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Published in the 16-31 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Dec 23, 1949 F.I.R was wrong?

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas 

Lucknow :The witnesses’ statement being recorded before Additional District Judge/Officer on special Duty of Ayodhya bench headed by Hari Shankar Dubey, regarding the title suit of Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid is now coming a full circle. This evidence is being recorded in the title-suit relating to RJB/BM dispute out of which one suit is from the Muslim side (Suit No. 12 of 1967) and three suits are from the Hindu side. This recording of evidence is on — going since July 24,1996. The Muslim side presented 28 witnesses and after the completion of the recording of their evidence — the Hindu side started with their witnesses. The first plaintiff from the Hindu side presented 16 witness, the second plaintiff came up with 02 and the third plaintiff has produced 18 as yet. The third plaintiff’s number of witnesses is also likely to be over soon, as no more than 3 or 4 are left to be produced.

This long trial has now taken almost eight years, but this too became possible only after the full-bench consisting of Justice Sudhir Narain, Justice Syed Rafat Alam and Justice Bhanwar Singh ordered a day-to-day hearing (on the application of Sunni Central Waqf Board) on Mar 21, 2002 or else the nation would have been still stuck with the Muslim side presenting its witnesses!

Now, the latest development in the same case has seen the Hindu side presenting the oldest witness and who accordingly gave the longest statement so far. On Sep 15, 04 the Acharya Mahant Banshi Dhar Das alias Oriya Baba ( born in Orrisa) got an affidavit filed through his counsel of Nirmohi Akhara, Ranjit Lal Verma, saying that he was aged about 99 years of age and had been living in Ayodhya since 1930. Nirmohi Akhara is party to Regular Suit No.126 of 1959, the so-called "Other Original Suit No 3 of 1989".

In his affidavit Banshi Dhar stated that since 1930 he had been offering darshan and puja (worshipping) in the inner portion of the building (below the central dome of Babri Masjid). He did not call Babri Masjid by its name but referred to it as disputed building. He claimed to have studied Balmiki’s Ramayana and Ram Charitryamanas, Bhagwat Gita and Rig Veda etc and stated that on the basis of Vedic literature, and other books studied by him, quite firmly establish that the vivadit sthal (disputed place) was Ramajanambhumi temple and that he believed the said site to be the birth place of Lord Rama. This was his assertion during the examination-in-chief, which in the legal term means the statement given on behalf of a party to a suit.

Once after the affidavit was filed by way of examination-in-chief. Vireshwar Diwedi, counsel of Umesh Chandra Pandey (on whose application Babri Masjid locks were opened on Feb 1,1986) started cross-examining Banshi Dhar. During his cross- examination the witness stated that Ramanand sect was started during the period of Lord Rama himself and Nirmohi Akhara got established about 700 years back. According to him the building in question was constructed by Nirmohi Akhara at about the same time (700 years ago) and prior thereto also there was a temple having black Kasauti (Black stone) pillars but he was unable to say who had constructed the earlier temple. He did of course confirm that the building was situated in Mohalla Ram Kot (Ram Fort) and according to him Ram fort was ten-lakh, five and a half thousand years old. What came as more of a surprise was that within a minute he changed his stand and stated Ram fort to be 14 lakh five and a half thousand years old!

Banshi Dhar also elaborated on the Hindu-Muslim communal riot of 1934 and stated that the temple structure was slightly damaged during those riots and the fine imposed was paid by Mahants (Hindu Priests). He did not even find it fit to say that in reality it was the Hindus who had damaged the Babri Masjid and a collective fine was imposed upon the Hindus of Ayodhya and after realising the fine the then district magistrate had got it repaired. What he tried to establish was that Babri Masjid was basically a temple but; otherwise, failed to answer as to why the Hindus damaged the temple in 1934?

In another cross-examination by Ajay Kumar Pandey, counsel for plaintiff of Suit No. 5, the witness stated that Ramanand Acharya (who started Rama cult) had twelve male disciples including Swami Amibhawanad Acharya and Swami Bhawanand Acharya. He further stated that Swami Shyamananda Acharya was the disciple of Anubhananda Acharya and he was the Mahant of Ramjanambhumi. After his cross examination was over the other counsel representing Hindu parties did the cross examination of Vireshwar Diwedi and Ajay Kumar Pandey preferred to not engage in further cross- examination. 

After the Hindu side finished, came the turn of the Muslim side to cross-examine and Abdul Mannan on behalf of Farooq Ahmad started cross examining Banshi dhar. During his course of deposition he stated that he was a Brahmin and Brahmins are supreme in Hindu social hierarchy. He stressed that whatever knowledge, science and experiments have been done are accredited to Brahmins and that the world’s first book is the Veda and Vedas are the words of Brahmins and hence Brahmins are the first in primary knowledge.

He confirmed to have learnt Yajur Veda by-heart and also clarified that Brahmin, kshtriya and Vaish can read the Vedas but Shudras (the untouchables) are not allowed to read them according to tradition. Deposing before the court he some how admitted to have heard the name of Babri Masjid and that the place which is called Babri Masjid is known as Ramjanambhumi by Hindus.

