New Delhi, Nov. 9 -- In early May 2003, I received a call from a man I had never heard of before. He introduced himself as the brother of a late relative of mine by marriage, based in Faizabad (now renamed Ayodhya). In March that year, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to excavate the land on which the Babri Masjid had stood from 1528 till 6 December 1992, to check claims that a huge Ram temple had existed there before the mosque was built. The caller knew that I was a journalist at Outlook magazine, and asked if I would be interested in visiting the site and reporting truthfully on what the ASI team was discovering.

I was certainly interested, and my editor Vinod Mehta imm...