NEW DELHI—In August 2003, following a six-month-long excavation, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) informed the Allahabad High Court that it had found evidence of there being a temple under the Babri Masjid, the 16-century mosque demolished by kar sevaks on 6 December 1992.
Two archeologists, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon, accused the ASI of having preconceived notions ahead of the dig, and violating ethical codes and procedures during the excavation. Varma, professor of archeology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Menon, who heads the history department at Shiv Nadar University, told the court that the excavation did not find anything that supported ASI's conclusion. In 2010, they published a paper in the Economic and Political Weekly, challenging the methods used in collecting evidence and its interpretation.
The archeologists, who were observers during the excavation on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board, a party to the tile suit in the Ayodhya dispute, say the ASI, then under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP-led) National Democratic Alliance government, was under pressure to reinforce the Hindu right-wing narrative that Mughal emperor Babur's general Mir Baqi knocked down a temple to build a mosque on the spot where Hindu god Ram was born.
Ahead of the 26th anniversary of the Babri Masjid's demolition, Varma spoke to HuffPost India about the three key pieces of evidence found in 2003, why she thinks the ASI felt compelled to fabricate its conclusion, and procedural lapses during the excavation led by B.R. Mani, who was later replaced on an order by the Allahabad High Court. In 2016, the Modi government appointed Mani as the Director General of the National Museum.
Is there any archeological evidence that the Babri Masjid was built over a temple devoted to Ram?
No, there is nothing. Even today, there is no archeological evidence that...