Rama Setu: distorting facts, ignoring impacts (updates, 29 Sept.)

http://www.deccan.com/chennaichronicle/home/homedetails.asp#‘Dredging%20will%20open%20coast%20to%20tsunamis’ ‘Dredging will open coast to tsunamis’  Chennai, Sept. 28: Whether there was a Ram Sethu or not, the Sethusamudram project had to be opposed as it threatens the marine ecology and fishermen’s livelihoods and also lays opens the southern shoreline to the risk of a tsunami, a panel of “experts” said in Chennai on Friday.  The panel included a former director of the Geological Survey of India, an environmental scientist and an ex-captain of the Indian Navy.  They said there was no money to see it through and, besides, ships would not use the channel as its doubtful depth could be risky for heavy vessels. Coming under the umbrella of the “Movement Against Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project”, the “experts” argued that the Union shipping ministry under Mr T.R. Baalu had rushed through the project without adequate studies on its impact on the environment, livelihoods, disaster management and, above all, acceptance from the shipping industry.  “This project is supposed to serve the shipping industry by reducing time and distance, but till now no shipping company has endorsed it knowing fully well it is fraught with risks,” said Capt. H. Balakrishnan (Retd).  “The qualitative requirement for the Sethu project is a 12-metre dredged depth. A 30,000 DWT coal-carrying vessel will draw about 10.5 metre draught and that leaves a below-keel clearance of a mere 1.5 metre. If I were the captain, I will move at six knots, probably slower (normal speed is 12-13 knots), to negotiate the 84 nautical miles of the Sethu channel without running aground. That would mean a saving of a mere couple of hours and I would not risk my ship for that,” said the sailor, who has 22 years of sea experience, most of it with the Indian Navy.  Interestingly, the project literature admits that only ships up to 32,000 DWT can navigate this dredged canal. The current global shipping scenario has larger ships, of 60,000 DWT and above, to cut operating costs and meet the larger container traffic. None of these large ships will use the Sethu canal, so the projected traffic of 3,417 vessels per year by 2010 and 7,141 by 2025 “will remain a pipe dream”. argued Capt. Balakrishnan.  That may mean the project might take a longer time to recover its investment, leave alone make a profit. According to Dr K. Gopalakrishnan, a former director of the Geological Survey of India (GSI), the environment impact assessment (EIA) was done through the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) without involving the GSI even though the latter has far better infrastructure, including planes, ships and scientists.  “The feasibility report should have included a geotechnical evaluation, but that was not done. While this area is vulnerable to earthquakes, and hence tsunamis, we do not have a proper assessment of what Sethu’s impact would be on the delicate sub-surface. And by cutting up Adam’s Bridge, we are losing the protection it provided against tsunamis,” said the former GSI chief. He recalled that the only job that the GSI had got was during the tenure of the BJP’s Uma Bharti as the minister in charge of the project, and she ordered a probe to find out whether Adam’s Bridge was the legendary Rama Sethu.  The GSI had drilled only three boreholes – two on the mainland close to Rameswaram and one on an island – and found no valuable data to guide the project, whereas it should have been given the task of testing the entire project area. This was particularly critical since there were active “earth faults” in the region, and since the place is prone to earthquakes, there is a fear of tsunamis hitting the coasts.  Environment scientist M. Arunachalam of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University said the Sethu region was rich in biodiversity that had evolved over 1,000 years ago and it would take another 1,000 years and more to rebuild itself after the destruction caused by the dredging.  While extreme care is being taken the world over to protect marine biodiversity, the Sethu authors seem unconcerned about the loss of marine life and biodiversity in the region. “This place might end up like the Dead Sea, which has no fish, no marine life because of high salinity,” he warned.  Anti-Sethu movement activists M. Jeeva and Jesurethinam said 15 lakh fishermen in the region would lose their livelihoods due to the depletion of marine life after the dredging.  “They have not done any study on the impact on marine life due to the sedimentation caused by dredging in the Adam’s Bridge area. We are not concerned with any religious slogans for or against Ram. We are only raising scientific questions, convinced that this project is a disaster for the environment and livelihood,” they said. Reports suggest that the project already faces serious financial problems. Its cost has escalated to almost Rs 4,000 crores from a projected Rs 2,427 crores. The project has run dry of funds since the bank loans were valid only up to Rs 2,400 crores and had lapsed.  To obtain further credit, Sethusamudram Corporation Limited will have to get fresh assessments from parliamentary committees and thereafter obtain the necessary government approvals. “This is most unlikely considering that the Sethu project has become very political now and any move will attract close scrutiny. Besides, elections are predicted early next year and banks will be wary about releasing funds at this stage. It is a Catch-22 situation,” said a banking expert.  PUBLICATION: THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS EDITION: CHENNAI DATE: 28 SEP 2007 TITLE: “EXPERTS DISMISS MERITS OF SETHU DESIGN” (Page-4) CHENNAI, SEP 28: An expert panel,which had gone over the scientific specifications and impact assessment of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP),on Friday categorically denied the claims highlighted by the promoters of the project. The expert panel, comprising K.Gopalakrishnan,Director (retired), Geological Survey of India, H.Balakrishnan, retired Captain, The Indian Navy and Arunachalam, Associate Professor, SPK Centre for Environment Sciences, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU), termed SSCP as ‘unscientific and uneconomical’, contraray to the claims of the Union Shipping Ministry. Presenting his findings on the geological impact and implications of the SSCP at a press conference organised by ‘The Movement Against the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project’ here, Gopalakrishnan said that the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar region, with its high gravity, high heat flow characterestics, was the most vulnerable to earthquakes. He asserted that the SSCP would have a disastrous impact on the geological, geotectonic, oceanographic and oceanic divide, formed by the physical structures below the sandy bars, which played a crucial role in controlling different geological and oceanographic activities. Implementing the knowledge earned from years of experience with the Indian Navy, Balakrishnan said that the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar regions were known as the ‘Cyclone Coast’ among regular sailors, as a good number of devastating cyclones originated from the region every year. ” The Bay of Bengal poses a clear, live and present danger to the safety of lives at sea and the SSCP is sought to be created in an area which is fraught with cyclones”, Balakrishnan said. He also pulled down the lofty claims of the SSCP regarding the number of vessels which were expected to traverse the canal. ” Open source literature on the SSCP indicates that vessels upto 32,000 DWT can navigate through the canal. However, in the current global shipping scenario, to reduce the operating costs and cater to the enormous growth in shipping needs, trends are towards operating vessels of 60,000 DWT and above. This trend is likely to grow in future. None of these large vessels can avail the facility of the SSCP”, said Balakrishnan. Balakrishnan said that since the SSCP was not on open seaway, it needed piloting and it would work out to be too expensive and time consuming for the vessels using the canal. Ramar Sethu: Centre likely to seek solace in expert panel From K Subrahmanya, DH News Service, New Delhi: (Deccan Herald, Sept. 28, 2007) According to sources, a 10-member panel comprising historians, archaeologists, marine scientists and engineers could be set up within a week, with a mandate to submit a report on the project. This comes in the wake of objections raised against the Sethusamudram project, which will cut through the Adam Bridge.                                                                                                                      
With the BJP stridently opposing the project on the Ramar Sethu and the DMK pressing for resumption of the construction work, the Manmohan Singh Government may constitute a panel of experts to look into the issue.

According to sources, a 10-member panel comprising  historians, archaeologists, marine scientists and engineers could be set up within a week, with a mandate to submit a report on the project. This comes in the wake of objections raised against the Sethusamudram project, which will cut through the Adam Bridge.

The project got entangled in a controversy in the wake of the Centre’s affidavit in the Supreme Court, which stated that the so-called Ramar Sethu (Adam’s Bridge) was not man-made but a natural formation. It went on to  Amidst protests from BJP and Sangh Parivar affiliates, the Centre withdrew the affidavit. It assured a fresh affidavit  within three months, taking into consideration, among other things, public sentiment.

