Archaeologist K.K. Muhammed has alleged that Left-leaning historians are to blame for not letting a compromise take place between Hindus and Muslims on the building of a Ram temple at Ayodhya even though archaeological evidence pointed to the presence of a Hindu temple beneath the site of the now demolished Babri Masjid.
“Left-leaning historians led by Irfan Habib, who was the chairman of the Indian Council for Historical Research at the time, impelled Muslim groups active on the Babri Action Committee not to accept the Hindu groups’ argument that they had a claim on the site owing to the existence of a temple beneath the mosque’s structure,” Muhammed told this newspaper. Muhammed has mentioned in his recently published autobiography, Njan Enna Bharatiyan (I am an Indian), that a temple existed at the site, a revelation that created ripples.
Muhammed, 63, was born in the Muslim dominated Calicut. He studied in Delhi and worked at various places in North India. When he was studying at the School of Archaeology in Delhi, he participated in the excavation works at the Babri Masjid site in 1976-77. He was a part of a team led by the then ASI director general, Professor B.B. Lal. “We had found 14 pillars of a temple, which must have belonged to the 11th or 12th century. The masjid was apparently built on the debris of the temple,” Muhammed has mentioned in his autobiography written in Malayalam.
Muhammed said this was not the first time that he had mentioned about the existence of a temple pre-dating the mosque. “An amicable settlement should take place in the Babri Masjid dispute. The site can be handed over to Hindus for the construction of a Ram temple, but Hindus should take the initiative to offer an honourable settlement to Muslims. Direct talks should be held between Hindus and Muslims and no third party should be involved,” Muhammed told this newspaper.
Muhammed, however, denied media reports that he had commented on the Taj Mahal or other monuments built by Muslim rulers. “I am an archaeologist and historical facts are important to me. I am not a spokesperson of the RSS or VHP,” he said.
Muhammed is surprised to see the response to his autobiography. The 159-page book hit the stands on 16 January, and its first edition got sold within two weeks. Mathrubhumi, which published the book, is planning a second edition, while talks are also underway to translate the book into English and several other Indian languages.
When asked about the reaction of Muslims to his book, Muhammed said that most of them have appreciated his observations. “There are several Muslims who think that a reasonable solution can be found to the dispute. After all, Ram temple is to Hindus what Mecca and Madina are to Muslims,” said Muhammed, who retired from ASI two years ago and is currently working as project director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Hyderabad. The trust has taken up the restoration of world heritage monuments Qutb Shahi Tombs at a budget of around Rs 100 crore.
Muhammed is also known for his restoration of the millennium old Bateshwar temple in Madhya Pradesh. He had also persuaded the Maoists in Chhattisgarh to join the restoration work of many temples in the forest areas. “The uniqueness of India is its secular credentials. We should all work to protect them,” he told this newspaper.