BB Lal, the former director-general (DG) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who is credited to have excavated the Ram Janmabhoomi site in 1976-77 and three members of his team have stood in support of fellow archaeologist KK Muhammed after an AMU professor had claimed that Muhammed was not part of their team in 1976-77.
Responding to the letter written by a professor named Syed Ali Rizvi, 98-year-old BB Lal himself confirmed that KK Muhammed was part of the team that excavated Ram Janmabhoomi site in 1976-77.
“It is a fact that Shri KK Muhammed was there with me when I was excavating the Ram Janmabhoomi area in Ayodhya,” Lal, 98, told TOI in an email.
Syed Ali Rizvi, Chairman of the Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, had written a letter stating said Muhammed was never part of BB Lal’s team. Rizvi had written a letter after KK Muhammed had stated that there was no doubt that a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu existed below Babri Masjid. In an interview, Muhammed had said that he was the only Muslim archaeologist in the team led by BB Lal which had excavated the Ram Janmabhoomi site in 1976-77.
However, Rizvi had countered Muhammed’s claims by saying that the latter’s name was not present anywhere in the ASI reports filed by BB Lal himself. After Rizvi’s letter, three other members from the team apart from KK Muhammed himself have refuted AMU professor’s claim.
Ramakant Chaturvedi, who retired as director of Municipal Museum, Gwalior in 2007, said Muhammed had participated in the excavation at Ayodhya in 1976-77 as a trainee. “Muhammed was a student of ASI’s School of Archaeology at Delhi. He was with me,” he said.
The 75-year old Chaturvedi gave the details of the excavations and said they were carried out under a project called Archaeology of Ramayan Sites. The project was led by BB Lal himself, who was the ASI DG from 1968 to 1972 and also director of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla.
Another former archaeologist Rajnath Kaw, who retired as ASI’s chief photographer in 2005, made similar statements saying that Muhammed was the only Muslim member to part of Lal’s team. Clarifying on the absence of Muhammed’s name in the ASI’s Annual Reports, Kaw said that it was common to not include the names of the trainees in the project reports and only names of the members of the project were included. He said Muhammed was a student of the School of Archaeology, Delhi.
Ashok Pandey, a retired superintending archaeologist at Bhopal and a former classmate of KK Muhammed in School of Archaeology, said that Muhammed and 10 other students of the school were part of the team which took part in the excavation at Ayodhya in 1976-77.
He said School of Archaeology would admit about 12 candidates for a one-year post-graduate (PG) diploma course in archaeology every year. The classes would commence in September-October. These students would be sent by ASI for two-month training in excavation between December and February every year as excavations generally take place in the winters, he said. The 63-year-old Pandey said it was during this part of the training that they had joined BB Lal for excavation at Ayodhya.