Archaeologist Buddha Rashmi Mani, who initially led a 14-member Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team that surveyed the disputed site in Ayodhya in 2003, expressed happiness over the Supreme Court’s judgment that paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple there on Saturday.
He said the court had taken an impartial view of the longstanding issue. Mani said that he almost did not go for “the biggest assignment of his career” in 2003 when he was asked to lead the team at the site to study what was underneath the Babri Masjid. “I was not too keen as I had suffered a brain stroke,” said Mani.
Controversies marred Mani’s assignment and the Allahabad high court replaced him midway as the ASI team head.
“The court wanted me to continue digging, but I had chalked out a procedure and dug up till 45 metres within. I felt there was no need to dig further,” said Mani, who continued to be part of the team despite his replacement.
Mani said that they found Northern Black Polish ware, sculptures, and 50 pillar bases. “We took back the historical period of the structure 900 years to 1600 BC,” he said.
Mani was in 2016 named as the National Museum’s director general (DG) following his retirement. His stint ended in August this year.
Mani dismissed criticism that he was awarded for his work post-retirement. “I retired as the additional ASI DG… people less qualified than me and even people from outside were given the DG’s post overlooking me. I suffered due to my association with the Ayodhya case,” said Mani.
Another former ASI archaeologist KK Mohammed, who was part of the team in 1976-77 and the first to claim that the site had a Hindu temple below the Babri Masjid, too, welcomed the judgement. “I cannot think of a better way this could have panned out. I was under a lot of strain for saying that a temple structure existed underneath. This [court verdict] makes me happy that what I was saying all along was not untrue,” said Mohammed.