Some controversies simply refuse to die down. In India, certain extremist Hindu groups every now and then rake up their allegation that the site of the Babri Masjid in the town of Ayodhya is really, Lord Ram’s birthplace (janam bhoomi). They further claim that since the Mughal emperor Babar was responsible for demolishing a pre-existing Hindu temple on the site, the Babri Masjid should be destroyed in totality and a temple built in its place to consecrate the site as worthy of Lord Ram’s birthplace. Babri Masjid was destroyed on December 6th, 1992.
Much blood has been shed over this issue, and sadly, every time it makes headlines, the Muslim minority populace in communally sensitive cities and towns fear a successive backlash.
TwoCircles.net determined to delve into this issue and uncover certain interesting facts unknown to the vast majority. Who better to speak to, in this regard, than Mr Sher Singh, an officer of the Indian Administrative Service known for his research in, and subsequent publishing of three volumes on the subject – The Secular Emperor Babar, authored by Surinder Kaur and Tapan Sanyal, Lokgeet Prakashan, Sirhind 1987, The Secular Emperor Babar – More Sinned Against than Sinning (Volume 2), authored by Surinder Kaur and Sher Singh, B B Prakashan, 1989 and The Secular Emperor Babar, a Victim of Indian Partition, authored by Surinder Kaur and Sher Singh, Genuine Publications, Delhi 1991. Surinder Kaur and Sher Singh are also authors of Archaeology of Babri Masjid, published by Genuine Publications in 1994 (1).
We learnt a lot about the Babri mosque in conversation with Mr Sher Singh. Read on for more…
TCN: Mr. Singh please tell us something about your background?
SS: I was born on December 3, 1946. I am a Dalit Sikh. I studied at Punjab University, Chandigarh and earned a Masters degree in English in 1970. I joined the Indian Administrative Service (1976 batch), and have spent most of my working years in West Bengal.
My Dalit background inspired me to spearhead a movement to bring Dalits into mainstream cultural, economic, political and social life. I perceive the creation of the Bahujan Samaj Party as an outcome of this enhanced awareness among leaders of the dalit masses.
TCN: Where does your interest in the Babri mosque stem from?
SS: I enjoy challenging my thinking processes. In fact, even when I was dismissed as an I.A.S. officer, I did not sit back and moan over my fate! I chose to master Cheiro’s astrology and the Jewish Kaballah school of thought. I also studied the stock market, auction trading and the reading of market trends.
Frankly, like any other Indian, I witnessed the brouhaha over the Babri mosque. I heard the claims of extremist Hindu groups and determined to get to the bottom of the matter. This was before events of 1992. My aim was to separate mythology from history. You know, Dr Sukumar Sen, India national professor and author of the Ramayana has proven that there are 23 places in the world where Lord Ram is supposed to have been born – but evidently, all these claims cannot be right. Another national professor Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee has written three volumes on the subject – the Ramayana. (2) Incidentally, Dr Chatterjee faced a lot of difficulty because of his work – his house was also set on fire.
Anyway, even if his birthplace is Ayodhya, I wanted to determine whether the allegations involving Babur and the Babri mosque were correct.
Luckily, I came in touch with Dr Bishambhar Nath Pande (3), an eminent historian. I consider his work exemplary, for he works with great caution, and emphasizes the need for logical dialectical reasoning, eyewitness accounts and/or documentary evidence to support any historical theory. He has clearly pointed out that much of Indian history has been written by British historians who served the vested interests of their ruling masters. It was therefore, seen fitting to pit Hindus against Muslims, or divide the masses to make it easier to rule over them. Perhaps this is the reason for so many brutal accounts of the atrocities of Mughal emperors towards native Indians flooding Indian history. Thanks to Dr Pande, today we know for certain that the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was not the tyrant he has been made out to be. Quite the contrary, he was a secular emperor who donated generously to Hindu temples across the country.
