born at that specific site, we already get a long way, if we know he was born there or born somewhere in Ayodhya. Secondly, Did Hindus adorned the side with a temple commemorating him or his birth and go on pilgrimage there, and if so why isn’t not there today; why did disappear.
And the third question, is, what should be done now. So was this Rama’s birthplace? I think none of us was present at his birth and so we don’t know. In fact the kind of thing that would count as a historical proof for some important event, a battle or so, would be highly suspect in the case of birth, the children are born all the time everywhere and you very rarely find a place with a plot in the world.
See here on Rama Navami little drama was born, you know, if that kind of plot had been made, that itself would be a sign that it was made by devotees, and that therefore the ulterior motives that are possible in the case of devotees lay along, you know, they might refer to some tourists exploiter who tries to make a particular place attractive so that all people come there. So rest assured, we are not going to find a credible source that indicates the place of Rama’s birth may have a certain scriptural testimony. Ayodhya was the site of the capital of the solar dynasty to which Rama belong that particular place is a natural place of honor on a hilltop but you know all that gives a certain probability, but you have to admit right away, that we have no proof that he was born there. So count one hit for the secularists they have been right all along. You see, we don’t know, Hindus don’t know, the Viswa Hindu Parishad does not know Rama was born there. It only believes so. However, the Indian secular state finds that scriptural claim good enough, at least it also indicates of all the religion. In fact there are more than do so like, for example the martyrdom church of St. Thomas near Chennai. You see all that we can easily verify that it’s a concocted story. St. almost did not die there, let alone get martyred by evil will Brahmins, as the Christian say, and yet the state protects the church there, that you know, attracts a lot of Christians going there. Now in the case of the Kaaba in Mecca. It is fairly fairly precisely the same story as Ayodhya, namely we have scriptural sanction for the reason why this is a place of pilgrimage. Namely scripture claims that Adam known as a person and Adam built the Kaaba and that makes it so special, that we go on pilgrimage there, and so the Indian state is not asking any questions, you know, it’s facilitate the pilgrimage there, it even subsidizes the pilgrimage. Yet there is no proof that Adam built it or that anything special is the case there therefore a prevailing practice is that the existence of a belief must be taken into account. See as long as no law is violated by that, then the Indians that just takes it for granted. Okay, they believe this so they can act accordingly.
So several excavations confirm the existence of a Vaishnava temple there since at least the first millennium after Christ and a human presence there into the second millennium before Christ. Now the latter point is a little bit problematic at least for the Sangh and the religious personnel that has led this movement, because according to their interpretation of scripture, Rama lived a lot longer ago than 2000 BC. Now maybe if you dig in other places in Ayodhya, you will come across much older habitation. But that site you see does not fulfill the beliefs that Rama was 7,000 years ago or thereabouts, when the archaeologists, we last spoke about this before an audience of Hindu religious personnel. They protested they said Ram Lalla was much older than 2000 BC, and he said, well you know, who am I to gainsay you, but you know I am NOT saying, so my spade tells me so.
Now you see, that may be disappointing for a particular Hindu belief. But it confirms at least that he and his archaeological method are objective, that they are not partisan, and that they are not trying to hide any scientific findings, just for the sake of some political belief. Then why did the temple disappear? You know, if Hindus are so attached to it, if they go on pilgrimage to it, wouldn’t you expect the temple to be right there? You can assume that whenever the building got dilapidated and fell into ruin, Hindus were there to refurbish it or to build it anew. Yet it is not there that means that somebody else removed it and made sure it was not rebuild or might this have been, well most logically, they also imposed another structure at the site and these are the ‘Eskimos’. Now I don’t know if I’ll keep that up, you know calling them Eskimos. But I really intend not to use the M word here, I hope I succeed in maintaining that special language.
Now something will deny this, like for instance one of the three judges of the Allahabad High Court passing a verdict on 30 September 2010, one of the three judges said, yes there was a temple before and there was a Eskimo religious site afterwards, but there is no connection between the two, is not proven that the eskimo demolished the earlier building to make way for the latter building. So some people say that, well in that case so much the better, you see, if the eskimos are nothing to do with the demolition, then they certainly won’t mind the rightful owners of the site to rebuild their temple. So then everyone agrees Eskimos, non-eskimos everyone. So we should applaud that. You see, let’s all of the secularists are right, let us hope the eskimos didn’t do it, then certainly today, they will agree to the Hindus designs on the site, that is to say the Hindu plans with the site.
