Ram Sethu (Setu) Issue – To build a shipping canal the existence of Ram is denied
When I first heard about the Supreme Court affidavit filed by our government which claimed that Lord Ram did not exist, I was stunned….and hurt. And I am not even a religious person! I can’t imagine what deeply religious people must have felt…outraged and betrayed!!
This controversy has made me start to question the very basis of our so-called ‘secular’ nation. Usually I hesitate calling our country pseudo secular, because I try hard to see the other point of view…but for the first time yesterday I wondered if those who think that our country is pseudo secular aren’t too far wrong. And our media? Well, there are suspicions that they are anti-Hindu, and want to be politically correct all the time. I thought I understood why. Because India has a large Muslim population and there is always the fear of communal tension. The worst thing to happen ever are riots, and we know how quickly people get into a lather here. But I have started to question the media’s objectivity…
However where the media is concerned, it’s always a question of damned if you do and damned if you don’t…
About that stupid affidavit, I wanted to write about it yesterday itself…but I had a strong feeling that the matter hadn’t ended. With the raging protests all over the country, it was clear that the government would realise that it had done great damage to itself (why are riots necessary for the government to realise that people don’t like their faith to be questioned??) and I was sure they would try to undo it. They did and fast…Union Law Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj said yesterday that a fresh affidavit will be filed and the offending paragraph which questions the very existence of characters from the Ramayana will be removed.
At first I thought it was likely that this ‘affidavit’ was the work of some moron, but when I saw a CPI leader vociferously defending the government’s actions on live TV, I realised that perhaps this affidavit was not the work of a retard. Political parties were behind it…the government was behind it…
Now they are saying that Sonia Gandhi stepped in and decided to take back the affidavit…but I don’t think many people are believing this. I don’t. The government saw the brewing anger and quickly acted. They feel the image of Sonia Gandhi (she is of Italian origin) has been tarnished and are trying hard to repair the damage. If the riots had not taken place and the other political parties had not protested, would she have stepped in to stop it? Ofcourse not…neither she nor the Congress care that the affidavit was/is blasphemy where Hindus are concerned.
But why insult Hindus?
So far I have not even mentioned Ram Sethu or what the British called Adam’s Bridge. Well, this is a bridge that the government wants to destroy to create a shipping channel and as it is a holy site (mentioned in the Ramayana), the affidavit was designed to blunder its way through the opposition. But to claim that Ram does not exist was overstepping the line.
Sure, this new channel called the Sethsamudran project (between the southern tip of India and the northern tip of Sri Lanka) to create a shipping passage to link the east and west coasts of India will save India (and Tamil Nadu) a lot of money. But if the price is destruction of faith, it is not acceptable.
This is the bridge.
Which brings us to another issue. Should this bridge be destroyed? Hindus believe that the bridge is made by God Hanuman and this is what makes the bridge a holy site.
And I can’t help repeating this: If I, a non-religious, liberal thinking person with a capitalist idealogy and an intense desire to see India developed, feels indignant that the government is destroying this bridge because it pooh poohs the faith of millions of Hindus, how will those with a deep religious faith feel?
There are environmental issues as well, but I don’t even want to talk about them, even though I am a great believer in saving the natural environment. There are many arguments put forward (to preserve the bridge) for environmental reasons…and I believe they are valid. Protection against Tsunamis is one, and preserving the coast another. There are also experts who believe that the new channel will not be able to take heavy ships…
I believe that people’s faith is very important too, as important (if not more) than these other issues, and faith is something that no believer ever measures scientifically. If this is being questioned, then it is highly objectionable. No government has a right to question people’s religious faith…why the next thing we will hear is that the government wants to convert people!
Why harp on environmental issues or developmental issues, when the majority of people are thinking of faith and heritage?? And can one look at a country’s development only through the economic and developmental standpoint? What about culture and heritage?
The government will never get through to people if they only talk of money! Perhaps there was a chance earlier, if they had gone about this quietly and sensibly and not made idiotic statements like Ram does not exist…yes if they had done that the project might well have gone through without too much publicity. Before this moronic affidavit, it was mainly the Hindu elite, Hindu religious organizations and environmentalists who were opposing this bridge…but now I believe that this issue has been taken to the people and explained in a language they can understand. I personally had heard only vaguely of the save Ram Sethu campaign…and did not feel strongly about it either way. But now I do. Now I am now seeing the issue through the prism of the government’s lack of respect for Hindus.
If alternative routes are available, and it is believed that they are, then they should be implemented. That is what I feel.
Added Later: Just thought I would add the exact words of the affidavit, after one of the comments which doubted whether the government actually doubted the existence of Ram. On Mahendra’s blog I found this link, and it quotes the affidavit as stating:
…that the mythological texts of Ramayana formed an important part of ancient Indian literature, “but which cannot be said to be historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of the events, depicted therein.”
Update: 2nd May 2008. There is a very interesting article in The Hindu about this issue which is worth a read. It says that
there was historical evidence to show that this bridge was used by the people of India and Sri Lanka as a link between the two nations. Any structure that was more than 100 years old, natural or man made, could be declared a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India…800 million people in India believe that Ramar Sethu was a bridge built by Lord Ram. Can the court go into the issue whether Lord Ram existed or whether the bridge was constructed by the God?… People [particularly Christians] believe that Jesus Christ was crucified at a particular place. Can this be probed or gone into by the court? These are all related to people’s faith which cannot be probed by the court or the government.
Related Reading: Why people are religious
Hinduism does not encourage conversions
True faith in God can be confused with rituals
Book countering the Hinduphobia of the west
What role do “Gurus” play in our life?