A high-level delegation of various organisations met the President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on September 27 to convey him the country'sanguish at the proposed destruction of historic Shri Ram Setu if the Setu Samudaram Ship Canal Project conceived by the Central Government is implemented in the present form. The project envisages cutting a ship canal across Rameshwaram near Kothandaramaswamy temple to connect the Gulf of Mannar in the Palk Bay. The nationwide signature campaign was conducted on April 6 (Ramnavami) across the country to collect signatures of the people. In all, about 35 lakh people from all districts of the country and from all walks of life appended their signatures to the appeal to save the Ram Setu.
According to Shri Ram Gopalan, founder president of Hindu Munnani and head of the 11-memebr delegation that met the President, ?The President was convinced with the historicity of the Setu and he said,he will study the whole report carefully and will discuss with the authorities.?
Besides Shri Ram Gopalan, the delegation included Shri D. Kuppu Ramu, state convenor of Tamil Nadu Gram Panchayat Presidents? Federation, Ramnathapuram, Shri Ramanathan, Tamil Nadu state vice president of Sewa Bharati, Shri C. Subramanyam, Tamil Nadu state secretary of Hindu Munnani, Shri Ashok Prabhakar, all India co-convenor of Hindu Jagaran Manch, Shri Satya-narayan Bansal, Delhi Prant Sanghachalak, Shri Jai Bhagwan, Delhi state president of Hindu Manch, Shri Dinesh Tyagi, general secretary of Hindu Mahasabha, Swami Raghwananda, president of Sanatan Dharam Sabha, Delhi, Shri Champat Rai, joint general secretary of VHP and Shri Ramphal Bansal, senior advocate in Supreme Court.
The delegation made it clear to the President that they are not against the Setu Samudaram project but they want the Ram Setu also intact. ?This can be achieved through a work around by utilising the 15 km barren uncultivable land strip that stretches East-West between Pamban and Dhanushkoti,? Shri Gopalan said.
?We are not against development but we cannot allow it at the cost of our national heritage. For example, when the then Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh started work on the Taj Corridor project that was seen by the environmentalists as a threat to Taj Mahal, the Judiciary intervened decisively to force the Executive to drop it. Similarly in Delhi, a proposed underground Metro route that ran close to Qutub Minar was abandoned and reworked following fears that the Qutub could be damaged. The antiquity of the Taj and the Qutub are 358 and 814 years respectively. When the Executive and the Judiciary are sensitive enough to protect them, shouldn'tthey show greater sensitivity towards the Ram Setu, whose antiquity is 17 lakh to 25,000 years? This is the appeal the delegation made to the President,? Shri Gopalan told Organiser.
The delegation also made the point that the Ram Setu is the oldest surviving man-made structure on earth. The other old structures in the world, such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids in Egypt are just 2694 and 4506 years old respectively. ?Let not humans destroy something that has withstood the ravages of time, including the recent tsunami,? he added.
The Ramayana records that Shri Rama built a bridge from Rameshwaram to Sri Lanka to enable his army to reach the island, defeat Ravana and retrieve Sitaji. This bridge, called Ram Setu, exists to date, proof of which was provided by images released by NASA in recent years. The bridge is about 30 km long and 3 km wide and scientists have established its antiquity as 17, 25,000 years. This dating ties nicely with that of the Ramayana and corresponds to the positions of heavenly bodies as recorded in the epic at that time. The bridge is also evidence, if evidence at all is necessary, to authenticate the Ramayana.
According to Shri Ram Gopalan, the problem with the Setu Samudaram project in its present form is that it envisages cutting the Ram Setu because it lies on the path of the proposed ship canal. This is totally unacceptable as it tramples upon the rights and sentiments of crores of Rambhaktas throughout the world. ?The Hindu Manch is not against the project per se. It agrees that the project makes good economic sense because it will help India save about 400 nautical miles of sailing for ships, about 20 tonnes of fuel per transit or Rs 70,000 per vessel, foreign exchange of Rs 21,000 crore per year and voyage time of about 16 hours per transit per vessel,? added the Hindu Munnani leader.