However that version, that they demolished it has been confirmed by many Eskimos in recent centuries, you see it’s only now, the last few decades that the secular, there are the secular first of all and then in their trail, the Eskimos have maintained that there, not only was never a temple demolition there, but there was even never a temple there. But before that, the Eskimos had no problem with the scientific version that, yes there was a temple there and yes we demolished it and for a full understanding of what happened, we absolutely need to address a consideration of the motivating ideology for the temple destruction, namely the Eskimo doctrine of iconoclasm. The eskimo invader baba who is usually held responsible for replacing the then avatar of the rama temple, it may not have been the first temple probably not, but Rama (/Baba?) is held responsible for replacing it with an eskimo place of worship.
Now he happened to have kept a diary. So in better circumstances, we would have his own, his very own eyewitness report of what exactly happened. Unfortunately a few months of pages of this diary have been blown away by the wind, and so the part about Ayodhya is in there, we do not have his testimony. However we do know that he demolished all the temples and we also know that he was fairly sparing with reporting on temple demolitions. In other cases where we know he did the demolition and so he mentions the place which it doesn’t give any details about what he did, but anyway you see no matter what the characteristics of his diary, it is of no help concerning Ayodhya. However the replacement of one structure with another in Ayodhya does follow a pattern and this pattern has been repeated thousand fold throughout India, and important to know also in other countries. So it’s not that the Hindus are to blame or something, they didn’t need the Hindus to do it, and that pattern is iconoclasm. There are numerous places of worship that have been destroyed, like lately there has been some commotion in Spain about the Mezquita, which is, which originally was a Roman temple for some goddess, then it was replaced with the church after the Christians demolished the Roman temple. Then the church was demolished by Eskimos, who built a very very beautiful impressive place of worship of their own which is the Mezquita. It is a whole frost of pillars, very nicely done. However the Spanish reconquered their territory and so they turned this place of worship into a church again. It still is a cathedral, however in Spain, the left is campaigning to give it back to the Eskimos, totally disregarding the fact that, the Eskimos themselves had first stolen the site, the justification invariably given for an act of iconoclasm is the example of the Kaaba, where the founder of this Eskimo religion, with his own hands destroyed all the idols and turned the place into a mosque. Of course, I know that lately there is a theory that says, no no no no the Hindus are to blame because the Hindus have the habit of destroying temples and therefore the eskimos when they came, they took over this Hindu habit.
Now this is Richard Eaton who says this, he is an American self-described communist academic and he claims that, Hindus on a massive scale destroyed temples that this was their want, In reality, he cannot manage to find more than a few cases of Hindus not demolishing temples but abducting idols. In some cases an idol was a prestigious thing, it was a work of art and so on, and so rulers wanted to have it and so there was a war, you see the clinching moment at the end, was the abduction of an idol, which was then installed in the main temple of that conqueror and the temple where the idol was just left free, and of course, the loser in the war could always install a new idol there and continue the same worship. So, that is something totally different from the iconoclasm of the Eskimos, which meant to humiliate and ultimately to destroy the religion of the loser and so destroying his places of worship was not at all meant to bring over the idol or place of worship to the wrong side and continue the worship, at least I have never heard of this, that you know the eskimos destroyed the Somnath temple and they took the Shiva Lingam to one eskimo place of worship, and they’re continuing the worship of Shiva. I don’t know, you can maybe find some strange eskimo place of worship, where they do worship an idol. But so far, I think by definition that will not happen. So, we have a large moment of denial or whitewash of iconoclasm in India, that means largely the heavy minimization of iconoclasm. In the great days of the Ayodhya controversy, many secularistic stories went as far as to deny iconoclasm altogether, that far very few people would dare to go.
