The protest over Ram Setu
International groups have jointly launched the Save Ram Sethu campaign against the continuing destruction of a symbol of the Hindu faith in the narrow sea between India and Sri Lanka. Ram Sethu (called Adam's Bridge by the British) which is seen as one of Hinduism's holiest sites, is an ancient chain of shoals that once linked India's southern areas to Sri Lanka's northwest. It is being destroyed by the Sethu Samudram Shipping Canal Project (SCCP) to create a navigable waterway in the narrow sea dividing the two countries.
The campaign organizers have pointed out that the environmental impact assessments of the project were conducted before the Tsunami disaster and have not included the increased risks to coastal areas from the removal of a natural barrier against future Tsunamis. Additionally, they expressed serious concerns about the destructive effects the canal project will have on the local marine life, environment, and coastal populations in general including the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in the regions. It is believed that consultations with local communities may have excluded several stakeholder groups whose views would have highlighted critical environmental and humanitarian issues. The area is well known for various indigenous industries, such as the "Shankha" which have existed for centuries and are an important cultural heritage and source of income for thousands of local residents.
The Hindu Forum of Britain, Hindu Human Rights, Esha Vasyam USA and Global Human Rights Defense of the Netherlands are jointly launching the 'Save Ram Sethu' campaign (Ram Sethu Bachao Andolan) from 27 March 2007, which is celebrated as Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Ram. A growing number of international organizations are supporting the campaign, including the Hindu Council of Australia, Hindu Conference of Canada, Hindu Collective Initiative of America, Hindu Council of Africa, Hindu Council of Holland, Hindu Forum of Belgium, Italian Hindu Union, Caribbean Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha, Federation of Hindu Temples in France and Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation, who will organize local campaigns in their countries to save the sacred bridge and the local environment from further destruction.
"Ram Sethu is as holy to Hindus as the Western Wall is to the Jews, the Vatican to Catholics, Bodh Gaya to the Buddhists and Mecca to Muslims," said Dr. Kusum Vyas, president and founder of Esha Vasyam, a USA based organization. She further added, " It is an unacceptable breach of the religious rights of over one billion Hindus to destroy such a sacred landmark and the environmental damage such a project will bring about will be colossal. We will not let this happen."
"We are considering various ways to lodge our protest and appeal to Hindus all over the world to send their letters to the Government of India," said Ranbir Singh, chair of Hindu Human Rights. "It seems like we're heading towards an ecological disaster".
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain asked the Government of India to open a second round of consultation under an independent Commission so that post-tsunami data and analysis could be included in a second impact assessment. "The old data used to make this monumental decision was rendered obsolete by the tsunami of 2004 which radically altered the environment and conditions," he added.
The Save Ram Sethu Campaign requests that:
1. The SSCP should immediately stop all dredging work and withdraw all equipment forthwith from the site
2. The Government of India should immediately set up an independent Commission that will oversee a second round of consultations. This is to ensure that views of important stakeholder groups not consulted in the first round are taken into account. This should include the oft-repeated warnings, highly critical reviews and troubling questions raised by world-renowned specialists and experts on the disastrous effects on the environment and livelihood of people in the region, which have not been included in the previous public consultations.
3. The SSCP should take into account the offence and hurt being felt by millions of Hindus around the world about the destruction of one of their holiest religious sites.
Organizers of Save Ram Sethu Campaign have ask supporters from all over the world to write letters of protests to the leaders in the Indian Government.