With the three judges pronouncing differing opinions on the historical and archaeological aspects of the case in the Allahabad High Court's judgement on the disputed land in Ayodhya, many leading historians have been left bemused.
“It's not a logical judgement with so many parts going 2-1. One does not accept the logicality of the judgement,” said Irfan Habib, a noted historian and a former Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research who earlier taught at the Aligarh Muslim University.
He noted that the verdict seemed to legitimise the events of 1949, when an idol was placed inside the mosque, by constant references. On the other hand, by minimising any mentions of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the court seemed to be disregarding it, he said.
He also expressed surprise that two judges questioned the date of construction of the Babri Masjid, as well as the involvement of emperor Babar or his commander Mir Baqi, since there had been clear inscriptions to this effect before the demolition. “Things that are totally clear historically, the court has tried to muddy,” he said.
“The historical evidence has not been taken into account,” said D.N. Jha, history professor at the Delhi University. Noting the judgement's mention of the “faith and belief of Hindus” in reference to the history of the disputed structure, Dr. Jha asked why the court had requested an excavation of the site.
“If it is a case of ‘belief,' then it becomes an issue of theology, not archaeology. Should the judiciary be deciding cases on the basis of theology is a question that needs to be asked,” he said.
Professional archaeologists also noted that the judges did not seem to rely heavily on the Archaeological Survey of India's court-directed excavation of the site in 2003, at least in the summaries of their verdict available on Thursday evening.
“Somewhere, there is doubt about the credibility of that report,” said Supriya Verma of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, who acted as an observer during the ASI excavation.
She noted that neither Justice Sudhir Agarwal nor Justice Dharam Veer Sharma even referenced the ASI report to support his conclusion on the existence of a temple on the site before the mosque was built.
“It is almost as though they themselves were not convinced by the evidence. They are clearly conceding that there was no archaeological evidence of a temple or of its demolition…It is a judgement of theology,” she said.
Another observer of the ASI excavation, Jaya Menon of the Aligarh Muslim University, noted that the ASI report itself did not provide any evidence of a demolition, and only asserted the existence of a temple in its conclusion. “So I don't know on what basis they made their judgements,” she said. The ASI report had 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 which indicated Muslim residents.