The fresh affidavit would be based on the findings of the proposed expert panel, and the Centre may hand it a deadline of six to seven weeks’ to submit its report.                                             http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Sep282007/scroll2007092827763.asp?section=updatenews  Expert panel may look into Ram Sethu project Wednesday, 26 September , 2007, 21:58  New Delhi: A move is understood to be afoot for setting up an expert committee to go into the Sethusamudram project in an apparent bid to ensure that all concerns are accommodated in the wake of the Ram Sethu affidavit controversy. A decision on the setting up of the committee is expected to be taken in a couple of days amid talk that the proposed body could have 10 members.Law Minister H R Bharadwaj is believed to be holding consultations with all concerned before the next hearing on the issue in Supreme Court. There have been reservations over the move by the DMK, a key ally of the Congress-led coalition at the Centre. The Dravidian party is against any re-alignment of the Sethusamudram project. With the BJP making the Ram Sethu a major issue, there appears urgency in a section of the government to defuse the situation and take the wind of out of the Opposition attack. http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14533736 A lion from Punjab to protect Rama Sethu
9/27/2007 10:40:31 AM  Courtesy:http://www.newstodaynet.com
V SUNDARAMThe former President of the Indian Youth Congress and Chairman of the All India Anti Terrorist Front, M S Bitta visited Rameswaram and inspected the Rama Sethu Bridge on 20 September, 2007. He was accompanied by D. Kuppuramu, National Secretary of the Rameswaram Ram Setu Protection Movement. The whole country knows that M.S. Bitta is a fearless nationalist dedicated to the service of Bharat Mata and her eternal glory. In my view, he is an outstanding leader cast in a grand mould.         As a lover of cultural history, I view the visit of M.S. Bitta to Rameswaram in a larger light. He is an inseparable part of the long and endless procession of thousands of Sikh devotees who have been coming to Rameswaram during the last 500 years?a great pilgrimage centre hallowed by the visit of the great founder of their faith Sri Gurunanak (1469-1539). The Gurdwara situated here is very famous. According to the Sri Gurunanak Sat Sangh Sabha and Educational Society, which maintains the Gurdwara, Sri Gurunanak visited Rameswaram in 1511 and stayed for 19 days on his return journey from Sri Lanka, where he had preached the message of universal love, brotherhood and compassion. During his stay in Rameswaram, Gurunanak found the water in the island to be saline. But Lo and Behold! The spring that Gurunanak created by digging the soil produced sweet water. The Sikhs have preserved till today the small ‘Mandapam,’ where Sri Gurunanak stayed along with the fresh water well dug by him.
 
Sri.D.Kuppuramu, National Secretary, Rameswaram RamSetu Protection
Movement(R.R.P.M.) and Sri.M.S.Bitta, Chairman, All India Anti Terrorist  ront Seek Strength from God Anjaneya to Protect Sri RamSetu at Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram. http://newstodaynet.com/2007sud/sep07-images/2709-sun.jpg
        Seeing the heroic manner in which M S Bitta has rallied round D Kuppuramu and others of the besieged Ram Sethu Protection Movement, reminds me of the glorious role played by that immortal martyr Guru Tegh Bahadur and his disciples in 1675 to protect the Hindus of Kashmir. A deputation of 17 Kashmiri Brahmins led by Pundit Kripa Ram met Guru Tegh Bahadur in May 1675 and complained to him that Aurangazeb was persecuting the Hindus of Kashmir through his Governor Iftikar Khan. The Saint-warrior Guru Tegh Bahadur could not remain silent or indifferent when his creed and innocent people were wantonly attacked. He came forward to lead the organized resistance of the Hindus in Kashmir against the forcible conversion by Aurangazeb and his marauders. This enraged Aurangazeb and he ordered the Guru’s arrest. He was brought before Aurangazeb who gave him a choice between Islam or death. Guru Tegh Bahadur refused to give up his faith and after five days of inhuman torture, he was beheaded on a warrant from the Emperor on 11 November, 1675. Guru Govind Singh said: Guru Tegh Bahadur saved with his blood the Tilak and the sacred thread of the Hindus. What has gladdened the hearts of battered and shattered Ram Bakthas and Hindu devotees of the country is the declaration of M.S. Bitta on behalf of nearly 850 millions of Hindus in majority in India and several millions abroad at Rameswaram to this effect on 20 September, 2007: ‘M Karunanidhi’s cheap remarks against Lord Rama referring to the educational qualifications are uncalled for. It has hurt the emotions and feelings of crores of people in India. Though it was Karunanidhi who has questioned the existence of Lord Rama, yet it would indirectly affect the electoral prospects of the Congress in the next Lok Sabha Elections, as it has an electoral tie-up with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Hence, the Congress should reconsider its alliance with the DMK in its own larger future political interest. I strongly oppose the proposal to destroy the Rama Setu Bridge. In order to protect this sacred Rama Setu, I am willing to lay down my life with the full benediction of our revered Guru Govind Singh. I came out of the jaws of death in 1993 when our party office was bombed by some terrorists. Today I am only leading ‘A life of Bonus’ given to me as a blessing by the Divine Almighty. ? If the Setu Samudram Shipping Canal Project is going to promote economic development in the area, then I too welcome it. However, this project should be implemented without in any way damaging or destroying the Rama Setu Bridge which has stood for centuries.’ What has greatly moved the Ram Bakthas and Hindu Devotees is the firm spiritual commitment displayed by M S Bitta on the shore of Danushkodi-Thalaimannar when he took the solemn pledge (oath) along with D Kuppuramu, Thillai Bhagyam, a Member of the National Committee of the Rameswaram Ram Setu Protection Movement, Adalarasan, Divisional Secretary of the RSS in Ramanathapuram, Ramamurthy, Organizer of the RSS in Rameswaram Taluk, Muniasamy, Divisional Secretary of Seva Bharathi and others to this effect: ‘Let the word go forth from this time and place to all corners of the world: We will defend, protect and save Rama Setu against the combined onslaught of men like Karunanidhi, T R Balu and whoever it might be at any cost?regardless of all terror and however long and hard the road may be. Rama Setu is an integral, imperishable, time-defying sacred part of Sanatana Dharma and Hindu heritage. We are ever ready to lay down our lives to protect this timeless symbol of our national culture and civilization. Neither the sudden attacks of the enemy, nor the long drawn out exertions of vigilance will wear us down. We shall grudge no toil, count no cost, withhold no sacrifice, seek no sordid gain and fear no foe.’ This pledge was taken by M S Bitta, D Kuppuramu and others amidst boisterous cries of “Jai Sri Ram!””Jai Sri Ram!”.         The indomitable D Kuppuramu, a great son of the sacred soil in Ramanathapuram, has said: “I strongly condemn the irresponsible statements of Karunanidhi against Lord Rama. Leaders like T R Balu, Ambika Soni, Kapil Sibal and others who had said that there was no Lord Rama and Ramayana is a myth, etc., later completely reversed their stand in the Supreme Court after there was a national upsurge against the Islam-embracing, Christianity-coveting and Hindu-hating stand initially taken by UPA Government in the Supreme Court of India three weeks ago. Nearly Rs. 400 crores have been aimlessly spent under the Sethu Samudram Shipping Canal Project. We demand a vigilance enquiry to find out whether the expenditure was incurred in the manner and measure required under the Law of the land.” What is very interesting to note is the fact that in December 2006, D Kuppuramu in his capacity as a leading Advocate in Ramanathapuram, had filed a petition in the Sub Court, Ramanathapuram seeking ad-interim injunction to stay the implementation of the Sethu Samudram Project. When the case was admitted, he had spoken to the Press these prescient and prophetic words: “Ever since some unscrupulous politicians devised a dastardly plan to destroy the Rama Sethu Bridge just to hurt the feelings of Hindus, several unforeseen incidents have happened which clearly confirm the fact that Lord Anjaneya is still giving hourly protection to Rama Sethu. The original dredger which was brought by T.R. Balu broke down and ran aground. It had to be removed from the scene and the crane that was deployed to remove the stranded dredger, also collapsed. Lord Anjaneya has proved himself to be more powerful than all these anti-Rama Sethu forces. If these forces continue to indulge in the work of criminal destruction of Rama Sethu, then all of them would get wiped out before long, meeting the same inglorious end like that abandoned dredger or stranded crane” Later, on 22 September, 2007, at Chennai, M S Bitta invited Karunanidhi to participate in a public debate on the need for saving the Rama Setu Bridge from planned destruction by T.R. Balu and others. He said: “I am very willing to discuss this issue on a public platform with Karunanidhi. The Sethu Samudram Project should be implemented. At the same time, the Rama Sethu should also be saved from destruction. We are too willing to lay down our lives for the protection of Rama Sethu. All the religious leaders and Sankaracharyas in India should come together and lead the people of India in a national crusade for ensuring the protection of Rama Sethu. Crores and crores of Hindus in India and the world have their total faith in the Divinity and Grace of Lord Rama. I am shocked to note that Karunanidhi is deliberately hurting the religious feelings of Hindus. Regarding the existence or otherwise of Lord Rama, I am ready for any debate with Karunanidhi. If I lose in that debate, I am willing to lay down my life for the sake of Rama Sethu. When Karunanidhi has hurt the feelings of Millions of Hindus in majority in India, the best course open to the Congress Party is to come out of its alliance with the anti-Hindu DMK. A new Law must be enacted to give severe punishment to those political leaders who deliberately hurt the religious feelings of people belonging to any religion”.         More than 850 million Hindus in majority in India have noted with great satisfaction the following statement given by M S Bitta on 26 September, 2007 at Jullundur. M S Bitta has declared: “Karunanidhi has no business to hurt the religious sentiments and feelings of Hindus in India who revere Lord Rama as an Avatara Purusha. He has no business to talk about the educational qualifications of Lord Rama and the historicity of Rama Sethu. I call upon the people of India to burn the effigy of Karunanidhi along with that of Ravana on Ram Leela Day during Dashara. The statements of Karunanidhi against Lord Rama and Rama Sethu are attempt to spread religious terrorism” (The writer is a retired IAS officer)        e-mail the writer at vsundaram@newstodaynet.com http://newstodaynet.com/2007sud/sep07/270907.htm  VHP launches agitation on Ram Seto in Punjab                                        VERINDER SAREEN    Thursday, 27 September 2007 NAWANSHEHAR: In order to protect Ram Setu from demolition, the Vishav Handu Parishad here Thursday launched its agitation from 11-Mukhi Hanuman Mandir on Garhshankar Road here in the presence of VHP International General Secretary  Parveen Togadia.About 70-80 saints began 111 day-long Shri Ram Naam Jaap MahaYajna, the “bhogh” of which would be held on January 15. Ramayan Paths at as many as 108 places would be held in the district at different places during this period. Speaking on the occasion, Togadia accused the UPA government of hatching conspiracy to demolish Ram Setu at the behest of America which did not want India to become self-reliant for its energy-related needs. Apart from the faith of Hindus, Ram Setu was a store-house of Thorium capable of meeting the country’s energy needs for the next 100 years, claimed Togadia, adding that the scientists at Centres like Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay were at an advanced stage of developing technology to produce energy from Thorium. The VHP leader came down heavily on UPA government for its affidavit in the court on the issue. He also lambasted DMK supremo Karunanidhi for his anti-Hindu stance. He added that protecting Ram Setu and building Ram Mandir in Ayodhya comprised the main priorities of his organisation. As no questions could be asked about matters involving religious faiths, similarly no one had the right to contest the faith of millions of Hindus in Lord Ram, he said while urging the people to bring down the UPA government in the next poll. A number of prominent saints like Balvir Singh Seechawal, Swami Ram Parkash Dass Datarpur, Swami Ganga Dass, Jalandhar, Swami Atul Krishan from Ludhiana were also present. http://www.punjabnewsline.com/content/view/5869/38/ Priyanka P Narain, Hindustan TimesEmail AuthorMumbai, September 27, 2007First Published: 01:33 IST(27/9/2007)Last Updated: 01:40 IST(27/9/2007)

