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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

270 pages and a single witness

By
Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

The Milli Gazette Online 

Luckow: The entire volume of material regarding the title-suit dispute of Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid case can well be imagined when the witness statement of only Rajendra Singh, the first non-Hindu witness and a Sikh by religion who was brought by the Hindu side, totaled 270 pages! 

This day-to-day hearing is going on in context of the title-suit of Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid case. The recording of the statements of the witness has been continuing since July 24, 1996. The Muslim side has already finished getting the statements of witnesses recorded and the Hindu side too is winding-up the recording of the statement of witnesses.

Asked about the description of Shri Ram and Sita in Guru Granth Sahib, Singh stated that their description was there but he could not state as to where the said description could be found and also he could not remember it. He however, admitted that in Guru Granth Sahib the word “Alah” had been used for a shapeless Supreme-God. At the same time he could not confirm or deny that the word “Alah” was used for Allah in Guru Granth Sahib.

The on-going recording of statement before the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Hari Shankar Dubey, appointed as Commissioner, turned out to be a virtual diary of a bibliophile as was witnessed by the proceedings during the last two months. 

Rajendra Singh was being grilled by the Hindu and Muslim sides since December 1, 2004 and then again when Court assembled on January 3, 2005 after the winter vacations. 

Giving almost a new angle to the case, the Hindu side brought the first non-Hindu witness in the form of a Sikh by the name Rajendra Singh, age around 60 years, resident of 293 sector-16, Faridabad, Haryana. 

He first made his appearance on Dec 1, 2004 as an expert of Sikh religion and history to support the case of Ramjanambhumi. Rajendra Singh is a grinder by profession and has written a book titled Sikh Itihas mein Shri Ramjanambhumi, published in 1991 by an unknown publisher, “Bharat Bharti Press”, New Delhi.
In his affidavit to examination-in-chief, he referred to several Janam Sakhis (biographies) of Guru Nanak and on the basis of these he claimed that Shri Guru Nanak had visited Ayodhya and had performed darshan of Ramjanabhumi mandir. The visit of Guru Nanak to Ayodhya is said to have taken place prior to 1528 when Babri Masjid was constructed. However, none of the books, the extracts of which have been filed by him, refer to the alleged visit of Guru Nanak Dev to the so-called Ramjanambhumi temple. He further claimed in his affidavit that from the books studied by him he was of definite opinion that the disputed place was the birthplace of Lord Rama. 

In his cross-examination by Ranjit Lal Verma, counsel of Nirmohi Akhara, he said that Guru Nanak Devji had visited Ayodhya before Babar’s conquest. He further said that it was mentioned in the. Bal Kand (Childhood- Episode) of Balmiki’s Ramayana that Lord Rama had taken birth in the palace of Raja Dashrath and that Guru Nanak Dev had visited Mecca and Madina also as has been mentioned in his own Janam Sakhis.

Thereafter, he was cross-examined by Abdul Mannan, counsel for Mohammad Farooq, defendant, No. 11 of Suit No. 3 of 1989. During this cross-examination he stated that there was no difference between Vaidik philosophy and Sikh religion and that Guru Nanak had stayed at Ayodhya for one or two months. He further stated that the period of Raja Dashrath was prior to eight-lakh and sixty-five thousand years and he considered that period to be a historical period. But, strangely enough, he could not tell in which period precisely Lord Rama had lived!

Singh also stated that he did not agree with the assertion that there was a Babri Masjid on the disputed site as according to him it was Ramjanambhumi, that the disputed site and the structure on it was erected in 1528 after demolishing Ram Mandir and which was called by some persons as Babri Masjid. He further stated that he did not agree with the stand of Muslims that the said structure was ever used as Babri Masjid after 1528. At the same time he expressed his ignorance of the fact that some people used to offer namaz in the said structure. He said that in his opinion Babri Masjid had never existed either in 1949 or 1951 or thereafter.

He took everyone by surprise when he expressed his ignorance about any First Information Report (FIR) having ever been lodged in 1949 and feigned ignorance about any knowledge of any idols which were placed inside the three-domed structure during the night of December 22-23, 1949.

During the cross-examination on behalf of Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB) by Zafaryab Jilani, he said that he had never received any royalty for his book Sikh Ithaas Mein Shri Ram Janam Bhumi. He admitted that he had heard the name of WH McLeod but had not read his book Sikh and Sikhism and The Evolution of Sikh Community and that he had not even read the book of Harish Dhillon, The Life and Teachings of Sikh Gurus. He was also unaware of Ramesh Chandra Dogra and Dr. Govind Singh who have written Encyclopedia of Sikh Religion and Culture. Facing a volley of questions by Zafaryab Jilani, he admitted that he had cursorily read the book of Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs but denied having read KS Duggal’s book Sikh Gurus — Their Times and Teachings and Rupendra Singh’s book Guru Nanak — His life and Teachings as well as the book by Rosetta William’s titled Sikh Gurus.

When questioned about books by Zaki Kakorawi, Ameer Ali Shaheed and Marka-e-Hanuman Garhi and Muraqqa’-e-khusrawi as well as Fasana-e-Ibrat by Rajab Ali Suroor. He was unable to tell whether these books were afsanas (stories) or books of history . He also failed to say whether the authors of these books were only literary figures or were historians too.

About the demolition of the temple, he stated that this could be the incident of March 28, 1528 or Sep 15, 1528. About the construction of the three-domed structure, he gave the dates between Sep. 1528 to June 1529. He admitted that Babar never visited Ayodhya town but he had stayed near Ayodhya at a distance of two-three kms, from March 28, 1528 to April 2, 1528. He further admitted that there was no mention about any specific order passed by Babar regarding demolition of the temple in any book of history or even in Babarnama.