So, the usual story now is to minimize it, yeah okay it may have happened a few times, first of all the Hindus have brought it on themselves and anyway it wasn’t so much, although you should see what is not so much. Like for instance, Eaton admits a single case of iconoclasm when the troops of Mohammed Ghori or his lieutenants conquered Varanasi in 1194. Now, then you should go to the footnotes, this is one case of iconoclasm, yes. But he himself admits that a thousand temples were destroyed and so you know basing themselves on his figures, Indian secularists now raise this claim that, about 80 cases of temple destruction has taken place in India during thousand, a thousand years in the whole of India. So, 80 in this case doesn’t really mean 80 because one can mean 1000, you see one case of iconoclasm means 1000 temples and even then, it is much too low a figure. In Gilgit and Baltistan, which is a very thinly populated region already more than 80 temples got destroyed in a decade. So for the whole of India and a thousand years, it will be more than that.
Nowadays there is a lot of news about the work of Audrey Truschke, who is a professor in America and who claims that Aurangzeb was a good guy, that much of the crimes attributed to him have never happened. She’s part of a slightly larger movement, in Zurich three years ago. I attended the conference of the European Association for South Asian Studies and there was a whole session, an all-day-long session about Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb through Hindi literary sources and so the main thing which every one of the speakers repeated that, was that Aurangzeb was praised by many people.
Now in the case of a ruler like Aurangzeb, that hardly proves anything. You can find a lot of eulogies for Stalin, in fact, if you fail to produce one, you are in trouble. Like among these eulogies was a confirmation of his good character by Guru Govind Singh, this is the famous Zafarnama – the victory letter which is not quite victorious, which is very tardiness. You see, he is trying to curry favor with the men who holds out all the cards, namely the Emperor Aurangzeb, who had defeated him. Now you see, you don’t need to know, much to know that this is absolute nonsense. This lies diametrically in the face of the true story, you know, in those circumstances, were Gobind Singh was in a weak position, he may have had his reasons to be diplomatic towards Aurangzeb, but what did he really think? Now usually I have a hard time looking into people’s minds and you know guessing what they think, in this case I know 100% certain, he hated Aurangzeb more than any other human being on earth. I know this. Very sure, because Aurangzeb killed Guru Gobind Singh’s father and all his four sons. I don’t think you need much knowledge about human nature to understand that he absolutely hated Aurangzeb and yet professors in logic declared all seriousness that you see, he gave a testimonial good conduct to Aurangzeb. However, Audrey Truschke is right in one respect. In fact all these Hindus, who blame Aurangzeb, will think he was an evil character, they have a bit of a one-sided view of him. Aurangzeb was a very good guy, at least if you think that piety is a good thing. He was a very pious Eskimo and he was a very ascetic man like he reproached his father Shajahan for living a very luxurious life, spending tax or tax rupees only silly Taj Mahal and he insulted very frugally. Yeah he was a very good example in that respect. Now the motive that made him live in ascetic way, is the very same motive that made him commit iconoclasm on a very large scale, the very same reason why he reintroduced the Jizya on the non-believers. The Jizya is the special tax that non-eskimos have to pay, to be allowed to live. Namely his piety because he was a pious man, he was a very ascetic man, and because he was a pious man, he destroyed temples. So if you think, piety is a good thing, then Aurangzeb was a very good man. Unfortunately, the religion to which he offered his piety, that is where something is wrong. At any rate, general comments, when the present political constraints, that force people who should know better into saying all these nice things about the Eskimos. When these political constraints fall away, then there are the widespread laughter at the funny intellectual contortions that secularist historians have thought up, but today I know they still live high and mighty.
Now if these temples were made to disappear, what exactly happened? Do we know anything about this demolition? Well in fact I am I think that we do not know the details. We do know that there was a hostile replacement of the Rama temple by an eskimo place of worship. But when? Now that is a more difficult question. First of all we have Salar Masood Ghaznavi who occupied Ayodhya in about 1030. He was the nephew of Mohammed Ghaznavi. Soon after 1033, he was defeated in the Battle of Bahraich, which is one of the rare occasions, when a number of Hindu Kings made common cause, got together in order to defeat the Eskimo invader and they defeated him. Of course, later on the whole thing soured a bit, because at that time Lahore was already in the hands of the Eskimos and they try to liberate Lahore, but they were already quarrelling amongst one another about the spoils. You see after we liberate the city, who gets what and so because of this quarrel, they got disunited and ultimately nothing came of it, and Lahore, 150 years later, became the staging point from which Muhammad Ghori succeeded in his final invasion of the Ganga plane. Anyway, it is logical that, he as the nephew and continuator of Mohammed Ghaznavi’s work, who destroyed the Somnath temple among many others, that he too would destroy temples in Ayodhya. However we have no part of that. But I think is very very likely. He was the first to destroy the temple, and then a big temple afterwards was built. The Rajput temple, probably not by the Chalukya dynasty, but by the Gahadwal dynasty and this may have been built as a remedy to the earlier demolition. Then Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants, from 1192 onwards, conquered the whole Ganga plane including Ayodhya. They held a quick clean sweep of all the temples, all the monasteries, all the Buddhist universities, that’s when Nalanda was destroyed, kept going for weeks on end, that’s when these 1,000 temples in Varanasi were destroyed. So it would be very strange, if such an important Hindu place of worship have been left alone, had been left standing. Moreover shortly after a new Eskimo regime was installed, the Delhi Sultanate, and it had Ayodhya as a provincial capital. Now to have a major in the temple standing there, right in front of or even towering above the local governor’s palace, especially for it to last for 300 years or so, until Babar came, I have a hard time believing it.