Ram Setu project faces cash crunch

Religious questions and political battles aside, a key banker said there is just not enough money to demolish the bridge that Ram may or may not have built. The bank in charge of securing the loans for the proposed Rs 2,400 crore channel said that the Sethusamudram project may never happen – in the absence of required money. “I don’t think this project will ever see the light of day because there is no money,” said Ashish Kumar Singh, Vice-President of capital markets at Axis Bank Ltd. Axis, formerly UTI Bank, was appointed “loan arranger” for the project in 2005. Since its inception in 2004, costs have skyrocketed to at least Rs 4,000 crore, interest rates have crawled higher and old loan terms have lapsed. Singh said the project is languishing because no company will dredge the channel for cheap and Indian dredging companies don’t have the required equipment. Even before the first dredger began its work in 2005, costs had already spiralled to more than Rs 3,500 crore, Singh said. The loan sanctions, valid only up to Rs 2,400 crore, lapsed. To secure more money, Singh said, Sethusamudram Corp. Ltd would have to return to the drawing board, draw up new reports, sit with parliamentary committees and receive fresh approval. For the last few months, Hindu groups have staged protests, forcing the Supreme Court to halt the project until a January hearing. The Ram Setu has figured in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s plans for coming back to power. Shipping minister TR Baalu has said he plans to carry on, regardless of public opinion. Though Baalu did not return a call for comment.  Not so long ago, before protest defined the future of the Ram Setu, the project promised to shorten shipping routes and help revive Tamil Nadu’s economy. In late 2005, Axis had little problem selling the idea to lenders. When the bank hit the road to drum up interest, “It was the most attractive thing out there,” said Singh.“It had great visibility, people were excited… and there was a buzz around it.”While Axis was raising debt, Sethusamudram floated tenders for the dredging work, which constitutes 80 per cent of project’s total job.While the Dredging Corporation of India was nominated to do a quarter of the work, the rest of the dredging was to be done by third-party contractors, according to the project’s economic feasibility study. Bidders included South Korea-based Hyundai Dredging International, Netherlands-based Van Oord International and Belgium-based JanBe Nul. None of the companies returned calls for comment.http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=f9c8dce4-77cc-42a9-86b3-b66fcdf0efed Affidavit on Ram gravest mistake Ahmedabad, Sept 26: The BJP today said the affidavit on Ram Setu in the Supreme Court, denying the existence of Lord Ram, was one of the “gravest mistakes” committed by the Congress-led UPA government.Addressing a gathering of party workers, BJP leaders L K Advani, Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi flayed the UPA Government and its constituent DMK on the issue of Ram Setu.“Rise of BJP has been phenomenal in the country. But I have to accept that Congress has also time and again helped BJP to achieve such a height. Congress leaders have committed grave mistakes time and again,” Advani said.“The first big mistake by them was imposition of Emergency, the second one was their stand on the Shahbano case and the third error on their part was the affidavit which negated the existence of Lord Ram,” he said.“Now the Congress-led government under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi has committed a blasphemous act”, the Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha alleged.“Even during the height of Ram Mandir campaign, nobody dared to say that Lord Ram never existed. Foreign historians have written in Arabic and other languages that Babar destroyed the Ram Temple in Ayodhaya and built a Babri Masjid at the site,” he said. “But, it is under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh that some one has dared to raise question mark on the existence of Ram. The greatest leader of Congress Mahatma Gandhi talked about Ram and Ram Rajya. Can they undermine Mahatma Gandhi’s beliefs?” Advani said. “Some people say that DMK leader (M Karunanidhi) has spread petrol over the Ram Sethu controversy. But I ask who lit the fire? Congress lit the fire and then only the DMK leader could pour petrol over it,” Advani said.“Ram is `Maryada Purshottam’, and wherever BJP will come to power or is in power, the party will try to give `Ram Rajya’ and establish `Surajya’,” he said.Rajnath Singh demanded that UPA should remove all DMK representatives in union council of ministers and make them apologise before the people on the statement of their party President Karunanidhi on Lord Ram.“If they don’t do that, it means that they support Karunanidhi on Ram,” he said.Narendra Modi said Congress is doing the work of demon Ravan. During the Ramayana war, Ravan would also have thought that he would destroy the bridge so as to not allow Ram’s army to Lanka. But he could not do that.“Now, Congress under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi has decided to do it,” he added.“We would not allow the destruction of Ram Setu,” Modi said. (Agencies) http://tinyurl.com/2gf2ff  Ram Setu affidavit derogatory: Congress journal
28 Sep 2007, 2126 hrs IST , PTI

NEW DELHI: The latest issue of Congress journal has described the ASI affidavit on the Ram Setu issue “distinctly unfortunate, unfair and downright derogatory” not only to Hindus but also to those who treasure the country’s cultural heritage.

In an article in ‘Congress Sandesh’ senior party leader Karan Singh said the ASI “in its wisdom had added to the general confusion and tension that surrounds us”.

The ASI shocked the nation by making certain sweeping statements that questioned the very existence of Lord Ram as a historical figure although they have now withdrawn them, he said in the article.

Singh who is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Department of the AICC, said there are numerous places in India and Sri Lanka which are closely linked with events in Lord Ram’s life, including Ayodhya and Janakpuri, Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi.

“It is now well accepted by historians that so called `myths’ and `legends’ very often have a strong basis in actual events and personalities,” he said.

From the original Ramayana of Maharishi Valmiki down to Kamba’s great work in Tamil and Tulsidas’ `Ramcharitmanas’, the story of Lord Ram has been told and retold in almost every language of the world, he added.

