A day after winning the trust vote in Lok Sabha, the government questioned the existence of the Ram Setu, saying there was no bridge at the spot where dredging has been undertaken for the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project.
<b1>Opposing petitions challenging the project, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it wasn't destroying any bridge as none existed. Appearing for the government, senior advocate Fali S Nariman said Lord Ram himself had broken the Ram Setu on his return from Sri Lanka, after killing Ravan.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, which had earlier asked the Centre to explore the possibility alternate routes without touching the Ram Setu, asked it to consider a “scientifically and politically” viable solution to the problem, accommodating faith and environmental concerns as well.
Citing the Padma Purana to support his argument, Nariman said: “If you want to go strictly by the religious scriptures, the Padma Purana states Lord Rama broke the bridge after rescuing Sita. And according to the Hindu faith, something that is broken cannot be worshipped.” He said even the Kamba Ramayana (popular in south India) talks of Lord Ram having destroyed the bridge constructed by the vanar sena. “This is why nobody has till date declared it a monument.”
Coming months after the withdrawal of its affidavit denying the existence of Ram and the Setu as a manmade structure, the government's latest submissions is bound to lead to a fresh controversy. Interestingly, Nariman said the earlier affidavit was withdrawn under “extraneous circumstances”.
The changed stance clearly reflects the hard-line approach of the DMK, which favours completion of the project through alignment 6 – which would essentially require destruction of the Setu.
On May 8, the Centre had acceded to the court’s suggestion to explore the possibility of an “alternative alignment”. Reminding the Centre of this, the bench said: “There are nine study reports; all of them avoid the Ram Setu. This is the first proposal of alignment 6 that touches the Ram Setu.” When the bench said this amounted to questioning the logic of faith, Nariman replied: “Legal issues cannot be decided on the basis of faith.”
Sangh to launch agitation
The Centre’s latest stance on the issue, coinciding with DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s visit to Delhi, naturally left the saffron brigade peeved. The BJP's VK Malhotra said his party, along with the VHP and other saffron parties, would announce a massive agitation “in a day or two”. He said: “The Congress is paying the price for DMK support.”
On his part, Karunanidhi said: “This is in consonance with the stand of our state.”