So the fact that Viswa Hindu Parishad and others have said Babar destroyed this temple, means that they have not thought through the reason, why the temples were destroyed, because you see if you understand the theology of iconoclasm, you will see that it is just very unlikely, that in these circumstances obtaining then, this temple should have been left standing. So, I think it was destroyed then already 1194 thereabouts. Now about a period after, that Irfan Habib, the secular historian, the self-described Marxist historian interprets the archeological data in such a way that a mosque was standing there and the archeological data as far as I can read them, of course I’m not an archaeologist, seem not to suggest so. But then again if there was this building, I wouldn’t mind because it fits my own view of iconoclasm. Namely, that certainly they would not left the temple standing. They would rather prefer to have their own structure there. So if that structure was there, I don’t mind because that fits my whole story.
Now what happened in 1525, when the Delhi Sultanate fell apart, again we don’t know. You see, we don’t know what Babur came to do in Ayodhya, we have no report. What happened in the preceding years we also don’t know. You see, it is quite possible that in the prevailing chaos, the Hindus who were always keen on reconquering the site, immediately started using it and it may have been a situation like you had between 1949 and 1992, when there was this eskimo building standing, that was used as a Hindu temple. So this may have been the case in 1525 also, we don’t know, but so, if there is a local tradition that says, Babur destroyed the temple, it may have been that there was a structure that he left in place, may be refurbished it a bit, but what he destroyed is the Hindu presence of the site, we don’t know, its possibilities.
Babur in an inscription on the gates before the structure, used to claim credit for building it. Now the archaeologists are not, says that this can’t be correct, because this building has the typical style that would date it to about 1300, two hundred years earlier. So again, he says that there was this eskimo building standing, why not? So what Babur destroyed was the Hindu presence of the site and then the structure that was already standing there. He, may be, have redone it, or build a new gate around it, or whatever, again, we don’t know. But, so I repeat that in this case archaeology does not find this structure. So it may nevertheless still be that Babri Masjid was built by Babur.
So the Hindu temple for Rama was destroyed, I think at least twice and may be thrice. I will go over it again. The first unknown is the demolition by Salar Masood Ghasnavi. Now I like to praise for a moment the Hindus who defeated him. This was under the leadership of Suhaldev and one of the kings that federated to fight the eskimo army was the famous Raja Bhoja, sort of philosopher king. If I had any say in it, I would immediately finance a beautiful Bollywood movie about this episode, this has all the elements. You see, a very interesting character Raja Bhoja, you know the Hindus getting together, you see, showing them the way of your solidarity, then a villain of the piece, then fortunately a happy ending, where the villain gets defeated, you know. So it’s a beautiful movie. Come on! get started. In fact, isn’t this being filmed, so you already have the equipment. Now you need the actors and set to work.
The second unknown is a Ghori demolition. So in 1192, he defeated Prithviraj Chauhan the king of Delhi, and then his lieutenants Qutub-ud-din-Aibak, Bakhtiyar Khilji, Shahsuran Ghori went further east. So they destroyed Varanasi, Nalanda and so on, and they also destroyed major temples in Atodhya. This is documented. There is a place, I think it was a giant place, that is now building named after Shasuran Ghori. So it is unlikely in my opinion that the Rama temple survived until Babur, like the Kashi Viswanath, which has a similarly lofty status that did not survive. So why would they have done that in the case of the Rama temple is unclear to me. So during the Sultanate there would have been a remarkable tolerance on the part of the Eskimo rulers, to leave the Rama temple in place. But again I emphasize we do not know for sure either way as possible.