He also noted that the Ramayana’s story was by no means confined to India and its fragrance has travelled across the whole of South and Southeast Asia.  http://tinyurl.com/yoqo6g  ASI affidavit is derogatory, unfair, says Karan Singh Express news service Posted online: Saturday, September 29, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 28
In its endeavour to distance itself from the controversial affidavit of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that questioned the existence of Lord Ram, the Congress has denounced it (affidavit) as “distinctly unfortunate, unfair and downright derogatory” not only to Hindus in India and around the world, but to all those who treasure India’s unique pluralistic cultural heritage.
In an article in the latest issue of the party’s mouthpiece Congress Sandesh, MP and chairman of the party’s foreign affairs cell Dr Karan Singh argued that it was now well accepted by historians that “so-called myths and legends very often have a strong basis in actual events and personalities”. According to him, historical evidence for most of the outstanding religious figures in the world would be difficult to find, particularly as many are lost in the mists of antiquity. “This is not a question of Ph.D dissertations, but one that affects the beliefs and sentiments of crores of people around the world. Besides, there are numerous places in India and Sri Lanka which are closely linked with the events in Ram’s life including Ayodhya and Janakpuri, Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. It is now well-accepted by historians that so-called myths and legends very often have a strong basis in actual events and personalities,” said Singh. His arguments were a departure from the Congress’ official stance that the existence of Ram is a matter of “individual faith”. On Friday, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi skirted queries about Singh’s article saying, “I have not read it. As far as I know, its publication came before our press note (asking partymen not to speak on the controversy as it was a closed chapter for the party) was given.” Singh said the ASI affidavit, by questioning the existence of Ram as a historical figure, “shocked the nation”. Ram is “as real to them as any so-called historical figure”. The Ramayana story is acted and re-enacted every year hundreds of times in the form of the Ramlila culminating in the Vijaya Dashami celebrations. “These may be more prevalent in north India than in the south, but that does not make them any less significant. There are many deities such as Kartikeyan, Ayyappan and Shiva Nataraja which are worshipped more in the south, or the Jagannath and Durga Pujas in the east, but this geographical factor does not in anyway detract from the deep significance these images hold for practicing Hindus,” said Singh in an obvious reference to Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi’s stance on this issue.  http://www.indianexpress.com/story/222409.html  Ram Setu: Madras HC terms DMK’s shutdown illegal
Friday, September 28 2007 20:23(IST)  

Chennai, Sept 28: The Madras High Court today termed the shutdown called by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over the Sethusamudram project as illegal.

The DMK has called for a shut down on October 1 in support of the speedy implementation of the 560-million-dollar Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.

 

A division bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice P Jyothimani passed an interim order, saying that the shutdown was not legal.

“After hearing both sides, honourable Chief Justice of the Madras High Court held that the call of the shut down by the political parties is prima facie illegal. His decision was based on an earlier verdict of the Supreme Court on this issue,” said N. Jyothi, advocate for ADMK.

The court further added that if needed the political parties could go on strike provided the state government arranges for maintenance of law and order.

The Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) had approached the High Court to declare the DMK government’s proposed shut down as illegal.

The DMK government has assured the Court that it will maintain a peaceful atmosphere during the shutdown.

“On behalf of the government, it was assured that law and order would be maintained and there would be free movement of men and materials and acts of violence and vandalism would be dealt with suitably, and every step would be taken to see to it that the activities are not disturbed by acts of violence,” said R. Viduthalai, Advocate General of the Tamil Nadu Government.

The bench also added that it was for the State Government to ensure the fundamental rights of the citizen to move around the city of Chennai.

The Court added that transportation should not be hit on the said date of the shutdown, with the political party placing an advertisement in both print and electronic media to announce the shut down.

While political parties like DMK have supported the project, other political parties like BJP have opposed it saying that the project would destroy the revered ‘Ram Sethu’ or the Adam’s Bridge for constructing the ship lane.

ANI http://tinyurl.com/227y2j DMK blinks, agrees to a panel on Setu Anubhuti Vishnoi Posted online: Friday, September 28, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 27
Toning down the tough line it had taken on the Sethusamudram project especially after the Sangh Parivar objected to dredging in the Adam’s Bridge-Ram Setu area, the DMK has agreed to the Centre’s proposal to set up a joint mechanism to hear out all reservations against the shipping canal project.
“The joint mechanism will be in place within a week from now. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Law Ministry are working out its structure” the mechanism will address all issues related to the project,” DMK’s TR Baalu, Union Minister for Shipping, told The Indian Express. He had earlier said his Ministry would approach the Supreme Court to seek its nod for resuming the project work. The joint mechanism will involve the Ministry of Shipping, the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Tourism & Culture. The government had told the Supreme Court earlier this month that it would be setting up this mechanism to resolve all objections to the Sethusamudram project. It is learnt that Baalu was not very keen to institute any such joint mechanism as the DMK felt that the project had gone through this process in the early stages itself with public hearings and Baalu himself clarifying to objections several times in Parliament. Since the government had assured the court that it would set up such a mechanism, there was pressure on Baalu to accept the proposal.  http://www.indianexpress.com/story/222025.html Agitations for protection of Ram Setu
28 Sep, 2007, 2130 hrs IST, PTI
NEW DELHI: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) would hold agitations across the country for the protection of Ram Setu, its leader Praveen Togadia said on Friday. “Rameshwaram Ramsetu Rakshak Dharmayodha recruitment” drive would be held from October 12-25 to fight for protection of Ram Setu…”, he told a press conference. He clarified that it was not a political movement but “any political fall out cannot be rejected.” “VHP also held the Central government as the sole responsible agency for the project as it was the approver and the financer of the Sethusamudram(waterway) project,” he said. Togadia said after the recruitment drive on October 26, there would be district-wise awareness campaigns. “Meanwhile, we could announce a mass agitation any day if the government did not heed to our demands to scrap the project.” VHP has been demanding an apology from the Central government for its Ram affidavit in Supreme Court and also to halt the Sethusamudram project which allegedly was intended to destroy the mythical Ram Setu.  http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsNation/Agitations__for_protection_of_Ram_Setu/articleshow/2412740.cms  Sethusamudram project: Can adversely affect coastal and marine life
By Naveen Jayawardena
The Sethusamudram project can cause problems to Sri Lanka’s coastal and marine life, a member of the Sri Lankan delegation to study the project, CEO of Lanka Hydraulic Institute (LHI) Malith Mendis said yesterday.
Mr. Mendis said if the project goes ahead, there will be considerable changes in the currents and can affect marine life. The controversial Sethusamudram project has met with opposing views from both sides of the Palk Straits.Mr. Mendis added that Sri Lankan authorities have investigated more into the matter than its Indian counterparts, and are concerned about the project. While it can be expected to create changes in the sea currents in the region, the effect on biodiversity is unpredictable. The Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry received the investigation report earlier this year which raised concerns over the changing currents and biodiversity due to continuous dredging.The Sethusamudram project creates a shipping channel dredging 167 km across the Palk Straits, Palk bay and Adam’s bridge, connecting Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Mannar. It is estimated to cost around 24 billion Indian Rupees. The project will cut back the time spent on circumnavigating Sri Lanka when ships travel between East and West of India. The Sethusamudram project had stirred concerns in India as it will destroy the ‘Ram Sethu’ bridge, linking Sri Lanka with India. According to Hindu mythology, the army of monkeys of Lord Ram built the Ram Sethu, to rescue his wife from Ravana. The project is stalled temporarily and India carries out investigations on the effect of the Sethusamudram project.http://www.dailymirror.lk/2007/09/29/news/7.asp What has turned a pro-Rama       Karunanidhi into a furious             anti-Rama secular pundit?                                          By Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari*               Presently, M Karunanidhi has emerged as the most furious critic of the legend of Ram and the most enthusiastic pundit to prove that Ramayana is nothing but poet’s fancy and Rama was a mythical hero. But the  factual evidence provided below is sufficient to expose that about 35 years ago Sri Karunanidhi  was a completely different man and a staunch believer in the historicity of Rama and Ramayana.        Today, the island Rameswaram lies in the district of Ramanathapuram, which was formed in 1910 by carving out certain portions of the Madurai and the Tirunelveli districts. The first Gazetteer of this new district of Ramanathapuram was published in 1972, by the Government of Tamilnadu. The Gazetteer was forwarded by Sri M Karunanidhi, as the then Chief Minister of the state, on 14th June, 1972.       The said Gazetteer describes the Ramsetu and the adjoining area in the following words- “The island of Rameswaram is in the shape of a bow and is called Rama’s bow. Each end is called kodi, tip of the bow. The name Dhanushkodi is derived from Sanskrit dhanus, which means bow and kodi in Tamil means tip, i.e., tip of the bow. Dhanushkodi is also called Setu. Setu means a bridge or a causeway. It is the place where Sri Rama constructed the causeway to reach Lanka.  …  The bath at Dhanushkodi is considered sacred because of Sagara-Sangama, i.e., where two seas Mahodadhi (Bay of Bengal) and the Ratnakara (Indian Ocean) meet. … The Ramayana says that Rama, when returning from Lanka, showed this place to Sita from his Pushpaka (aerial car) and said thus: “Here is seen the holy place in the great ocean which is well known as the Setu Bandha and worshipped by three worlds. … Here formerly the Lord Mahadeva (Shiva) was pleased to show favour to me”. The greatness of this theerthem is mentioned in many Sanskrit and Tamil works. Rama is supposed to have marked the spot with an arrow from his wonderful bow”. (Ramanathapuram Gazetteer, p: 874-875).        So it becomes necessary to discover what has turned a pro-Rama Karunanidhi into an anti-Rama guy?  Politics?  Or Economics? One should recall that the Setusamudram Channel is a Rs 2400 crore Project.                        *************** *Professor,Department of Applied Physics, University of Calcutta http://specials.rediff.com/news/2007/sep/26slid1.htm  ‘Where is the mud you have taken out through dredging?’ September 26, 2007