Rajendra Singh’s statement continued until the Court closed for winter vacations and reopened on Jan 3, 2005. After the winter vacations he was made to appear again and was cross-examined by Zafaryab Jilani, on behalf of Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB). During this time he said that Guru Nanak had visited Ayodhya in 1510-1511 for darshan of Ramjanambhumi and that this visit was during the course of his three-four years of travel to different places out of which he (Rajendra Singh) remembered Delhi, Haridwar and Ayodhya but could not recollect the name of any other place. He further stated that he also did not remember for how many days Guru Nanak stayed at these places and who was the ruler of Ayodhya at the time. Later, with the help of a note prepared by him, he stated that Sikandar Lodi was the emperor from 1489 to 1517 and if Ayodhya was also included in his territory then Sikandar Lodi must have been the ruler of Ayodhya in 1510-1511. But he was not sure whether Delhi rulers were ruling Ayodhya at that time.

Singh further stated that perhaps there was no difference during the regime of Ibrahim Lodi who had remained ruler of Delhi from 1517 till his defeat at the hands of Babar. Thereafter, he said that the period of Guru Nanak’s visit to Ayodhya was given by him on the basis of approximation because in the janam sakhis there was mention of the departure of Guru Nanak from Sultanpur (a town of Punjab) but there was no mention of Guru Nanak’s time of arrival at Ayodhya. 

He also elaborated that there was no mention in the janam sakhi about the size and area of Ramjanambhumi mandir and the description of the same is in Skand Purana (religious book of Hindus) which was not mentioned by him (the witness) either in his affidavit or books filed in court and he did not even remember the same. On being questioned as to who had written this Skand Purana the witness stated that it was written by Maharishi Byas about 5000 years ago.

When questioned as to how the Ramjanambhumi temple said to have been constructed by Vikramaditya about 2000 years ago could find mention in a book said to have been written 5000 years ago, the witness said that the temple existed since before the period of Maharishi Byas and it was an ancient temple and the said temple was not the one which was referred by the witness as having been constructed by Chandragupta Vikramadiya II about 2000 back.
About this temple of Chandragupta Vikramaditya, the witness said that he did read about the same in some book but he did not remember the name of that book and the said book was not a historical book but a book based on local folklore and legends. He further stated that the said book was a publication of 1980s or before that but he could not say exactly as to whether the said book was published prior to 1950s or subsequent thereto. Also he could give the approximate number of pages in it. He also could not say as to whether it was of 40-50, 100-200 or of 1000 pages and that all he could remember was that the said temple was described as having 84 pillars and was situated at Ayodhya.

On being questioned as to what was the basis of his conclusion that Babar had demolished the said temple, Singh said that he had relied upon three books namely Babarnama translations by Yugjeet Nawalpuri and S. Athar Abbas Rizvi (both separately) and the book of Raees Ahmad Jafri on Wajid Ali Shah entitled Wajid Ali Shah And His Period. 

On being confronted with the extracts of the book by S. Athar Abbas Rizvi, he admitted that there were some mistakes in the portions quoted by him and he further admitted that in the entire description of the events of March 28th to April 1st 1528 there was no mention of the demolition of any temple and it was just inferred by him that Babar would have demolished the temple as he (Babar) had taken a vow to break idols.

When he was confronted with the portions referring to the construction of a well, platform and mosque etc in Babarnama and also about the description of idols and their beauty and further about the destruction of naked idols and about the visit to temples at Gwalior and idols kept therein, he was unable to explain as to why there was no mention in the Babarnama of the destruction of any temple of Ayodhya. 

He, however, did admit that in both the aforesaid translations of Babarnama there was no mention of the destruction of any temple in Ayodhya or the construction of any mosque.

It was also admitted by the witness that it was evident from Babarnama that Babar had visited several temples and had described the grandeur of the same and it was also admitted that in Babarnama there was a description at only one place of the destruction of idols and that was in Urwa Ghati (a place in Rajasthan).

The witness further admitted that there was no mention of the darshan of any idol by Guru Nanak in the Guru Granth Sahib and on being confronted by the books of Dr. Aashirwadi Lal Srivastava who wrote Madhya Kaleen Bhartiya Sanskriti, MA Macauliff and New Encyclopedia Britannica etc stating that Guru Nanak was a strong opponent of idol-worship, the witness stated that this was the view of those historians who have been influenced by western writers.

When asked about the description of Shri Ram and Sita in Guru Granth Sahib he stated that their description was there but he could not state as to where the said description could be found and also he could not remember it. He however, admitted that in Guru Granth Sahib the word “Alah” had been used for a shapeless Supreme-God. At the same time he could not confirm or deny that the word “Alah” was used for Allah in Guru Granth Sahib.

He further stated that Sikhism is no religion but it was a panth (way of life) and when confronted with the extracts of Guru wani (speeches of Guru) he admitted that there was a mention therein that Guru Nanak was neither a Hindu nor Muslim.

When the witness was questioned about the descriptions found in Janamsakhis which were considered to be reliable and were included in Guru Granth Sahib he stated that it was Guru Arjun Deo who had edited the Guru Granth Sahib and whatever was considered proper by him had been included in Guru Granth Sahib. Singh, however, could not state as to whether some janam sakhis were reliable or rather all of them were reliable.

On being referred to Khushwant Singh’s statement in his book History of Sikhs that Guru Nanak was a non-believer in idol worship, he said that he did not agree with Khushwant Singh as Khushawant Singh may be sporting a beard but is an atheist.
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