And then, a third unknown is the demolition by Babur. What exactly did he do there? I’m not sure. Now these are unknowns and I candidly admit, concede that these are unknowns. It’s not like I am defending here some Hindu position that is very uptight about unpleasant or seemingly irreconcilable reasons, no no, just we can perfectly admit this, and weave them into our narrative. There are not at all contradictory with the Hindu claim that Rama temple was destroyed there by the Eskimos. What has been firmly proven however is that, there was a major Hindu temple at the site, that it was demolished and that all relevant Eskimo sources as well as the Hindu tradition, consider this the doing of Eskimo iconoclasm.
Now, some people may jubilate that I somewhat conditionally exonerate Babur, from the guilt of demolition. Well, I hope Babur enjoys it, I don’t mind him having that pleasure because I don’t think that the guilt or innocence of persons is very important, maybe if you judge has to rule on that, maybe for the time being he may consider it important. But in a general historical vision, that’s not important at all, like all the indignation about Aurangzeb and his supposed cruelty. I think it’s a lot of wasted breath of misdirected energy. Whatever Aurangzeb’s character was, it’s not important, the thing is that he obeyed a particular doctrine, he put that doctrine into practice and it is that doctrine we should be concerned about, not his person.
In a quote that is often ascribed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but that is in fact, at least a hundred years older, and the farthest we can trace it, is a some protestant clergyman who said it, but he may also have been quoting, we don’t know. Anyways, it’s a very good statement. He says, “Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events and small minds discuss individuals”. So I prefer not to discuss the personal character of Aurangazeb or Babur or so, is of no importance, but the ideas that guided them, they are very much important, because they are still with us and people are still susceptible to that influence. So, we cannot do much anymore about Aurangazeb or Babur, but we can do something about that idea and warn people today, who might be attracted to those ideas to change their minds.
There has, until the 1980s, been a big consensus about what happened at the site. The Eskimos, as well as the European travelers, as well as the European Colonials, as well as the Hindus thought that, the Babri Masjid had replaced, had forcibly replaced a Hindu temple. There was a trial about this in the 1880s, where a British judge gave the final verdict and he admitted, as no one in his court had put in doubt. He admitted that ‘yes, this Eskimo long-ago destroyed this Hindu temple’, but he added ‘since that happened centuries ago, it’s now a bit too late to remedy the condition’. So he left it at the status quo, also probably because he feared that, if anything broke the status quo, then it’s opening the Pandora’s box and you don’t know what will fall. So you see in the British policy of having as little as possible any of these communal confrontations, it seemed wiser or so the judge thought of just letting everything stand as it was.
And the secularists in the 1980s could have taken the same position. They could easily have said, well yes, you see the Eskimos were a bit unfair 400 years ago but that is no reason to repeat this thing in the opposite direction today, That’s what they could have said. However at the time, they were so drunk with their power position, that they weren’t satisfied with this, instead they took a more ambitious position, they overruled the consensus of centuries before across all communities and they challenged that consensus. They said, no there’s never been a temple there, ergo no temple demolition. So until then, before this British judge for example, the question had been, can Hindus rebuild their temple at the site? Now the question became, but was it ever their site?
Now in view of the contrary evidence, of which a bit more has accumulated since then, with which already plenty had been available before that. In view of the contrary evidence and in view of the total lack of any evidence whatsoever on their side, it was a bit reckless to raise doubt, about the sacredness of the site for Hindus, where they held that an important temple had stood. So these secularist historians really had no leg to stand on. However that would be presupposed that, there was some History or authority that would berate them, that would strike them down from heaven and that didn’t happen. In the West, for example, which counts as authoritative for them, there was no school of history that would interfere and say no no no no you have it wrong, of course was a temple there. Although there had been several books about the history of the site, by Peter van der Veer, as well as by, (asking to the audience )what’s his name again Sandhya, you have the book? the big book, Hans Bakker (response from the audience) exactly, so Hans Bakker and Peter van der Veer both in separate books, separately had documented the Hindu history of the site. Yet suddenly they climbed down from their position and they certainly didn’t exert any pressure on the secularists historians in India to rethink their sudden, their certain position. So there was no one berating them, they could get away with anything, now it was a comfortable position, it was not true, but that would get away with saying an untruth, whereas by contrast those who said the truth about Ayodhya, they were punished for it. Also, given the sacred status of the site for Hindus today, it was a rather brutal expression of sheer contempt for the Hindus, to take that position, because for no other religion is this question ever asked, Hey! Justify, justify the reason why the Temple Mount should be sacred, justify why the Vatican is sacred to you, this is never asked, the secular government has no business asking this.
