16 May, 2021

Secrets Of The Shrine

Sandipan Deb gets into the heavily-guarded excavation site at Ayodhya and finds clues to a confusing past Updates

Prashant Panjiar
Secrets Of The Shrine

' 245.' ' 175.' ' 160.' Numbers are the only words being spoken on a pitilessly hot afternoon here. Here, the flat top of a low hillock, the epicentre of a political earthquake whose aftershocks never die, whose waves never peter out. Dozens of people work quietly with picks and shovels, whisks and dustpans, probing into the earth for the secrets it has concealed for centuries, secrets that, when uncovered and understood, could impact the lives and minds of a billion Indians. But when you look at the workers' nonchalant faces, periodically calling out some measurements, you get no such sense. They are just doing their job.

Ayodhya, May 2003. For more than two months now, following the order of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on March 5, the Archaeological Survey of India team led by Dr B.R. Mani (ordered by the court to be replaced on May 22) has been excavating the land on which the Babri Masjid had stood from AD 1528 till December 6, 1992. The roughly 41 m by 24 m area is now a grid of 4 m by 4 m trenches, each trench separated from the adjacent one...

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