About the first information Report (F.I.R) of Dec 23,1949 relating to the placing of idols inside Babri Masjid he said the report was wrong as the idols had existed there from before. He said that no idols were placed in the mosque on the night of Dec 22/23 1949. About the incident of Dec 23,1949 he said that some Muslims had gathered near the disputed site but the Sub-Inspector who had lodged the report had himself chased away the Muslims and that the SI had taken Indian Rs. 20,000 from some Muslim of district Basti, UP. He totally denied that prayers were ever offered in Babri Masjid. After the of cross-examination by Abdul Mannan, the witness was cross-examined by Zafaryab Jilani, counsel of SCWB. During this the witness stated that he had started his education at Varanasi at the age of 15 years and had come to Ayodhya at an age of 28 years.

He however, admitted that in the Vedic literature as well Balmiki Ramayana/Ram Charitryamanas etc the disputed place was not mentioned as Ram Janambhumi temple but only this much was mentioned there: that Ramjanambhumi was situated in Mohalla Ram Kot in Ayodhya. Ram Kot was also known as Ram Durg. Durg is also called a fort.

About Rig Veda he said that it was accepted to be the first book of the world and it was lakhs of years old and was in existence before the birth of Rama. What he wanted to put forward was that there was a prediction in Rig Veda about the future of Ramjanambhumi.

He elaborated regarding the Rig Veda before the court saying that Rig Veda was in existence before the first king of Ayodhya-Raja Vaivashwat Manu-who was said to be the seventh Manu and the period of each Manu is said to be crore of years.

During his deposition he saw everyone scurrying for shelter from his mathematical barrage of things. He clarified that one kalp is of one thousand Chaturyugya. Chaturyugya is a collection of Satyug, Tretayug, Dwarparyug and Kalyug and Kalyug is 4 lakh 32 thousand years, Dwaparyug is 8 Lakh 64 thousand years, Tretayug is of 12 lakh 96 thousand years and Satyayug is 17 lakh 28 thousand years and as such a Chaturyug is of 43 lakh and 20 thousand years ved! So, the period of one Manu is of 4 Arab and 32 crore years! He said that the period of Vaiwashwat Manu is still running and Vedas are in existence from the period of first Manu. He also said that Rama has taken birth four times and all the times he has taken birth at the disputed site and the last time he had taken birth was about 9 lakh years back.

Speaking about Vikramaditya (born 2056 years back) he said that when Vikramaditya had come to Ayodhya the king of Ayodhya was Suryavanshi (born from the sun) and it was incorrect to say that Ayodhya was not inhabited at that time but the fact was that Ramjanambhumi temple was very much there even at that time.
What however, surprised all was that the case from the Hindu side is that the alleged temple of Ramjanambhumi was constructed by Vikramditya and that the same was demolished by Babar, the first Mughal king, in 1528. And, his statement has gone against the case taken up in the pleadings of the Hindu side.
Thereafter, Banshi Dhar stated that the temple which was demolished on Dec 6, 1992 was constructed about 600 years back by Govind Das who was a disciple of Shymanand Acharya.. Then, he asserted that the said building (Babri Masjid) which was demolished on Dec, 6 1992 was actually constructed during the reign of Humayun (Babur’s son) as it was damaged by Mir Baqi without any instructions from Babar. He further added that the temple already existed at the site was demolished by Mohammad Tuqhlaq in 1325 AD) and then, the temple was constructed on that very site by Anantanand, disciple of Ramanand but the same was again demolished by Firoz Shah Tughlaq who was the son of Mohammad Thuglaq. He however also admitted that Babar and Aurengzeb had not demolished any temple. He stressed that Aurengzeb had instead got constructed two maths (communes) , one in Moradabad, UP and the other in South India.and Aurengzeb had not demolished any temples. He further said that except Mohammad Tughlaq no other king had demolished temples. He furthur stated that the damage caused to the mosque (he had referred the same as temple earlier) in 1934 was repaired by Hindu Sadhus themselves by raising funds of Rs.35,000.

After this he was cross-examined by Mushlaq Ahmed Siddiqui on behalf of Hashim Ansari and said that in 1325 AD Ayodhya was a part of province of Avadh and since the time of Muslim rule in India the governors of Ayodhya had remained Muslims He also admitted that Buddhism also started from Ayodhya and the first Acharya of Jains was Rishabdev who was born in Ayodhya too.

Meanwhile, in support of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) excavation report of the disputed site at Ayodhya- the Hindu side will restart its arguments from Sep 27 and now this too is also in it’s last phase. The Muslims will be coming up with their counter arguments and this will go until the closure of arguments from both sides. Sidharth Shankar Ray, former Indian ambassador to US. will reply from the Muslim side from Oct 4th onwards.

The issue of Ayodhya dispute is therefore now speeding towards a judgement. The statements in the title-suit are also almost finished and the ASI report whether rejected or accepted is also likely to come soon. Perhaps, nation would not be made to sit, on tenterhooks, for a still longer period now. 
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