We are being the made fall guys: ASI official | delhi | Hindustan Times
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We are being the made fall guys: ASI official

The ASI believes the ministry of shipping and transport should have formulated and filed the affidavit.

delhi Updated: Sep 15, 2007 17:28 IST

After taking the rap for drafting the controversial affidavit on the Ram Sethu submitted in the Supreme Court leading to the suspension of two of its senior officials, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) believes the ministry of shipping and transport should have formulated and filed the document.

"The Ram Sethu is not an ASI protected monument and it's not a site of archaeological merit. Since the navigation sea route is a project of the ministry of shipping and transport it was incumbent on them to have prepared and filed the affidavit in the apex court," a highly placed ASI official told IANS.

"We (ASI) are being the made fall guys and that is not fair," said the official.

On Wednesday, the government submitted an affidavit on the Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge off the Tamil Nadu coast questioning the existence of Lord Ram. It took the plea that a navigation route through the Palk Strait could be put by dredging Adam's Bridge, which Hindus revere as the mythological Ram Sethu from the epic "Ramayana", as there was no historical evidence that the bridge was man made.

The Rs 24 billion-project aims to provide a shorter navigational sea route around India's southern peninsula by dredging the peak of the bridge, believed to be built by Lord Ram to rescue his wife Sita from demon king Ravan of Lanka.

Soon after the controversial affidavit was filed, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, and its affiliate, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, came down heavily on the government for hurting Hindu sentiments, forcing the government to withdraw its original affidavit and apologising for its contentious remarks.

Officials privy to the unsavoury episode told IANS that pressure was mounted on the ASI to act on the officers responsible for drafting the affidavit.

Following the embarrassment, ASI's Director General Anshu Vaishya lost no time and suspended director (administration) Chandrasekhar and assistant director (monuments) V Bakshi.

This was after getting permission from Culture Minister Ambika Soni, who returned from Japan on Friday evening.

"The people involved in the drafting of the controversial paragraphs were questioned and found guilty the same day but they had to wait as Culture Minister Ambika Soni was out of India," sources told IANS.

"Why is the ASI unnecessarily being dragged into the controversy? Even if he did go wrong, why was the affidavit not vetted by the additional solicitor general who had to present the case in court?" argued a senior ASI official.

"We are not legal experts. We went by what we can state. It is upto to a legal luminary to interpret what we said."

Without taking names, Soni on Saturday said, "two suspended officials would be given an opportunity to defend themselves" adding that an internal inquiry was on.

Realising the pressure on her ministry and the political embarrassment caused to the government, Soni said she would resign if Congress president, Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked her to do so.

The objectionable references in the affidavit said, "The Valmiki Ramayana, the Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas and other mythological texts, which admittedly form an ancient part of Indian literature, cannot be said to be historical records to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters or the occurrence of the events depicted therein."

"The formation known as Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge is not a man-made structure but rather a natural formation made up of sand bars, which are possessed of their particular shape and form due to several millennia of wave action and sedimentation," the affidavit said.