Now the political recuperation of this controversy, what initially it was not very controversial, (a few Muslim, there I said it Ha! Well I’m reverting), a few Eskimo leaders, okay, you can of course cut out that passage, ok (humorous interactions). A few Eskimo leaders made some difficulties, but nothing that an ordinary Congress government could not handle, and indeed you see here, Congress leaders like Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister thought of applying the usual technique of Horse trade, satisfy the Eskimo leadership with a few goodies, like banning Salman Rushdie’s book or so, you know, just to humor them and then at the same time, let the Hindus have their sacred site and so then it would have been a very small affirm, a bit of communal blah blah, but that’s so ordinary in India, and so Congress would certainly have managed it. In fact the first politician who involved himself in this, was an important congressman Gulzarilal Nanda, who had been interim prime minister after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri and also a local UP politician, Dau Dayal Khanna. There was even talk of letting Rajiv Gandhi lay the first stone. However Congress lost its nerve, when the situation, in the opinion landscape changed, namely when the secularists, that suddenly reversed the old consensus and started in a very shrill voice, in a very dramatic tone, started swearing that this Babri Masjid was in fact, the last bulwark of civilization in India, against the rising tide of the ugly vicious Hindu barbarians.
So. that was a bit too hard to handles, even for Congress politicians, and then the BJP succeeded in drawing this whole affair towards itself, with the Palampur resolution in 1989, from then on, it the BJP was taking its claim to the issue and from then on got identified with the BJP. In the elections of 1989 and 91, twice the BJP reaped the dividends, won the elections. So in 1991, it became the principal opposition party. A few years before it had had only two seats in parliament, then it had hundred something. However, after the ninety nine elections, when it had a comfortable position in Parliament for five years to come, it totally dropped the issue, like a hot potato and so it was with very long teeth against its own gut feelings, that it still went along with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in organizing a big gathering at the site itself on 6 December 1992.
Then again maybe the BJP could do something useful there, by that time communal tension in India had risen and so the BJP wanted to use the occasion to show, to demonstrate to everyone, that it could control the crowd and that Hindu anger, was too much to handle for the secularists, but the BJP could do it and so sort of confidently, it assured the government of by then PV Narasimha Rao that, the Eskimo place of worship will not be touched. Well Eskimo is the Hindus who control the site, offered worship at the site, but still structurally it looked like an Eskimo place. Then a small and well-prepared group gave a lead technically, because to bring down such a big structure, you can just, just take the stones apart, but you take a physical risk, quite a few people risk dying or getting hurt under the falling stones. So it’s best to locate a few strategic points which engineers can do and pull these apart, with ropes and pickaxes and so on and then the rest you know that, that is easy to do. Then all the activists can take their brick and take it home as a trophy and that’s what happened. So the crowd jumped into the suddenly open door and demolished the structure. The BJP leadership was looking on impotently and LK Advani, who had led this whole temple movement, the preceding years, he was very embarrassed, he burst into tears. Ashok Singhal, who had been very closely involved with the organization, he appealed to the crowd to stop this demolition and then some hot-blooded activists threatened to pull off his dhoti, if he didn’t shut up. So that’s what he did. So, you see for leaders with RSS background, this was a painful affair because it was a breakdown of RSS discipline. The RSS leaders were not being obeyed by the crowd.
Then in the subsequent days, there was a crackdown on the Sangh Parivar, I remember very well. I heard about demolition just before I took the airplane in Brussels and I thought it was a pretty happy development personally and in fact I think I’ve been vindicated because it saved thousands of lives. The preceding year, there had been heavy communal tension, plenty of riots, after the demolition there still were a few riots, but it died down soon. In Mumbai there was a bomb attack, in March of next year and the Hindus didn’t retaliate. I think two or three thousand to three hundred people had been killed, yet the Hindu said it has to stop here. So, the demolition was instrumental in saving numerous lives. Imagine that the building was still standing there and the Eskimo community had constantly seen it as an encouragement to keep claiming the site, many more riots would have taken place. So, I thought this was a pretty pleasant development.
