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Southern bridge, northern politics

india Updated: Sep 16, 2007 00:51 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Ganesh Chaturthi —or Vinayaka Chaturthi, as they call the festival here — MSS Ramanathan is an aggrieved man. “This Ram Setu business is a concoction of politicians in north India and the national media,” says the owner of a communications outlet close to the Rameshwaran Temple.

If anyone should care about the Ram Setu and the protests against its damage by the government plan to build a canal through this underwater formation, it should be Ramanathan and other residents of this famous temple town — and not the VHP-BJP. Chandramohan, a computer operator and a devout Hanuman worshipper (an hour every day), dismisses the whole confrontation between the BJP and the government over the setu as a joke. “If there are devotees of Ram, they are here. But what has existed for thousands of years underwater, and can’t be seen or touched can’t be that big an issue for a quarrel.”

It has nothing to do with respecting Ram, he says with a smile. "It has everything to do with how the north does politics."

Madhusudan, a panda at the Rameshwaran Temple, agrees. "We've got Ram all around. Does that mean we will get agitated every time a wall is broken to make way for a building?" There have been some suggestions from those trying to stoke the Ram Setu affair in various parts of north India that the Sethusamudram Canal Project is done in such a manner that dredging work spares the Ram Setu - which NASA images and scientists believe to be a coral reef formation. Instead, part of nearby Dhanushkodi, they say, could be utilised for a canal project. Palanik Kumar, who drives a mini truck between Dhanushkodi and Rameshwaran laughs off the option. "So they want to save something built by Ram thousands of years ago that lies under the sea so that we will have to move?"

As Ramanathan says, under a framed picture of Shiva and Ganga, "Why can't they stick to their Ayodhya?"