Dr Buddha Rashmi Mani, former Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official whose team had found remains of what seemed like a temple while excavating the disputed Ayodhya site, was appointed Director General of the National Museum by the government Monday.
Mani and his team courted controversy in 2003 when their excavation report stated that features of a 10th-century temple were found beneath the site where the 16th-century Babri Masjid stood until its demolition in 1992.
The Allahabad High Court later directed the ASI to replace Mani as leader of the excavation team, which the ASI did.
Now, 13 years later, Mani, who retired as Additional Director General of ASI in 2015, says he stands by his controversial findings in Ayodhya.
“Of course, I stand by what our team found. I was replaced because I refused to dig any further, which the court wanted. I felt there was no need to dig any further. So they said the leader of the team has to be changed,” Mani told The Indian Express after his appointment order was published by the government.
At that time, Mani’s controversial ASI report had been hailed by those affiliated to the Sangh Parivar and drew criticism from Muslim groups. The Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the parties to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits, had accused the ASI of being partisan in its excavation work.
“I did not want to work under someone who was junior to me, so I left the excavation team,” Mani said.
He said his appointment should not be viewed as a “reward” from the BJP-led government. “If the BJP wanted to reward me, it could have given me promotions during my service. I retired as ADG of ASI,” he said. “Truth is, as I understand, all other contenders for the post were junior to me in experience and qualification.”
On the present government, Mani said: “We are lucky to have a dynamic personality like Narendra Modi as our Prime Minister.”
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved Mani’s appointment to the post for three years or till attainment of age 70, an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training said.
The National Museum holds objects and artifacts worth 5,000 years of history of India and the sub-continent. Last year, the government removed Venu Vasudevan, a 1990-batch IAS officer from Kerala, as the museum Director General and transferred him to the Sports Ministry, about a year before his three-year tenure was to end. The art fraternity protested the decision and even petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee.