“The Ram temple is to a Hindu, what Mecca and Medina are to a Muslim. A Muslim cannot imagine both these places under the control of another religion. Muslims should feel the pain of a Hindu, whose religious places are under the control another religion, even though they live in a Hindu-majority country. Hindus believe Babri Masjid is Ram Janmabhoomi. This place has nothing to do with Prophet Muhammad. It relates only to Babar. So why should there be such a fight over this place?”
That was Archaeological Survey of India archaeologist K K Muhammed speaking to Indians which included SIMI supporters in Oman before 1992. He continued:
“When the Al-Aqsa Mosque or Bayt al-Muqaddas was taken over by the Jews, we Muslims of Kerala, met at our local mosque. We cried and prayed to Allah to return Bayt al-Muqaddas back to us. The pain that a Muslim felt when he lost Bayt al-Muqaddas, is the pain that a Hindu feels now. I am not talking about the modern, educated Hindus. I am talking about those Hindus, who in the freezing cold of North India, walk without shirt or shoes, just to have a glimpse of Rama. We should understand their pain and suffering.”
The crowd was silent. “After Independence, a separate country was created for Muslims. After that, India could have become a Hindu nation. But Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Azad did not do that. That shows their high level of thinking. For this, the man who walked in just a dhoti had to sacrifice his life.”
“Imagine if India was a Muslim majority country. Would it have been secular? No. If Hindus were given a separate country, the Muslim majority would not have declared India to be secular. This is the greatness of Hinduism. This is their tolerance. That is something we should understand and respect. If, instead of Hindus, India had some other religion as the majority religion, what would have been the state of Muslims? We should understand all this and make the right moves and only then a nation will become secular. This reverse thinking is required.”
Then someone asked. “If we return three sites back to Hindus, won’t they ask for more?”
Muhammed replied, “We are talking about compromise here. If such a thing happens, Hindus themselves will oppose it. Bajrang Dal, VHP, Ram Sena, such militant organizations don’t have support among Hindus”
The above speech and Muhammed’s role in the archaeology and politics of Ayodhya is mentioned in his autobiography ഞാനെന്ന ഭാരതീയൻ (Me, the Indian). His teacher at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was Prof. Irfan Habib and besides learning history, Muhammed was also able to learn about the politics of historiography.
When the above meeting was over, some youngsters took Muhammed to a room and asked why he did not mention all of this to Syed Shahabuddin.
In fact Muhammed had mentioned this to Syed Shahabuddin. While working in Patna as an archaeologist, Muhammed had to deal with a BJP MP Jawahar Prasad, who wanted to expand a temple in an archaeological site. At that time, it was a BJP government at the center.Though it was risky opposing an MP belonging to that party, feeling the need to oppose what was not right, Muhammed fought against this move and succeeded. This won a commendation from Syed Shahabuddin and a subsequent meeting. When Muhammed bought up compromising on Ayodhya, Shahabuddin did not agree.
During this period there was confusion regarding the Ayodhya issue. Was the masjid really built over the Ram temple? Or were the Hindus making it up?
Muhammed writes that Marxist historians like S. Gopal, Romila Thapar, Bipin Chandra decided to lend their support to the Muslim extremists; they questioned the historicity of Ramayana; they wrote that there was no mention of the demolition of the temple till the 19th century; they started arguing that Ayodhya was a Buddhist-Jain center. The others of this group were Suraj Bhan (the only archaeologist), R. S. Sharma, Akhtar Ali, and D N Jha.
All of them testified as part of various government committees. The Babri Masjid Action Committee’s meetings were held under the leadership of Indian Council of Historical Research’s chairman, Irfan Habib. Prof. MGS Narayanan opposed this, but that had no impact. Muhammed believes that Irfan Habib did not want a solution to the Ayodhya problem. Anyone at ICHR who advocated reconciliation would be branded as a communalist following a familiar pattern.
But was there any need for this confusion? Muhammed did not think so. He knew because he was inside the Masjid in 1976 – 1977 as a student conducting studies under Prof. B. B. Lal. Then he saw 14 pillars of the temples which were made of Black Basalt. The base of these pillars had the 11th century style poorna kalasam, one of the eight symbols of prosperity. When they excavated the sides and the back of the Masjid, they found bricks which were the foundations of these pillars. On the basis of this, Muhammed was sure that a temple definitely existed. At that time, one one thought this would turn controversial.
Muhammed writes, he knows there were moderate Muslims who were willing to compromise and hand over the temple to the Hindus in the 1990s. Vishwa Hindu Parishad had taken a hard stance and some Muslim leaders thought if they returned the Masjid back, then VHP would not have any more issues to raise. That’s when Marxists got in the fray.
When historians and archaeologists formed two groups and were screaming at each other, Muhammed made the claim that he had seen evidence of the temple inside the mosque.This was published in all the Kerala editions of the Indian Express. Some congratulated him for speaking out. Some threatened him.
The Director General of ASI, MC Joshi asked Muhammed, how he could make a public statement on a controversial topic without permission, a crime for which he could be suspended.
Muhammed replied लोकसंग्रहमेवापि सम्पश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि from the Gita (3.20)
RC, Tripathi, who was the Joint Secretary angrily asked, if Muhammed was teaching Sanskrit to an Allahabad Brahmin like him, to which he replied स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय: (3.35)
Tripathi calmed down and said, “there is lot of pressure to take action against you”. Muhammed said, he was aware, but he felt obliged to tell the truth. He got transferred to Goa instead of getting suspended.
Once Babri Masjid was demolished, evidence overflowed. The most important one was the Vishnu-Hari plaque. It had Sanskrit written in nagari script of the 11th century which proclaimed that the temple was dedicated to Vishnu who killed Bali and Ravana. YD Sharma and KM Srivastava during an 1992 study found murtis of various avatars of Vishnu and also of Shiva and Parvati dating to the Kushan period (100 – 300 CE). In 2003, the Allahabad High Court ordered an excavation and during that period, they found more than 50 platforms made of bricks. Finally, a total of 263 artifacts were found.
Based on this evidence Archaeological Survey of India concluded that there was indeed a temple below the mosque. Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court also came to the same conclusion.
What is interesting is how the Marxist historians behaved after the report came out. They started flip flopping. Muhammed says that the people who participated in the excavation as part of the Babri Masjid Action Committee were not archaeologists. Some of them had technical knowledge of archaeology, but no field experience. None of them were a match for the head, Dr. B R Mani.
Muhammed writes that while these historians created the narrative, the propaganda was disseminated by publications like Times of India which decided to publish these one sided accounts. Due to this, any chance of Muslims handing over Ayodhya over to Hindus was scuttled. Muhammed blames Marxist historians for destroying Hindu-Muslim unity in the country and making the country pay a big price for it.