And when the plane landed in India, I was awaited by Pradeep Goel , son of Sitaram Goel, at the airport. It is there, I learned immediately all the things that had happened, including the imprisonment of LK Advani and many others, whom I personally knew. In fact, on the plane, had met a former fellow student of mine with her fiancé, they were just travelling to India and so when Pradeep told me about all what had happened, they were in a way impressed, but also rather negatively impressed, what if we end up here, people going to jail, is this necessary.
Well, and then the next day, I was invited by Sudarshan, one of the leading lights of the RSS, who has become the Sarsanghchalak in later years. He wanted to talk to me, you know he wanted to hear an outside voice and so I went there, it was a big adventure, first on the back of a motorcycle to one particular garage underground, there step into one car, then another car and so then we ended up with our rebel leader and so then we discussed the Ayodhya situation. So, it was a pretty sensational time, so quite a few people spent a little time in prison, it was not, the government didn’t take it too seriously, I have the impression. For BJP state governments were disbanded, so the great winner was the Congress party and especially the Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, is he had taught the BJP a lesson, he had regained power in four states and he had gained reputation of being tough with communal elements. Though he was also criticized for letting it all happen. He didn’t send the police, ordered some central security forces quickly helicoptered over there, he didn’t send them, he didn’t insist on them taking action and the local policeman didn’t do anything they also just stood by. So the question arises, what exactly is his degree of complicity and so he was a traditional Brahmin, that you hardly find anymore in the Congress party, but that was originally the mainstay of the party and those people still had strong Hindu feelings. So I think he was quite happy with the demolition and of course he said on TV, that he was going to make sure that the Eskimo building would be rebuilt, but he never got serious about it. So I think he just made the diplomatically correct noises, but he was quite happy with the demolition.
There has been a trial about the substance of the Ayodhya affair since 1950. So they dragged it very very long. It is only in 2002 that the court, the Allahabad High court ordered an excavation of the contentious site. Now it was not the first excavation, the former excavation had been very partial. Nevertheless in the 1970s already B B Lal, the Dean of Indian Archeology, had discovered their bases, elements of the foundation of the original temple. So actually we already knew, what they were going to find there. But this time, there were very thorough excavations and this time there could be no doubt at all. Of course the foundations of the temple were found there. So in fact, we had evidence enough, that there had been a temple there, but now it really could no longer be denied. So it is now entirely official, the secularist historians lost the debate fair and square. They were defeated, which is why, when they were called to the, to the court for this trial, they were called as witnesses. But on the witness stand they completely collapsed. They have to admit, “but I am not an archaeologist, I don’t know these things. You know I’ve never been to Ayodhya, it’s not my field” and so, one after another they collapsed. Read all about it in Meenakshi Jains’s book. However the media shielded the secularist scholars from embarrassment. If you have not specifically studied the case you wouldn’t know this. Similarly all the Western scholars did as if nothing has happened. If you don’t specifically follow the case and you’re old enough to have been there at the time of the demolition, you would still believe, that this temple had been a concoction of the ugly, vicious Hindu fundamentalists, because that’s what, at that time everybody said, well all the scholars said. At the time I was very lonely and I’ve been scolded quite seriously, by big-time professors especially in California. But they were all right, that’s a bit of a satisfaction. Of course it cost me my academic career, but nevertheless it’s fine to finally be vindicated and so they all look the other way, they don’t talk about the Ayodhya affair anymore.
