The Allahabad High Court based a significant part of its judgment in the Ayodhya case on the evidence provided by the Archaeological Survey of India's report on its excavations at the site, submitted to the court in 2003.
However, that report is still hidden from the public eye, and a virtual gag order placed on archaeologists who acted as observers during the excavation.
Now that the judgment has been pronounced, a group of 130 academics, activists and intellectuals have demanded that the ASI report be published. In an open letter to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, they urged that the report “be made available for scrutiny in the public domain, especially to scholars, as it is now a part of the public judicial record.”
The ASI report, which concluded that a temple had existed at the site, has been criticised by many archaeologists for ignoring evidence such as animal bones, which would not have been found in a temple for Ram, and the existence of glazed pottery and graves at all levels which indicated Muslim residence.
In May, archaeologists Shereen Ratnagar and D. Mandal were slapped with contempt of court charges by the Allahabad High Court for sharing their observations in a book, titled “Ayodhya: Archaeology After Excavation”, published by Tulika in 2007. The orders in that case have been reserved.
The open letter notes that, “the world at large is equally constrained to silence. Such a judicially ordained zone of uncertainty curbs freedom of expression and fair comment.”
The letter was signed by well-known Indian academics such as Sumit Sarkar, Uma Chakravarti, K.N. Pannikkar, K. Satchidanandan, Ajay Dandekar and filmmakers such as Anand Patwardhan, as well as less well-known Indian citizens – a software engineer, a textile design consultant, a teacher. Academics from abroad – including those from universities in London, Chicago, Stockholm and Copenhagen – have also signed the letter, as friends of India.
Keywords: Ayodhya dispute