 

The Coastal Action Network, which boasts of eminent members like Justice V R Krishna Iyer, Justice Rajinder Sachar, lawyer Indira Jaisingh and activist Dr Vandana Shiva, has been fighting against the Sethu Samudram Project for several years. According to the CAN, the project will affect the livelihoods of fishermen living in the coastal areas and it will irreparably damage the unique biosphere of the region.  O Fernandes, the co-convenor of CAN and director of the Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, tells rediff.com why the Sethu project is a complete wastage of tax payers’ money  When I met you two years ago, the Sethu Samudram Canal Project had just been inaugurated and you were fighting to stop its implementation for the sake of the local fishing community. Dredging has been going on in the area for quite some time. How will you describe the last two years of the Coastal Action Network?  People living in the coastal area, from Chennai to Tuticorin, have organised themselves now. They have become aware of the implications of the project and they are totally against it. The government claims that 40 per cent of the work on the canal has been done. We have repeatedly asked the government to show us the images of whatever has been done, or show them to the media. The government claims that the work has not affected the environment in any way, but it has failed to show us any photographic images.  We have asked the government, “Where is the mud you have taken out through dredging? Where have you dumped it? Give us longitudinal and latitudinal data so that we can check.  You mean they have not done any dredging?  They have done the work but it is in the sedimentation tank area. As they have not done sedimentation dynamics of the area, the sand closes up again. The sand is constantly moving and it is impossible to dig a canal in the Palk Straits.  In fact, a monitoring vessel which was following the dredging ship three hours later, sank after hitting sand shoals formed because of sedimentation. Of course, they said it was due to some engine problem but that’s not the truth.  Why do you think the government has not shown you the sand dug up from there?  Because you cannot prove that there is a canal there. We are willing to be disproved. Our stand is that there is no canal they have dug.  Then what are they doing there?  They are dredging and moving. They are not saying where they threw the dredged sand. If they have thrown away so much sand, which is half of 80 million cubic metres of sand, where is it? They have to put it somewhere, and if they have, it should be there.  What is their reply to your queries?  Nothing. They can’t answer because the sand they have dredged is not there. They are just dredging because they have the dredging ships and money and they keep moving. And the monitoring work is not being done according to oceanographic parameters.  There are no oceanographic, geological or sub surface geological experts in the team. They don’t have a single expert in the team to understand soil sedimentation. So, the monitoring team cannot answer these questions. As far as we know, there are about 60 scientists in India who have written papers stating that this canal is not sustainable.  So, what will be the outcome of this dredging?  Nothing is going to come out of this project. It has already damaged the marine life. You have seen the number of whales that are washed ashore. The dredging noise affects the movement of fish. The project is damaging marine life and the lives of the local  The Union minister for shipping says that the canal is the 135-year-old dream of the Tamils…  We ask: which Tamils? When the fishing people are opposed to it, you must listen to them. Forget the scientific experts; these fishermen are saying from their experience that when there is a particular volume of noise and a particular amount of sand churning, the movement of the fish gets affected.  If there is a canal, the fishing community will not be able to access the sea. So, we are asking, which Tamil are you listening to? Are you listening to the Tamil living on the coast?  The government should have undertaken some environmental studies before clearing the project. Because no studies were conducted, no foreign dredging vessel is willing to take part in the project. Now you are depending on the Dredging Corporation of India, which is very easy.  Rs 533 crore is being spent on the project. Where is all this money going? The project is not viable scientifically or economically. It is environmentally disastrous. It is disastrous for the livelihood of the lakhs of fishermen living along the coast.  Two years ago, you said you had the support of scientists, environmentalists and the local residents. But when the government went ahead with the dredging, you people couldn’t stop it…  Thats because the dredging ship is protected by the Coast Guard and the Navy and they have been ordered to shoot at sight. So, the fishing people cannot go anywhere near the dredging site. Otherwise, we would have gone and sat on the vessels. Once in Nagapattinam, 500 boats were ready.  You told me then that fishermen would go out in their catamarans and stop the dredging?  But there were shoot at sight orders, and if they went within 3 to 5 kms of the deredging ship, they would be shot at.  Are the fishermen aware of the implications of the canal on there lives? Are they united?  You can visit any part of the coast and see for yourself. Earlier, people living in Rameswaram thought that the canal will not have any effect on them but now they know the consequences. Nearly 2,000 species of fish are endemic to the area. Because of the dredging work, the sand is moving and it has affected the movement of shrimps. This is affecting the livelihood of the fishing people. It took us some time to make them understand the implications of the issue. It was a difficult struggle then. Today, they are much more aware; they are coming forward and opposing the project.  How are they protesting the project?  There are numerous protests. If there was no Coast guard or Navy protection, hundreds of fishing boats would surround the dredging vessel. If the Coast Guard and the Navy are removed from the area, the dredging will stop tomorrow.  We are saying no to the Sethu Samudram Canal. They should stop dredging immediately.  You said the structure (Rama Sethu) was formed because of millions of years of sand movement. Should it be declared a heritage site?  Yes, it should be declared a heritage site. The world acknowledges it as one of the best marine biospheres, but our governments do not acknowledge it.  In fact, Dr M S Swaminathan, who worked in that area, should have said, “Don’t touch the Gulf of Mannar because it’s one of the most pristine areas’. Unfortunately, an eminent person like him has not said anything. We would really like him to stand up and say this.  Will you agree to an alternate alignment of the project, which is a land based canal?  It is still a disaster. Realignment is absolutely unscientific and it will not solve the problem. The BJP and the parties opposing the project should take a stand about the canal being a disaster for people’s livelihoods and environment.  The canal should be completely stopped. All the international shippers have said that they would never come through this stretch as it will be much costlier for them. Moreover, the canal has to be monitored and dredged every hour if comes up at all. Why do we need this?  Do the people living in the area believe that the Rama Sethu was made by Lord Ram?  In Rameswaram, there is some belief in this theory. But the fishermen believe that it is a natural formation. But I can tell you that the Gulf of Mannar biosphere exists only because of this formation. From the point of view of livelihood, economics, environment, and science, the canal should be stopped.  Now that the BJP has raked it up as a religious issue, do you feel they will be able to stall the project?  It is very funny. We expected support more from parties that believe in science – I mean the Communist parties – but the support has come from the BJP for political reasons. It overshadows the main debate today. But the Sethu Samudram project has become a national issue, which it was not till now…  Yes, that is a positive development. It has taken the discussion to a national level but it has also lowered the level of discourse.  Don’t you feel that once it becomes a national issue, even if it is because of religious reasons, it can lead to debates on environmental, geological and archaeological aspects of the project too?  I think so, but people are taking time to realise that. Yes, it has almost reached the stature of the Narmada Dam issue.  Are you happy about this development because till now, you could not take the issue to this level?  Yes, we are happy about it. We could not take the struggle to the national level. This will also make people realise that the push for mega projects must be based on scientific, rational and environmental issues. Here, you are not talking about the loss the fishermen will incur. You are only talking about the development of the south.  That is exactly what the DMK is saying. They are saying that you are opposing a development project.  We say mega projects like this ruin development. You are destroying years of development of the fishing community, you are destroying the coast. The entire coast will be taken over gradually as all along the coast you need to have stop-over points. And the fishing people will eventually be evicted.  Do you feel people who live in other parts of India, even those who live in Tamil Nadu, are not aware of the various issues involved in the project?  In Tamil Nadu, the print media and some television channels have been largely supportive. But the English print media, I am sorry to say, never focussed on the matter till it became a Ram issue. We learnt a lot of lessons from Narmada and now there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from Sethu Samudram Canal. Now, a lot of environmentalists from the north have also joined us. It is no more a Tamil Nadu issue; it has become a national issue.  How will you describe your struggle so far as an activist?  There is a lot of science involved in this project, so the fishermen communtiy took some time to understand it. But by their own traditional wisdom, they now say that the project is a disaster. They can see its impact in Vedaranyam. So, it has become very easy for us to link science and traditional wisdom. Now, we can unite fishermen from Chennai to Rameswaram on this issue, in spite of their political differences. Even millions of non-fishing people, who live on fish and fisheries, have started offering their support.  How optimistic are you about the future course of your struggle?  This canal will never be built because of all the reasons  stated earlier. It is a wastage of tax payer’s money.  Text: Shobha Warrier Special UPA panel for Ramar Sethu  New Delhi, Sept. 28: The Union government has decided to set up a committee of experts to go into the Sethusamudram project in an apparent bid to ensure that all concerns are accommodated in the wake of the Ram Sethu affidavit controversy.  A decision on the setting up of the committee is expected to be announced in a couple of days amid talk that the proposed body could have 10 members.Law minister H.R. Bharadwaj is holding consultations with all concerned before the next hearing on the issue in the Supreme Court. He met Union minister T.R. Baalu.
Meanwhile, official sources on Wednesday said additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium had approved the controversial affidavit but the government has no plans to replace him although it has put the Congress on the defensive.
There have been reservations over the move by the DMK, a key ally of the Congress-led coalition at the Centre. The Dravidian party is against any re-alignment of the Sethusamudram Project. With the BJP making the Ram Sethu a major issue, there appears to be an urgency in a section of the government to defuse the situation and take the wind out of the Opposition’s attack.http://www.deccan.com/chennaichronicle/home/homedetails.asp#Special UPA panel for Ramar Sethu  Brigandage of the secular Taliban! By Col (retd) Anil Athale |  
Col. (retd) Anil A Athale is a Fellow at the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research. A former Joint Director (History Division) and infantryman, he has been running an NGO, Peace and Disarmament, based in Pune for the past 10 years. As a military historian he specialises in insurgency and peace process.
The roots of slavish mentality of our so-called intellectuals goes deeper to the British days. On December 1, 1783, while speaking on the India Bill in British Parliament, the British liberal, Edmund Burke, launched a scathing attack on the English rule in India. Virtually saying that we are trying to enslave people who are far more civilised than us. As the British empire in India expanded, the English became aware of the rich Indian cultural heritage and its ancient past. Any memory of that past was an obstacle for the British to spread and sustain their rule. There began a systematic campaign to deny Indian antiquity. Lord Macaulay once famously stated that ‘the entire literature of India cannot fill but a single shelf in a respectable European library’. Either uneducated or devious, Macaulay thus rubbished Indian heritage from vedas to astronomy to ayurveda to mathematics (algebra, calculus and the numbers). Since then the vast Indian middle class intellectuals have been groomed in the Macaulay tradition of being good clerks with no independent thinking faculties. It is this that enabled the handful of British to rule millions of Indians. Indian historians deny any credit to the great Indian oral tradition. They ignore folklore, physical evidence and available Indian sources. Most Indian histories are written based on foreign sources.  
 
