The Unknown Order of Arjun Singh that Prevented the Ram Temple Excavation: Here's the Full Story
Notes On Culture

The Unknown Order of Arjun Singh that Prevented the Ram Temple Excavation: Here's the Full Story

A little-known order of former Congress Minister Arjun Singh who blocked the excavation at the Ram Janmabhoomi site

Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna

If we were to announce a contest for awarding the prize for the worst Congress politician in the last 70-odd years, we'll need to award several first prizes which the deceased Arjun Singh will undoubtedly win. Among the countless damages that he has inflicted upon Sanatana culture, two stand out prominently. The first is his unforgivable tampering of our history text books as union minister of HRD. The second is as important and as vile as the first. Except that this story is one of those secrets revealed too late to make any significant difference.

It is an order he passed in 1992 relating to the excavations at the Ram Janmabhoomi site at Ayodhya, which is back in news again given what is being unearthed on an almost daily basis.

Let's jump right into the story.

The Revelation of Sri K.V. Ramesh

Here's what the former Joint Director General of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), Sri Koluvail Vyasaraya Ramesh says in an interview he gave to a Kannada periodical in 2006.

An unforgettable experience of my stay in Delhi occurred on 6 December 1992. The Babri Masjid structure in Ayodhya was brought down by the crowd of people assembled there…The next night at around 8 when I was still in office, the world-renowned expert archeologist S P Gupta from Delhi visited my room. He had brought copies and photographs of an inscription that had been recovered when the structure had fallen. He insisted that I read the inscription right then. It was dark but it was possible to read some alphabets with the help of the electric light. It was a 12th Century Sanskrit inscription engraved in the Nāgarī script. After dogged attempts that lasted a few hours, I was able to read a sloka that appeared in the middle of the text.टन्कोत्ख़ातविशालशैल शिखरश्रेणीशिलासंहतिव्यूहैर्विश्णुहरेर्हिरण्यकलशश्श्रीसुंदरंमन्दिरंपूर्वेप्यकृतंकृतंनृपतिभिर्येनेदमित्यद्भुतम् || As a result, what came to light was this: a Vishnu Hari Temple was already standing on the site of the Babri Masjid from ancient times, and that it was renovated in the 12th Century.

This discovery was a watershed event in the Ayodhya Years of the tumultuous 1990s. It only reaffirmed what we always knew: that a Hindu temple was destroyed by the Jihad-crazed armies of Babur and a mosque was erected in its place using the debris of this destroyed temple. A measure of the epoch-making significance of the discovery of this inscription can be gauged by the shrill clamour that immediately filled the air: the familiar goon squad of our Eminent Distorians dropped their brains and decency in public and unleashed a national campaign of disinformation and insane conjectures. As usual, this circus show was led by Irfan Habib, R.S. Sharma, K.M. Shrimali and others.

For a full, scholarly detail of how this whole episode played out in those days, the interested reader is referred to Dr. Meenakshi Jain’s definitive volumes, Rama and Ayodhya and The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya which gives the most complete account of the Ayodhya episode.

K V Ramesh records what happened next.

The Ayodhya episode didn’t end at that. When I served as the Chief Epigraphist and Joint Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Delhi, I received an order from the Ministry of Culture directing me to make copies of this newly-discovered inscription. To this end, I called my friend, the Chief of the Epigraphy Department at Mysore, Sri Madhava Katti to Delhi. He was accompanied by two of his personnel who were experts at making copies of inscriptions. Even as we prepared to travel to Ayodhya early the next morning, I received an order from the Ministry of Human Resources Development asking us to drop the Ayodhya journey.

No prizes for guessing who the HRD Minister was back then: the selfsame Arjun Singh of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy notoriety. He quickly figured out that the Vishnu Hari inscription had the potential to seriously injure the Congress brand of Islamism--i.e., secularism-- represented by an alien Muslim invader’s mosque built by demolishing an existing temple after shedding rivers of blood. It was a

Rigorous Scholarship

Long story short, following the Supreme Court’s diktat, a team headed by the aforementioned ASI official Madhava Katti submitted copies of these inscriptions to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. And while the secularist mafia were busy defending the worst elements of Islamism in India, K.V. Ramesh and his team comprising scholars, epigraphists and archeologists worked assiduously in the Indian Archeological Society at Delhi to give a coherent structure and shape to the inscriptions.

It was a work extreme scholarly rigour that left nothing to chance and no scope for misinterpretation. Here's a glimpse into how they worked: after the work was finished at the Delhi ASI, each team member went home and conducted an independent study and interpretation of the inscriptions. When the same team met again in Delhi after a few weeks and notes were compared, it was decided by 100 per cent consensus that the reading of K.V. Ramesh was the most accurate one.

And then the selfsame Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court summoned K.V. Ramesh to furnish evidence in the Babri Masjid case. Let’s hear it in his own words.

For five long days, I answered the hailstorm of questions hurled at me by the pro-Babri Masjid lawyers backing my replies up with inscriptional evidence…then I returned to Lucknow again and for two and half days, answered a fresh set of questions. But the sad fact is that despite all this hard work, I am unaware of the status of my evidence and am unable to understand why the court’s judgement has still not come out.