Anyway, coming back to the point, Dr Pande was most encouraging when I wrote to him about the need for someone to take up the Babri mosque controversy as a study. Fortunately, he was willing to guide my work. He reiterated the need for a three-point process, similar to what he adopts, in order for me to be certain that nobody would throw stones at me for the outcome of my findings. Hence, my research methodology focused on logical dialectical reasoning, eyewitness accounts and/or documentary evidence.
TCN: Please summarize your findings about the Babri mosque.
SS: Summarizing my findings is not easy, but I will put forward three noteworthy findings for your readers –
The first relates to the year 1528 AD, which is when Babur was supposed to have visited Ayodhya and ordered the demolishing of the temple. Babur kept a daily diary, meant to be an autobiography called Tuzk-i-Babri, of which entries spanning a duration of 5 to 6 months are entirely missing. It is believed that after Babur’s death, when his son Humayun was once on the run from Sher Shah Suri, and camping out in a tent, these pages got drenched and were thus removed from the diary. Incidentally, the rest of his autobiography minus those pages may still be seen at the Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad.
However, the absence of these pages has very conveniently been interpreted otherwise by those who desire to prove that Babur visited Ayodhya during those very months. I therefore referred to his daughter Gulbadan Begum’s diary Humayunama, wherein she has very clearly stated that during those months, her mother and she were to be received at Agra by her father, but eventually they met up at Aligarh. Babur was already in the region for a hunting expedition along the Sarda river, following a military expedition against Muslim Afghan rebels led by Shaik Bayazid. Awadh – the region in which Ayodhya lies – had already been under Muslim influence since 1030 AD, when Syed Salar Masood Ghazi entered the region from Multan. So there was never a need for Babur to exert himself on the people of Awadh.
The fact is that Babur, an Uzbek rebel ruler himself, had been driven out of his domain and headed towards India. His aim was to establish a kingdom that would be ruled by successive Mughals, but without antagonizing the Indian populace. He even had a Hindu Prime Minister named Khiwa. He is known to have advised his son Humayun never to harm temples, the places of worship of the Hindu people. So the first falsity is that Babur visited Ayodhya.
If he didn’t, then who ordered the Babri mosque to be built? This mosque was actually built by the Sharqi kings of Jaunpur, 16 years before Babur was even born. I have had the nameplate inscriptions of the Babri mosque transcribed by Persian scholars, and the date testifies this year.
Apparently, the Sharqi rajas grabbed power by stabbing the then governor of the region (including Ayodhya). The Sharqi rajas were eunuchs, who ruled for about 100 years. The Babri mosque was ordered to be built during their reign, pretty much as a food for work program of that time. It took 10,000 people 5 years to build the mosque. For this duration, all those 10,000 people were paid for in food, and thus averted starvation.
How do I know this? This fact has been documented by Dr Francis Hamilton Buchanan (3), a surgeon and botanist who had also earlier served the East India Company. However, from 1807 to 1814, he was appointed by the Governor General of India Marques Wellesley to conduct an extensive survey that would include topography, history, antiquities, the condition of the inhabitants, religion, natural productions, agriculture, fine and common arts, and commerce. In 1813-1814, he focused on Ayodhya. I obtained copies of his conclusions from the British Library in London.
Finally, I would like to say a word on the mysterious Kasauti stone that is said to have been used to construct the black pillars of the Babri mosque, which are believed to date back to the pre-existing temple.
We subjected samples of the structure to a radiocarbon dating (C 14) test. This helped prove that the structure is only around 500 years old. If the pillars were meant to date back to a pre-existing temple built of the Kasauti stone (some Hindu groups believe the temple was 1000 to 1500 years old), these should have been much older. Actually, the construction techniques of the time involved a fine polish, by which a mixture of adhesive urad dal and other substances were applied to a surface to get a blackish result. This is what was done at the Babri mosque.
TCN: Congratulations! Has anyone disputed your findings?
SS: I published my books only after writing about my findings in major newspapers, and waiting six months to see if these were disputed. No, till date these findings have not been contradicted by anyone. Perhaps this is why my book has been translated into 27 languages across the world.