The organised Semitic faiths proclaim monopoly of truth and have labelled all pre-history (that is all that existed before the time of their favourite Prophet) as mythology. It would interest the readers to know that right till 1990 when existence of the city of Troy was decisively proved (Times News Network, June 24, 2004). Homer’s Iliad was regarded as pure mythology with no proof! Valmiki’s Ramayan and later Raghuvansh by Kalidas seems to be meeting the same fate as Iliad at the hands of grandchildren of Macaulay and Marx. It would interest readers that in the ‘Bible belt’ of the US, historicity of Buddha is not accepted so Ram stands no chance in our Anglophile community of historians. Full coverage: Ram Sethu controversy | War of words over Ram The project to deny the existence of Ram and his historicity began way back even before 1992 (Ayodhya demolition). As usual the ‘eminent’ historians of JNU were in the forefront. There is a very close parallel with the Afghan Taliban and our home-grown Taliban (secularists). The Afghan variety deny any other past except Islamic and demolished the Bamiyan Buddha while the Indian variety wants to deny Ram’s historicity and demolish Ram Sethu. There is of course much in common between the two, blind faith in a book (the Das Capital), prophet Marx and his close followers (kind of companions of the Prophet) like Engels, Lenin, Stalin the mass murderer and Mao Ze Dong. There is very little to choose between them and religious fundamentalists. Indian rich heritage is an inconvenient obstacle in their path of ushering in Marxist utopia and must be fought at all times. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, they have no knowledge of Indian past and are not only proud of the Indian heritage but are ashamed of it. Even practice of yoga or ayurveda is anathema to them. Some time ago the yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, was the target of their ire and an attempt was made to ‘fix’ him by instigating some workers in his establishment. By the same author: Sethu project — A strategic blunder | By the same author: Indian Marxists and their evil designs It is undoubtedly true that the original story of Ram and his times has seen many interpolations and mythification, like the tribal army being described as vanar (monkeys). But any historian with an open mind can find enough evidence to prove the essential historicity of Ramayana. In the year 1992, a surgeon, late Dr. SV Bhave of Pune, flew over the entire path of Ram’s journey from Lanka to Ayodhya as described by Rishi Valmiki and Kalidas. He was no historian but far more innovative than our bookish historians. He found every single place described in Ramayana. Finally one wishes to ask a simple question, did Valmiki and countless others merely conjured up a fiction! If that is so then he was possibly the greatest fiction writer of all times, since his book has survived over two thousand years. When our Supreme Court deliberates on this issue (I really pity our honourable judges who have to decide on issues ranging from whether Ram existed to cricket team selection) they would consult a wide body of persons from diverse fields and not the JNU mafia. http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14533584  http://arvindneela.blogspot.com/2007/09/romila-thapars-double-standards-and.html 

