This booklet is a synthesis of two articles of mine: Lost and found: the Ayodhya evidence (21 June 2003) published in various internet forums; and The Secularists and the Ayodhya Excavations Report, published in the online magazine Kashmir Herald, September 2003.

At this stage in my life, a polemic on the Ayodhya affair is essentially a blast from the past. In recent years, I have reoriented my scholarly interests towards more fundamental philosophical studies and questions of ancient history, rather than questions in the centre of contemporary political struggles. The nastiness, the personal smears, the sheer heat of this kind of debate now seems most unpleasant to me, though once I enjoyed rushing headlong into it. But the whole polemic is also a blast from the past in a less personal sense. In terms of the development of civilization, it is an anachronism.

Science has made considerable progress, to the point of being able to decide many historical riddles such as whether a given site has a history as a place of worship. With the modern techniques available, it is rather absurd that there should be a controversy over such a simple and easily verifiable matter. It is incredible that there has been a yes/no game over the existence of temple remains at the disputed site for about fifteen years, when the matter could be scientifically decided in no time. Worse; even when science was called in to decide, the procedure was opposed by, of all the people, the most eminent academics. And when the scientific findings were made public, they were furiously denounced by more academics. True, when Galileo made his scientific findings know, he too was opposed by the learned academics of the day, not just by the Pope. But that was a few centuries ago, when they were still steeped in theology rather than in science. I thought we had moved on since then.

Given the importance of the Ayodhya dispute and my old familiarity with it, I felt I had to come down from my ivory tower and engage in this polemic once more. When dogmatic ideologues are giving scientists the kind of treatment which the experts of the Archaeological Survey of Indian have been receiving from the eminent historians, and assorted Babri Masjid lobbyists, it is time to stand up and be counted. I for one want to be counted among those who defend the freedom of research and the scientific method, rather than among those who shriek and howl about some evil spirit in whose name every lie becomes justified, and whom they call secularism.

Koenraad Elst
9 September 2003
Mortsel (Belgium)