'Ram Setu panel should be dismantled'
Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking dismantling of the 10-member experts committee on the Sethusamudram canal project alleging "anti-Hindu" and "anti-Ram Setu bias" among some of the panel's members, including its chairman S Ramachandran.
Swamy also sought junking of the panel on the grounds that it did not have any reputed archaeologist or scientists from reputed bodies like the National Institute of Ocean Technology or the Geological Survey of India.
The panel was constituted by the central government to re-examine the feasibility of implementing the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, off the Tamil Nadu coast, without damaging Adam's Bridge or Ram Setu, which is revered by many Hindus as the bridge referred to in the "Ramayana".
Swamy, who submitted his petition to the apex court's registry, is likely to apprise an apex court bench on Wednesday about his pending petition and plead for its urgent hearing.
The government had constituted the panel on October 5 in accordance with its assurance to the Supreme Court on September 14 that it would review the project to build a shorter sea route around the Indian peninsula, without damaging the Ram Setu.
The government had given the assurance while taking back an offending affidavit, which doubted the existence of Lord Ram and events depicted in the "Ramayana".
Besides Madras University Vice-Chancellor S Ramachandran, the panel includes Delhi University history professor RS Sharma, Aqua Culture Foundation of India president M Sakthivel and Central Pollution Control Board's former chairman Dileep K Biswas.
The other members of the panel include Kolkata-based Zoological Survey of India's former director JRD Alfred and Nagpur-based National Environment Engineering Research Institute director SR Wate.
Citing instances of alleged inherent anti-Hindu or anti-Ram Setu bias among the members, Swamy said that history professor Sharma "is an admittedly anti-Hindu Marxist historian and has appeared as witness in the Ramajanmabhoomi case to rubbish the claims of a Hindu structure underlying the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya".
"He has actually queried the historicity of Shri Rama and Shri Krishna. Thus his views on the project must naturally be one-sided," he added.
Referring to panel chairman Ramachandran's "public views" on Ram Setu, Swamy said that during adjudication of the matter by the Madras High Court in June, the professor had issued a press statement negating Hindus' belief on Ram Setu.
"We, the scientists having expertise in the field of geology and oceanography confirm that Adam's Bridge is purely of barrier islands formed due to natural process," Swamy quoted Ramachandran as saying in his press statement.
"Having intimately associated with a particular exclusive view, Prof Ramachandran must be disqualified from the committee," Swamy added.
He also objected to the inclusion of members like Sakhtivel, Biswas and Alfred in the committee on the ground that they assessed the environmental impact of the project earlier and gave it a green signal turning a blind eye to the fact that it would destroy the fragile ecology of the area.
Ram Setu is believed by many Hindus to be the bridge built by Lord Ram's army of monkeys and bears to reach Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, who was abducted by demon king Ravana.