Friday, September 28, 2007

Romila Thapar’s Double standards and Half Truths

This is with reference to Prof. Romila Thapar’s article ‘Where fusion cannot work — faith and history’ (The Hindu, 28-Sep-2007). While every scholar is entitled to his or her own views on the historicity of Sri Rama it comes as a shock to see a scholar of Prof. Thapar’s repute set double standards for Indic Divinities, as against those from other traditions – particularly non-Indic and/or Abrahamic. For example, she states that in the case of Sri Rama, the variant versions of the story is, in itself, not evidence of historicity and that if the variants contradict each other as they do, this may create problems for those who believe that only one of the variants is true. In the case of Jesus narrative variants have been ruthlessly suppressed. Now scholars are discovering ancient narratives which contradict synoptic Gospels at every major point – like the family life of Jesus, role of Magdalene, the supposed betrayal of Judas etc. Even the accepted Synoptic Gospels present invented genealogies of Jesus (which have no common names for 14 generations) because the authors wanted Jesus to be hereditarily linked to David To crown it all no external sources have been discovered to date outside the body of Gospel literature (both Gnostic and Synoptic) to ascertain the historicity of Jesus. Even Dead Sea scrolls are silent on Jesus. Also unlike in the case of Sri Rama where His actions turned out to be trend setting examples in the mythological and devotional literature of South Asia, every supernatural act ascribed to Jesus in Gospels had their precursor in the past mythological Divines. From turning water to wine (Dinoysius) to his resurrection from the death (Tammuz), Jesus had mythological ancestors popular in Judaeo-Roman-Hellenistic traditions. Yet our learned professor has no problem in declaring the historicity of Jesus whom she also qualifies as Christ – the Anointed one – a Christian claim based on what many Hebrew scholars consider as misinterpretation of verses from Jewish scripture. Coming back to the claims on the historicity of Ramayana, most historians who have no ideological vested interests accept the historical kernel of Ramayana. They may differ and debate on the details. Thus Dr.B.B.Lal the eminent archaeologist who excavated the Ramayana sites concludes that Ramayana is not a figment of imagination but based on historical events which were popular in the memory of the people which Valmiki composed into an epic narrative. Dr.B.B.Lal dates Ramayana events to 700 BCE. The unfortunate tendency of certain historians who put ideological vested interests over objective scholarship resulting in suppressing the conclusions arrived at by Dr.B.B.Lal after the Ramayana project, being presented in the ICHR meeting of 1988 has been explained by the eminent archaeologist in the very pages of ‘The Hindu’ itself (‘Facts of history cannot be altered’, July 1 1988). Hence when ASI stated that Ramayana has no historical basis it was simply indulging in ‘suppressio veri suggestio falsi’ game. That Ramayana in its general outline known today, was also known to people of India even prior to Sage Valmiki, is well attested by varied literary evidence from across the nation. particularly from the South. Like for example from ancient Tamil Sangham literature which mentions an event related to Rama that goes unmentioned in Valmiki wherein Sri Rama plans the military strategy under a banyan tree in Rameshwaram and the birds whose sounds disturb the meeting fall silent as Sri Rama commands them to be quiet (Aham: 70:15).
The mention of Rama here makes it clear that the lore of Sri Rama coming to the south and winning in the battle against the demon of Lanka is not something that originated in the North and later spread over to the South but that was as strong in the south Indian tradition as it was in north India even during the period historians usually attribute to Sage Valmiki Ramayana, that is around 200 BCE.
This is also roughly the time attributed to Sangham literature. In fact the Sangham mention of Sri Rama also hints at Rama’s divinity as his words not only had a supernatural effect on the birds but also the lines speak of his words as being scriptural in nature (‘Aru Marai’’வெல்போர் இராமன் அருமறை‘). Even stranger is the claims that Prof.Thapar makes about the Buddhist Jataka variant of Ramayana that it does not mention the abduction of Sita or Sri Rama’s war with the demons. Historian Himansu Bhusan Sarkar explains this particular aspect of the Jataka tale variant of Ramayana thus: “The non-mention of southern topics does not, of course, prove anything., as the Jataka-stories were framed only with limited objectives and had no compulsive motive to narrate the whole story but by the third century AD the story had assumed its present features, because, in a Chinese collection of some Jataka stories which were translated by a Sogdiana monk between AD 222 and 280, the episodes of Rama’s exile , the abduction of Sita by Ravana, the duel of the latter with Jatayu, of Sugriva and Vali, the construction of a bridge to Lanka, the ordeal of Sita have been drawn in outline.” (pp 103-104, The Ramayana traditions in Asia, Sahitya Akademi 1989)Equally amusing is her claim about Jain Ramayana ‘variants’ as she calls them. From Puama-cariya of Vimala-Suri (end of 3rd century CE) to Rama Charitha of Devavijaya-ganin (1596 CE) one finds the theme of Rama-Ravana battle in Jain Ramayans. Also Prof. Thapar claims in her article that in the Jain version ‘Ravana is not a demonic villain but a human counter-hero’ But in Puama-cariya considered the earliest Jain version of Ramayan, Ravana is mentioned as leader of demons (PC: 3:9) More relevant to the issue in hand, the Jain Ramayan specifically mentions the Vanaras building a bridge to Sri Lanka. (PC: 3 v.12) Another great Jain monk who hails from the southernmost part of India, Saint Illango in his immortal Tamil epic ‘Chilapathikaram’ (usually dated as 200-300 CE) compares the leaving of his epic hero Kovalan of his hometown to Sri Rama leaving Ayodhya. And in the epic he mentions how Tamil shepherds were singing and dancing the praise of Sri Rama destroying the demons of ancient Lanka and in through their song the Jain monk praises Sri Rama as the incarnation of Maha Vishnu and laments that the ears that hear not His praise exist in vain. Clearly by 200 CE if not before, Sri Rama going to Lanka and killing the demons there and veneration of Sri Rama as the avatar of Vishnu have all become part of the Tamil devotional tradition and day to day culture. There is also the strong possibility that many popular devotional aspects of Rama tradition –like the squirrel helping the Sethu Bandhan which finds first literary mention in Thirumalai: 27 – that are found throughout India may have originated and spread from South India itself. Clearly it is not only ASI which has been playing the ‘suppressio veri suggestio falsi’ game. That said one cannot but agree with Prof. Thapar when she states that a search for a non-existent man-made structure takes away from the imaginative leap of a fantasy and denies the fascinating layering of folk-lore. While rejecting the literalists, one is at a loss to understand why Prof. Romila Thapar fails to see the cultural dimension of the natural formation that inspired the imaginative leap of not just fantasy but also devotional literature of a nation and the fascinating layering of the same by folk-lore and transforming it into one of the centres of national integration as acknowledged by none other than Mahatma Gandhi in his ‘Hind Swaraj’. In India, the whole national integration has been achieved through immersing the nation in such sacred geographic features associated with epic narrative, mythology, devotional literature and folklore. With regard to the objection that Ram Sethu should not be destroyed not only for ecological and economic reasons but also because it has a cultural and spiritual dimension in the heritage of India, Prof. Romila Thapar asks rhetorically: “Has the idea become the heritage?” Perhaps our JNU Professor who is also, U.S. Library of Congress appointed first holder of the Kluge Chair, has been answered long back by a half-naked Fakir when he stated in such simple but forceful words thus: “What do you think could have been the intention of those farseeing ancestors of ours who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South, Jagannath in the East and Hardwar in the North as places of pilgrimage? You will admit they were no fools. They knew that worship of God could have been performed just as well at home. They taught us that those whose hearts were aglow with righteousness had the Ganges in their own homes. But they saw that India was one undivided land so made by nature. They, therefore, argued that it must be one nation. Arguing thus, they established holy places in various parts of India, and fired the people with an idea of nationality in a manner unknown in other parts of the world.” (Hind Swaraj, Chapter 9)  A Few words to Share with Mr. MK

Published on September 26th, 2007

Recently, there are some extraordinary statements from our great leader, Tamil Scholar ” CM Kalaignar Karunanidhi.

A few Golden words from him …
Who was Rama? What is the proof that he constructed a bridge? Was he an engineer? Where did he study?

According to Valmiki”s Ramayana, Rama was a drunkard.

We never have the habit of hurting the sentiments of Hindus. I just told what was written in Valmiki Ramayana.

We never demanded that Ramar Sethu has to be demolished. All we need is “Sethu Project”. We don”t bother about alternate alignment.
Few questions arise from any common man”s mind…

If Rama was not a real life character and only a Hero of a fiction story, why will any author depict the Hero as a drunkard ?

If Ramayana is only a story according to you, why do you take it so seriously that “Rama was a drunkard”?? If you say that you have quoted only what Valmiki has written about Rama, can someone quote what was written by Kannadasan in his book “Vanavasam”, about “Arasiyal Pramugar” and “Thullu Thamizh Thozhar”??

If Stalin has constructed so many flyovers, bridges and MK constructed roads, inaugurated IT Parks etc., they have a nice black granite board sculpted, marking the inauguration and the year. Will my grandson or great grand daughter ask whether MK and MKS are engineers ?? (Thanks : S. Ve Shekar)

If I read in History, “Ashoka planted trees and made many water tanks and ponds”, does it mean that Ashoka was a “Engineer” or “Mesthiri” or “Sithaal”??

Are the finance ministers of the State Govt. are from IIMs or MBA Finance ??

Coming back to his proficiency in Tamil literature, according to “Ilangovadigal”, Kannagi, to prove herself against the injustice happened to her and Kovalan, she tore away her breasts and threw it in the streets of Madurai, cursing that the entire city be burnt.

Some time ago, during the removal of Kannagi Statue from the beach, Columnist “Gnaani” wrote in a magazine, “for what mistake of their”s the entire population of Madurai was burnt in fire?” and “why her statue is given so much of importance in Tamilnadu politics?”

Our Tamil Scholar replied at a function saying that Gnaani is “playing with fire by proking Tamil sentiments”.

If MK has so much respect and regard towards Tamil sentiments, what respect he has towards national sentiments and traditional beleifs, forget whether Rama lived or he is just a story.

Is “Silappadhigaaram”, a much praised and much respected epic for you, a story or a true life?

Silappadhigaaram was brought to us by Ilangovadigal, again a saint, like how Ramayana was brought to us by Valmiki.

Considering that, you have really admired Silappadhigaaram and Kannagi, for having existed in Madurai ages back, may I request you to please clarify a few things… ?

1. If Kannagi existed, is that a right deed to burn the whole of Madurai, for a problem she had with only the Pandiya King ?

2. The king himself realised that he did a mistake, saying “Pon Sei Kollan than sol Ketta Yaano Arasan? Yaaney Kalvan!” and he himself died at the court hall, falling down from his throne. Then why should Kannagi go to the streets of Madurai and burn the whole city with her curse.

3. Ok. If it had happened because of her urge to take revenge on the land of the said king, how come a city like Madurai, which was one of the ancient cities ruled by so many great kings and so called well built and maintained city, can be burnt by a woman with just the words of curse ???? And do you beleive in that ??? And if you beleive that… please teach us some “Pagutharivu” which will be of some help for us while reading epics, so that we can differentiate between stories and the real characters.

Atleast the bridge can be built by engineers or mesthiris… but was there any university offering education like “Bachelor of Fire” or “Master of Mass Destruction” in which Kannagi graduated? May be you can look at bringing in such subjects in our Universities. The people will appreciate you for bringing such new courses, and will confer you with titles like “Thee Kalvi Thandha Thamizhan” etc.,

And if you say that “Silappadhigaaram” is just a story and not a real incident…. Why do you show so much of interest on a fictitious character of the story, by protecting a statue???

