'Ramayana no basis for Ram Setu debate'
The Archaeological Survey of India on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that there is no historical and scientific evidence to establish the existence of Lord Ram or the other characters of the Ramayana. Denying the Ram Setu or Adams Bridge is a man-made structure, it said Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas cannot be taken as a historical record to “prove the existence of the characters or occurrence of events” depicted in it.
The affidavit was in response to three petitions, transferred from the Madras High Court to the apex court, challenging the government's decision to construct the Sethusamudram Canal by dredging a portion of the Ram Setu. As expected, it drew angry reactions from the BJP and VHP. Leader of Opposition LK Advani sought to speak with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even as the BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “It is a crude attempt at insulting our culture, civilisational heritage and Hindu sentiments; it is a case of appeasement politics.” Advani later spoke to Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to the PM, to convey his anguish.
All three petitions have based their claim that the bridge should be declared an “ancient protected monument’, since it has historical importance, on the Ramcharitmanas. The Supreme Court had on August 31 restrained the Centre from damaging the Ram Setu while permitting it to continue with the dredging. A Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan will hear the petitions on September 14.
C Dorjee, director (monuments), ASI, stated in the affidavit: “The ASI is a science and technology department. The issue has to be approached and examined in a scientific manner. While due deference may be given to the feelings of the petitioners, the issue cannot be viewed solely relying on the contents of a mythological text.”
According to the ASI, the bridge is a natural formation made of shoals and sand bars. “They have formed due to several millennia of wave action and sedimentation,” reads the affidavit. Dorjee further stated that the petitioners had misread and misinterpreted the images released by NASA. “NASA has clarified that images of the area were being captured for several years and no scientific discovery has been made so far in respect of the origins of the formation known as Adams Bridge.”
The BJP spokesperson said, “So far we thought it was only Transport Minister TR Baalu who wanted to demolish the Ram Setu. But it is now clear the government is behind the conspiracy to denigrate Hindu beliefs and facts. We are not against the Sethusamudram project but we want a realignment to protect the Ram Setu.”
Threatening to intensify its agitation against the project, the VHP’s Pravin Togadia said: “If the government refuses to give up the project, it will suffer losses in the polls in Gujarat and other states, and also in the event of a mid-term Lok Sabha poll.”
With inputs from Shekhar Iyer and HS Bartwal