New Delhi, Mar 13 (IANS) – Historians fear that the sensitive excavation at Ayodhya, a riverside Hindu religious town 700 km east of here, may encourage demands for similar operations in other mosque sites to dig up their troubled past.
“The Ayodhya excavations would not have been possible if the Babri mosque had not been destroyed,” eminent historian Irfan Habib said. “It is unethical to order excavations that can endanger the safety of several historical monuments.”
Hindu fanatics razed the Babri mosque in December 1992 believing that Mughal king Babar built it on the ruins of a temple at the birthplace of Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
Historians warn that there are many such disputed spots all over India where, it is argued, Muslims built on the ruins of ancient Hindu temples, at times using the materials from the broken shrines.
The only safeguard against each of the spots turning into a site of conflict is a law enacted in 1991 prohibiting the conversion of any place of worship and providing for the “maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed” on the country’s independence day on August 15, 1947.
Archaeologist K.N. Dikshit, who was in the team that excavated Ayodhya in 1975, said the history of monuments the world over involved destruction of some previous structure and it was common in the clash of religions.
“The syndrome is not only confined to Hindu temples or India,” he told IANS. “In India, however, medieval mosque architecture required the remains of temples.”
S.Q.R. Illyas, the spokesman of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said the 1991 act was a sound legal safeguard. “It may be true that mosques were built on temples. But how far can you go on digging the past?“
However, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has vowed to turn its attention to Kashi and Mathura towns in Uttar Pradesh after Ayodhya in order to lay claim to two other ancient mosques that were also allegedly built after razing Hindu shrines.
The Kashi and Mathura campaigns are expected to take a political turn ahead of the state elections this year.
In another simmering conflict in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, Hindus and Muslims are claiming rights to pray at a Muslim shrine believed built on the site of a temple known as Bhojshala.
Many medieval mosques bear inscriptions that Dikshit said proved that they were built on temple ruins.
An example is the Quwwat al-Islam mosque in New Delhi’s towering Qutb Minar monument built in 1192 on which is inscribed how material from 27 razed temples went into the construction.
Shiv Sena activists have tried to hold Hindu rites in the Qutb Minar complex.
The 15th century Manvi mosque in Karnataka’s Raichur district and the Jami Masjid mosque in Banaskantha district of Gujarat bear similar telltale etchings.
The Hammam Darwaza Masjid at Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, built in 1567 has on it the words: “Thanks that by the guidance of the everlasting and the living (Allah), this house of infidelity became the niche of prayer.“
The Jami Masjid mosque at Ghoda in Maharashtra and the Gachinala mosque in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, are further examples.
In his account of the destruction of Hindu temples, author Sita Ram Goel identifies many such big and small spots across India.
In Naraina in Rajasthan, an old pillared mosque is said to have been built on old Hindu temples in 1436. Excavations at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh in 1904 indicated that a Muslim ruler destroyed temples after defeating a Hindu king.
In West Bengal’s Gaur and Pandua, the Adina mosque built in the 14th century used up debris of destroyed Hindu temples. In Delhi, apart from Qutab Minar, the mausoleum of Muslim ruler Iltutmish is believed to stand on temple ruins.
Goel cites 70 examples in Gujarat, a state traditionally afflicted by sectarian tensions including last year’s reprisal violence following the killing of Hindu train riders in Godhra.
Slamming the Ayodhya diggings, historian K.M. Shrimali argued: “Nobody has really made a count. Only the VHP claims that thousands of temples were destroyed and mosques built on them. These things cannot be talked about so frivolously.“
© Copyright 2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.