As we now know, the said judgement of the Allahabad High Court was delivered in September 2010. By all accounts, this 8000-page judgement is truly a judicial feat of Himalayan proportions. The judgment is in many ways an encyclopaedia of Indian history culture and civilisation drawing from such diverse sources as geography, archeology, epigraphy, linguistics, our epics and Puranas as well as copious accounts from foreign travellers written in different languages.

But the judgement is hugely significant for another reason. As the good Professor R Vaidyanathan astutely observes, the judgement exposes the dubious credentials of

our “eminent historians” who were shown to be not so eminent, and their attitudes fairly unacademic…they found themselves withering under judicial scrutiny in spite of writing signed articles and issuing pamphlets and long public letters…It shows the levels to which our academics have fallen and become hand maidens of the political machinery.

The Professor’s article makes for delicious and at many levels, stunning and tragic reading. In summary, these Eminent Distorians stood completely naked in their ignominy in open court: they admitted that they:

  • Had not even visited Ayodhya

  • Were not subject matter experts in archeology or epigraphy or medieval Indian history

  • Had given “expert” written testimonies to the court based on newspaper cuttings and opeds written by their ideological gang members

  • Had followed Romila Thapar’s books and articles

And this clincher by Prof Dhaneshwar Mandal:

The Communist Party issues a red card, and I am its holder. It is true that I have no faith in religion.

Let that sink in. He says this in open court.

Ideological Mercenaries and National Heroes

Yet, what was their position, their constant hollering, their “truth” about the Babri Masjid and the Ram Mandir from the 1980s almost up to the Allahabad court judgement? Recall to what dangerous extent they had poisoned the national and cultural atmosphere. Indeed, the lexicon doesn’t have enough words to condemn their antics, especially when they ran a smear campaign against such honest scholars as B B Lal, and S P Gupta who they branded as “communal” academics and “sold out” to the RSS and other “saffron forces.” Their only crime: literally unearthing and reporting the truth in the post-demolition excavations.

Which is why it is important to examine the contributions of truly eminent scholars and real subject matter experts like K. V. Ramesh. Such people are our real cultural heroes, models worthy of emulation but for who the aforementioned ideological pond-scum would’ve gotten away with cultural and civilisational genocide. To a great extent, they have indeed gotten away with it in many spheres: read the “history” and “culture” essays in Leftist lie-manufacturing factories like Scroll, Wire, etc.

Safeguarding our Epigraphic Heritage

I haven’t done full justice to the vast sweep of K.V. Ramesh’s erudition and multidisciplinary prowess that shines forth in his rather extensive interview. The numerous insights that he   casually delivers are the jewels mined from of a lifetime of dedication to a single pursuit. He joined the Department of Epigraphy on 26 September 1956 as an assistant and attained excellence in the only profession he ever held till his retirement in 1993 as the Chief Epigraphist and Joint Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

On the one hand, we have true eminences and honest scholars like K V Ramesh who despite his expertise, scholarship, and experience, cautions against hasty pronouncements and sweeping conclusions, and advocates continuous study and reexamination.

On the other, we have the selfsame coterie of ideological mercenaries preening around as scholars and eminent historians. The Stalinist grip that folks like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, R.S. Sharma, D.N. Jha, et al had over the history establishment is long gone but the foundations they’ve laid have sickeningly endured. In fact, over the course of about twenty years, I have searched and struggled in vain to find just one positive contribution they have rendered to the academia and intellectual and public discourse.

On the contrary, they have spectacularly succeeded in creating generational armies of readymade coolies who are in constant supply to meet the perverse demands of every third-rate Far Left portal and publication.

There’s also another side to this. Why aren’t subjects like Epigraphy and Archeology given the place of distinction that they really deserve? And why aren’t they even considered as career choices? These disciplines actually provide the foundation and supply the raw material that help explain and transmit Bharatavarsha's peerless and pristine culture and heritage through the world.

K.V. Ramesh’s warning bell of dwindling numbers of talented people coming to the field also has an echo in Michel Danino’s similar warning: that in a generation from now, India will not have any homegrown talent that would be able to decipher inscriptions and allied material in the languages of her own land. Guess who will then swoop in from outside and do that work for us? The selfsame Sheldon Pollocks and Wendy Donigers.

Actually, this phenomenon is already visible, physically visible: the shoddy and badly-maintained offices of the ASI even in busy UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And the tourist guides in Khajuraho and Konark who promise to show you “Hindu” sculptures “which display exquisite, vigorous and creative fucking.” Verbatim. Told to me and a group of friends on a visit to Konark.

In any other country that genuinely cares for its heritage — especially one as sublime, timeless, expansive, rich, widespread, and diverse as India — luminaries like K.V Ramesh, B.B. Lal, S.P. Gupta, Sircar, G.S. Gai et al would be decorated as national heroes.

Postscript

It’s a truism that a country and its culture are known by the kind of people and institutions it holds up as role models and heroes.

In the case of contemporary India --at least over the last two decades — the sprawling global drug and prostitution ring called Bollywood reigns supreme as India’s “cultural soft power.”

Even that word itself is not Indian.

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