I also shared copies of my work with the Honourable Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg, ex Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who appreciated it and gave a copy to the late Rajeev Gandhi, who liked the book a lot and eventually became a family friend.
TCN: Sir, what opposition did you face after the publication of the book? Why do you believe you faced this opposition?
SS: Sadly, in 1994, the Hindu Marxists of West Bengal filed a chargesheet against me. It claimed that I had violated the All India Service Conduct Rules 3(1) and 6(2), and was subsequently suspended. The reasons cited were several – the first volume of the Babri mosque series was authored by Surinder Kaur and Tapan Sanyal, yet the chargesheet claimed I was a co-author. Secondly, it was said that I incited Muslims to the extent that they could perform acts threatening communal harmony. Thirdly, according to newspaper reports, I had received the Saudi Arabian government’s Faisal Award in 1993. However, the award [amount] was routed through me as customary through the government and I eventually never received it, even though corrupt officials tried to bargain with me to split the award. Then since I had not submitted some property statements in the years 1989-1991, this was also made part of the chargesheet. It was also said that I had defamed the BJP, by criticizing its contentions regarding the Babri mosque.
A one man inquiry committee was instituted to look into the case. I requested that a scholar be appointed to assist the inquiry, but this request was refused. In January 2000, the committee declared me guilty as charged,
I appealed the order, and on July 24, 2000, my chargesheet stood quashed by the Central Administrative Tribunal.
However, I was dismissed from service and harassed and almost driven to acute financial crisis. A case continued which eventually reached the Calcutta High Court, where it was pronounced that I (the defendant) had not been secured the legal rights that I could rightfully claim. On March 19, 2007, the honourable judges Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice K K Prasad of the Calcutta High Court ordered that I be fully compensated, as an I.A.S. officer with due consideration to the seniority I would have gained over the years I was suspended, and that pension and all other dues be paid to me. For reference this case is W.P.C.T. number 120 of 2003.
Quite asides this legal battle, I have received threatening calls, but have always taken these in my stride. I would call those who threatened me to face me, and talk things out. No one ever did.
As to why I faced all these calls and the harassment, I suggest you wait for my autobiography My Destiny, to know the answer. It will be released soon.
TCN: What are the consequences of your findings? Do these answer questions for many people, or do they throw up more questions? It appears more that the common man believes what political parties say.
SS: Do remember that my research was not aimed at the common man. It was a scholarly study, like a PhD thesis, aimed at unearthing the truth behind the Babri mosque controversy. I don’t think lay people go into so many details, but yes, I think I have taken many so-called scholars to the task for promoting a hypothesis which has no basis. I have effectively shown their theory to be humbug.
1. Surinder Kaur is Mr Sher Singh’s wife. Tapan Sanyal is an anthropologist who Mr Singh collaborated with for specialist inputs. Publisher details: B B Prakashan, 22, Panchana Tala Road, Calcutta and Genuine Publication & Media Pvt. Ltd., B-35 (Basement), Nizamuddin West, New Delhi 110013, http://www.iosworld.org/gp.htm
2. [Dr] Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, “Rama and his Birthplace,” Ananda Bazaar Patrika, Calcutta, Jan 17, 1976 from http://www.t0.or.at/scl/scl11/msg07816.html Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suniti_Kumar_Chatterjee and http://ignca.nic.in/nl_00104.htm
3. Dr Bishambhar Nath Pande born on 23 December 1906 in Madhya Pradesh of Umreth; member UP Legislative Assembly (1952–53); member UP Legislative Council (1972–74); twice member of the Rajya Sabha (1976 and 1982); governor of Orissa state (1983–88); recipient of Padma Shri (1976); author of several books, including The Spirit of India and The Concise History of Congress; died in New Delhi on June 1, 1998) from http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/oct99/cover5.htm
4. Francis Hamilton Buchanan, more at http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/101003836 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Buchanan-Hamilton