Apart from all that, does “Pagutharivu” principles believe in Idols ?? If you don’t believe, then why many ‘Kanmanigal’ offer garlands to statues like ‘Anna’, ‘Periyar’ and alikes and close their eyes in a praying gesture? And whom do they pray? Do you advocate all that?

Am just a common man, a spectator. I am not inclined towards any political party here. I too believe in both Silappathigaaram and Ramayanam. I strongly believe that both Kannagi and Rama existed in this country. But after your statements, I would like to know how Kannagi can be accepted and Rama cannot be? And how Kannagi is a real character who came to Madurai for living along with her husband and Rama was just a story???

Suppose, when I read Silappadhigaaram, if there are any mentions about Rama or Ramayana in it, how should I take it? Should I think that Ilangovadigal has written about real characters like Kannagi and Kovalan and also quoted Ramayana – a fiction story??

Ayya, our whole country is driven by lots of sentiments and beliefs, right from stock markets to local auto rickshaws with a lemon hooked near front wheel.

1. We call the country as “Motherland”, and have an image or idol for her too.

2. Many rivers here are worshipped including Cauvery in Silappadhigaaram “Nadandhaai Vaazhi Kavery” you will remember better, as you penned dialogues or songs for the film “Poompugar”

3. Many movies start with auspicious scenes or dialogues for the sentiment that it should fare better in sales (e-g) “Success! Success!” dialogue in Parasakthi, penned by you, again.

4. Many of our kings while going out to battle field, were wished by their wives with “Ratha Thilagam”, cutting their fingers and applying blood on the king’s forehead wishing him success (Sheer stupidity na??)

5. Many atheists respect the sentiments of their wives or children who believe in God. And they don’t want to show the same respect to other’s beliefs in society.

6. Pongal Thirunal is called Thamizhar Thirunaal. And Sun God is thanked on the day for giving good harvest. Will you say, all Tamils are fools to worship Sun as God ?

7. Many functions including the political and Government functions are inaugurated, lighting a Kuthuvilakku lamp. (can anyone say why?)

8. People wear “Pavazha Modhiram” (Coral stoned ring) on their left hand ring finger. Some, as an ornament and some based on beliefs. (we don’t know why you wear it!)

9. People throw away old fashioned black shawls and wear new yellow shawls (many reasons were quoted by you, at many occasions till date, for the same single shawl)

10. Some don’t believe in ancient sages and saints, but practice Yoga which was taught by them, for longevity and health

11. And highlight of all the above is ‘A TV Channel goes on air, on “Vinayakar Chathurthi” day. (needless to mention)

Many such sentiments and beliefs don’t have any scientific reason or whatsoever. It’s been a way of life for many. If you believe it, take it. If you don’t believe, just ignore.

If we keep questioning every act of mass sentiments, there won’t be any answers to many questions. Or I don’t know whether you know the reasons for some of the sentiments mentioned above.

http://tinyurl.com/28cfza

Letter from India: A tale about monkeys, a Hindu god and truths in India By Amelia GentlemanWednesday, September 26, 2007 (IHT)NEW DELHI: The question of whether an army of monkeys really did build an ancient bridge between India and Sri Lanka is likely to reverberate through politics here for several months to come.An uproar has erupted over a government affidavit, filed in the Supreme Court this month, declaring that events in the Ramayana, the much-loved epic devoted to the life of the Hindu god Ram, which features the story of the bridge, should not be read as historical truths.“Blasphemy,” retorted the hard-line Hindu opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, prompting a hurried, undignified reversal by the government. But the retreat was not swift enough to quell a nationwide flurry of protests in which at least two people have been killed.With the government facing stubborn resistance from its Communist coalition allies over its commitment to a nuclear agreement with the United States, a stalemate has settled on Parliament, and political analysts are predicting early elections. For the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, the dispute over Ram’s existence has been gleefully seized on as a timely and potent electoral rallying cry. For the governing Congress Party, it is a most unwelcome complication when the political landscape is already fraught with problems.At the root of the dispute is an underwater ridge of land linking India to Sri Lanka, stretching 48 kilometers, or 30 miles, and blocking ships from taking a shortcut between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.According to the Ramayana, these sandy shoals are the remains of a bridge built by Ram’s monkeys so that he could cross to Sri Lanka and rescue his wife who had been kidnapped by an evil demon, King Ravana of Lanka.Whether this account is factually accurate might have remained a matter of debate among academics had the Indian government not decided to pursue a major infrastructure project that required slicing through the area to open up a shipping corridor, linking India’s western coast to its east. The project, which is expected to cost the equivalent of $400 million and is known as the Suez of the East, would no longer require ships to loop around Sri Lanka, saving at least 24 hours on their journey.Frustrated by the simmering opposition to the project from Hindu hard-liners, the construction company this past summer cited research from the U.S. space agency that said the shoals were natural sedimentation with no signs of having been made by man or, by extension, monkeys.The government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court hoping to put an end to the matter, declaring that the accounts in the Ramayana “cannot be said to be historical records to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters or the events depicted therein.”The BJP responded that the affair had exposed the “anti-Hindu mind-set” of the Congress Party. The project was itself a “deliberate design to destroy the most ancient relic of Hindu history,” the BJP said.“The claim in the Supreme Court that Lord Ram did not exist and that the Ramayana has no historical basis makes it clear that the Congress’s pseudo-secularism has degenerated into sadist-secularism,” the opposition leader L.K. Advani said, adding that the government had “poured contempt on the religious sentiment” of millions of Hindus.Needling the Congress Party’s leader, Sonia Gandhi, who was born in Italy, another prominent BJP leader, Narendra Modi, asked, “What does an Italian know about Ram?”Alarmed by the speed with which the opposition pounced on the issue, the government withdrew the statement within just 48 hours. The law minister, H.R. Bharadwaj, declared that Ram “is an integral part of our ethos and cannot be alienated from our hearts.” Dredging of the sensitive area of Ram Sethu, or Ram’s Bridge, was delayed for three months.M. Karunanidhi, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, the southern Indian coastal state where the ridge begins, and an ally of the Congress Party, asked: “Ram? What Ram? Who is this Rama? From which engineering college did he graduate? Is there any proof for this?”Ram Vilas Vedanti, a senior leader of the head of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, or the World Hindu Council, promptly offered to pay his weight in gold to anyone who beheaded Karunanidhi – although later he said his promise was not meant to be taken literally.With its rush to squeeze maximum potential from the saga, the BJP hopes to detract attention from its own leadership crisis and its enduring political weakness, three years since its surprise defeat in the 2004 general elections. There is also an undertone of yearning for the political dynamism that India’s last Ram dispute brought to the party, when the BJP revitalized itself through the movement to restore Ram’s birthplace, the site of a mosque in Ayodhya.Priya Sahgal, a senior journalist with the newsmagazine India Today, wrote, “When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) begins chanting the name of Lord Ram with a desperate fervor, one conclusion can be safely drawn: elections are round the corner.”But some political commentators have responded with incredulity that this should be chosen to be the issue of choice for the BJP.The Indian Express asked in an editorial on Monday, “Do the wise men and women of the BJP have nothing to say about anything else?” The editorial suggested that the opposition would do better to focus on the government’s record on governance, stalled economic reform and national security.Environmentalists and a number of economists view the continuing storm with bemusement.The economists question whether the infrastructure project, which was a manifesto promise by the Congress Party to its allies in southern India, really makes financial sense because only relatively small freighters will be able to pass through the shallow channel once it is finished.The environmentalists argue that the controversy over Ram’s army of monkeys has detracted attention from their concerns over the environmental impact of the project.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/09/26/asia/letter.php

3 Responses to Rama Setu: distorting facts, ignoring impacts (updates, 29 Sept.)

  1. T.C.Govindan says:

    It is a fact that Karuna and his former driver,who is now the Shipping minister T.R.Balu have ulterior motives to see the Project through at any cost,wasting crores of public money for a Project which is not in the national interest.

  2. Murali says:

    Amazing write up. well done. I appreciate ur subject knowledge and the effort gone in.

  3. Muthukaruppan says:

    An information-packed and even educative writeup. Many thanks. I may add that I am not a BJP or Sangh Parivar man, but while believing in many of what they say in regard to India, its cultural heritage, its message for the world, I am just an average Indian, who has been brought up by good parents who wanted me to be a true Hindu and a true Indian – which means an absolutely agreeable, high-class citizen of the world. I added that statement because pseudos like JNU guys (always more than willing to toe the immature Western scholar when he writes about India with his half-bakcd understanding of it) will declare a ‘fatwa’ on your valuable writeup. The JNU fellows will become far more educated if they want to, and do, read this writeup including compilations for improving their shallow knowledge and misplaced love of the Western immaturity.

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