Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Save Shri Ram Setu - Jamal Ansari

Writing for Pioneer, Jamal Ansari makes a passionate case for preserving India's cultural heritage

In 1860, Edi Tailor, a Britisher, was sailing between India and Ceylon but was forced to change his ship's course due to Shri Ram Setu, the legendary bridge built by Shri Ram Chandra Ji. Edi Tailor had placed a proposal before Queen Victoria for destroying the bridge but the Britishers did not touch it. In 1955, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru appointed Ramaswami Mudaliar Committee to work out the shortest route to Sri Lanka. The Mudaliar Committee recommended that Sri Ram Setu should be broken but Nehru's Government could not gather enough courage to do so. {Comments: This is factually not accurate. Mudaliar committee strongly recommended against considering to damage Sri Ram Setu / Adam's Bridge, and suggested a configuration that would not damage Setu.}

NASA on October 10, 2002 released satellite photographs which show that a bridge built of stone and mortar lies under the sea. Its length is 31 km and it is seventeen-and-a-half lakh years old. Shri Ram Chandra Ji was born at Ayodhya in Tretayug which dates back to the same time. It is common belief among Hindus that this bridge was erected for Shri Ramchandra Ji to attack Lanka to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravan. Based upon this belief, the bridge was named Shri Ram Setu, Shri Ram Pul or Setubandh. One may agree or disagree with the thesis, but one point is clear - the bridge is a heritage and pride of India.

The opening ceremony of the Setu Samudram Project was conducted jointly by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M Karunanidhi on July 2, 2005. On the eve of the opening ceremony, a mass movement was launched by fishermen of Rameshwaram to oppose the project. Thirty-five lakh people signed a memorandum against the project on the initiative of the founder of Hindu Munnani, Ramgopalan. On September 27, 2006, Ramgopalan met President APJ Abdul Kalam and submitted the "People's Memorandum".

If we leave religious sentiments attached to the bridge aside, then also the bridge should be preserved on environmental considerations. The 2004 tsunami played havoc on this coastal belt. After that several NGOs and environmentalists conducted a study on the region. Based on their findings, they have expressed fears that if the existing Shri Ram Setu is destroyed, then the dangers of tsunami will increase manifold in this region.

Between India and Sri Lanka, at least 3,300 plants, a large number of fish and 450 species of animals may be found under the sea. Their existence will also be in danger.

We must not forget that China is spending a large amount on preserving the 2,700-year-old 'Great Wall of China'. Egypt is proud of its 4,500-year-old pyramids. In a happy development, 30 manuscripts of the Rig Veda, dating back to 1800-1500 BC, have been added to the UN's heritage list.

Likewise, India should feel proud of its marvellous engineering and architectural achievement buried under the sea. Shri Ram Setu should also be included in the heritage list of UNESCO - this can be done with a little effort. Development should take place but not at the cost of religious sentiments and destruction of culture and heritage.

hits since Chaitra 7, 2064 Vikram (March 26, 2007)