The verdict came after 60 years on 30 September 2010. It was a bit of a mixed verdict, in the sense that the of the two Hindu plaintiffs and one Eskimo plaintiff, the Eskimos did get a little bit of the hill concerned, but the site itself, definitely went to the Hindus and the court also recognized, that had been a Hindu temple there and Hindus do have a justified claim to the site. Now the secularists, who are always thirsting for blood, will absolutely fight the Hindus till the last Eskimo and they hoped for some Eskimo agitation against this verdict, but it failed to happen because after all the Eskimos are not really interested in Ayodhya. Hindus by their millions go on pilgrimage to Ayodhya. No Eskimo ever goes there. Eskimos go to Mecca or if they don’t have the money, go to Ajmer, but they never go to Ayodhya. So it’s now on that site, there was no sign of life and so we could have left it at that and built the temple, however all three parties were not satisfied with the verdict, they wanted to have hundred percent of the site. So they took it to the Supreme Court, which now is to offer its definitive verdict. However Subramanian Swami, who is a great litigator, he went to court, pleading for speedy verdict and so in a provisional verdict nothing definitive yet. The Supreme Court ruled that the forces of civil society should themselves work out a compromise.
Now that brings us back to the situation of the 80s and 90s, when India was totally, you know full of communal riots, because you see among themselves they are not going to come to an agreement, especially not because the Hindus don’t defend themselves well. They will go to negotiations with the plan to satisfy the others for half and themselves also for half, whereas the other side comes to the negotiation table demanding 100% and so they say, okay… well we’ll do half-half, you get half of your 50% and we get over the rest that is the enemy’s strategy. So Hindus are not very good at defending themselves. So fortunately we have rule of law and we have courts to decide this and it is a completely dereliction of duty by the court, to refer the whole conflict back to civil society. It is precisely the role of the court to adjudicate. Now fortunately that verdict is not definitive, so we are still awaiting what is going to happen.
Meanwhile there is another Supreme Court trial, which is about the role of the BJP leadership in the demolition. It’s already 25 years ago the main defendant, LK Advani is 89 years old, but still this trial is going on. In fact it is whispered, I don’t know what the truth of it is, it is whispered that the Modi faction within the BJP has encouraged this trial to take place, because this way they want to get rid of Advani, I don’t know. They say that. Anyway, so this trial is to take place, but that reignite the question, what exactly happened on demolition day? I said that this was largely spontaneous but not entirely. So it is possible to identify a mastermind of the demolition. Now I had no problem at all finding out one name that goes around among the activists. I’m not going to divulge it, not at all because after all it is the job of investigative journalists to find this, but where were they in December 1992? This could have been the scoop of the year, beat all your rivals among the media, by having a headline, this person and then a big photograph, this face, is the face of the mastermind of the demolition. That would be really sensational news. Now that didn’t come because all the newspaper editors had decided to drop their journalistic duty and fulfil their political desires namely to direct all the arrows at L K Advani and at the BJP. So that’s why after 25 years, we still don’t know the real culprit.
In fact, if I were Advani, I would set my influence in motion to convince this person to come forward. Now personally I don’t, I don’t want to defend Advani or any position you can take within this controversy. However, I do believe in the truth, there is a French proverb, “la vérité est bonne”,which means the truth is beneficial, it’s a good thing to say the truth. So in this case too, you see accusing Advani is a lie, that just today I spoke to Praful Goradia, ex BJP senator, who was present for all day long at the site and of course he knew about Advani and so on, he confirmed what also another privileged witness, Arun Shourie, also told me is he- Advani broke down on the spot. He started to cry, he was embarrassed, he didn’t know where to look and then the day after he gave his speech to the media. That speech was hand written by Arun Shourie, at the last moment because he saw that Advani is totally disoriented. So it was not Advani, that I can assure you. So Advani should be acquitted, now he has a far better chance of getting acquitted, if the real mastermind comes forward. I don’t know, how it is here in India after 25 years, probably you have a statute of limitations or so or if not well, then let him do it for the good cause. At any rate I think it would be a good thing, if all these questions about the identity of the mastermind were resolved by the mastermind himself speaking out. Ok, that’s my plea, he is of course free to do with it what he wants. As for what has to happen with the site itself, there it is a very clear, this is not a prediction, this is just an advice- “Mandir vahi banayenge”. We should build the temple right there and why not, it is, it is the most natural thing in the world, that Hindus have a place of worship, at their own sacred site. If Eskimos also went on pilgrimage there, then we might have a conflict and if there is real piety involved, if there is worshipfulness, there is awe of the divine involved. Then probably those two conflicting groups could come to some compromise. But you see that is not the case at all. It is simply a Hindu site, nothing else. As I therefore, I propose, we restore normalcy, we stop this ridiculous controversy and we leave the Hindu site to the Hindus.