I had posted my views on the ASI report on Ayodhya excavations here. This was also published by a local English daily Free Press. Both evoked some strong responses. The one received online was deleted by me due to the racist remark. It has been a regular (read secular) trend in our country to reject all ideas criticizing fundamentalist ideas terming them Marxist. My observation on the ASI report was to emphasize the fact that irrespective of their results, such findings can hardly assist the court in reaching any conclusion. Praful Bidwai had written in one of his articles, “Archaeology is a social, not a natural, science. Archaeological finds are subject to a wide range of interpretations.” According to noted archaeologist Shireen Ratnakar, “the mere discovery of objects, however, well-preserved or tell-tale they might seem, does not count as archaeological evidence

There are also many facts regarding ASI we must consider, as quoted in Bidwai's article. ASI is an independent body just alike other such bodies as CBI. It reports to the central government, leading which are BJP ministers charged with instigating the razing of the Babri mosque in 1992, including Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. In the past many eminent archaeologists and historians had criticized the excavation order and appointment of a private company, Tojo-Vikas International Pvt Ltd, as an 'adviser' to the ASI. Labour contract for the digging was awarded to Bajrang Dal-VHP activist K K Pandey. Many scholars question the competence of ASI to conduct scientific and impartial excavations. ASI hasn't had a professional archaeologist heading it for 10 years.

In a report published at rediff.com it has been mentioned that a leading archaeologist Sitaram Rai has questioned ASI's conclusion. Other experts such as Suraj Bhan, former head of the department of archaeology, Kurukshetra University (Haryana), D Mandal, former professor of archaeology, Allahabad University, and Shireen Ratnakar, former professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, JLNU agree that “that there was no temple at the Ayodhya site.” Rai said the ASI had failed to report evidence recovered during the excavation, like whether the disputed site had Muslim habitation around it, which suggested that no previous structure had been demolished to build the Babri mosque. Rai believes that the ASI report was “not objective, flimsy and self-contradictory, and had been prepared under political pressure.”

The Saffron brigade had very cleverly thought that giving a scientific bend to their argument may ease-out their work, the building of the temple, or atleast beginning of that process before the ensuing elections. Not only Hindus and Muslims but various other parties are involved in the litigation. The dispute created and nourished by political and not religious contentions cannot be solved in a jiffy without taking all parties in confidence. Courts can only suggest measures and serve as a medium to reach an amicable solution, they cannot perhaps render a verdict on whether to build a temple at disputed site or not. Ultimately this has to be handled amicably by seers of all communities under a political leadership with spine, unfortunately this would be inconceivable for a long time to come.

[For an entirely different view-point read Dilip Chakrabarti's article. Dilip is a lecturer in Archeaology at University of Cambridge.]