Heat in Chennai was on the increase in more than one sense last week. As mercury relentlessly rose about 200 journalists were arrested for trying to take out a protest march condemning the killing of three employees of Dinakaran, a Tamil daily owned by the ruling DMK chief'sfamily, allegedly by supporters of a member of the same family.
On the same day i.e. May 12, far from the heat and dust, experts of several disciplines converged in the city and dared to look beyond the present; they deliberated upon the possible havocs in case Ram Sethu is destroyed. The air was thick with rumours that Ram Sethu might be blasted if dredging becomes difficult on the rough sea. The lone dredger on job had been brought to the shore the previous day. The solemn meet was an International Seminar on Scientific Security Aspects of Sethu Samudram Project (SSCP) organised by Rameswaram Ram Sethu Protection Movement (RRSPM).
Justice Parvat Rao, retired judge of Andhra Pradesh High Court, summed up the mood of the seminar thus: ?Marine specialists here have shown that Ram Sethu is man-made and archaeologists have established that it is ancient. So Ram Sethu is a monument. Article 51-A of the Constitution of India says that protection of heritage handed down to us is the duty of the citizens. Supreme Court has said that the duty of the citizens is the duty of the state (the government). In the case of Ram Sethu, the government is too rash?it shows defiant disregard for danger or consequences?and it seems bent upon destroying the monument. So, Ram Sethu should be declared a national monument at the earliest?.
The learned judge wanted that the facts that emeged in the seminar should be taken to the people in a language that they understand. Members of Parliamernt should be educated on this. He wished that the Movement (RRSPM) gains momentum, so that people could be saved from perils.
Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat, Professor of Geopolitics, Academy of Higher Education, Manila University, rubbished the argument in certain circles: ?Why bother about the fate of a bridge built by a man from Uttar Pradesh in Tamil Nadu?? He said Tamil Nadu cannot survive without Bharat and Bharat cannot survive without Tamil Nadu. Bharat is one country and it is great. He warned that cost of hydrocarbon fuel that we need (80 percent of which is dependent on imports) has increased while our nuclear plan is under-funded. He hinted that loss of Thorium by destruction of Ram Sethu would be debilitating.
Dr S. Badrinarayanan, Geologist and consultant, National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), introduced himself as a field scientist and asserted that there is hard evidence to prove the existence of Ram Sethu. Ocean bed bore tests show that the ridge is man-made and it is an engineering marvel, added Badrinarayanan.
Prof. C.S.P. Iyer, executive director, Centre for Marine Analytical Reference and Standards, Thiruananthapuram, stressed the need to conserve the marine bio reserve in the placid Mannar sea, extolled by the UN. This, he pointed out, owes its existence to the Ram Sethu. Nowhere else in the world there are 3,600 species of marine life in one place as found close to the Ram Sethu. The Professor dwelt at length on the effects of silts, prohibitive cost, absence of any tsunami precaution and turbulence of Bay of Bengal in the shipping canal project. He called for a scientific study of the environs before the shipping canal project could progress.
Shri V. Sundaram, IAS (retd.), first chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust (the organisation that is now in charge of the Sethu Samudram Project), said that the Prime Minister will have to face an enquiry under another regime tomorrow for not referring the vital queries (regarding absence of safeguards against tsunami) raised by Tad. S. Murthy to the Ministry of Shipping but to the Tuticorin Port Trust, a mere executing body. ?I smell a rat in the whole affair,? he said.
Captain (retd.) H. Balakrishnan of the Indian Navy, forcefully argued the security risks in the shipping canal use, citing the recently added ?Air Arm? of the LTTE that has conducted three raids on Sri Lankan assets last month.
Shri T. Satyamurthy, former director of archaeology, Government of Kerala, pointed out that ancient Romans who engaged in trade on the west coast could not navigate to the east coast via the Palk strait obviously because of the presence of Ram Sethu. The prevalence of the same culture on either end of the Ram Sethu proved by the Rameswaram temple associated with Shri Ram on the Bharat'send and the Tiruketeesawra temple associated with Mandodari, Ravana'swife, on the Sri Lankan end shows that the zone was culturally united. The sea is knee deep along the Ram Sethu and that made passage of people easy and of ships impossible across the strait.
Shri D. Kuppuramu, advocate, Zilla Sanghchalak of Ramanarth-puram and convenor of Rameswaram Ram Sethu Protection Movement, who presided over the seminar, appealed to all well meaning persons to implead themselves in cases filed so far?one at the Supreme Court, one at Madras High Court, recently by Hindu Munnani founder Shri Rama Gopalan and one at the sub court in Ramanathapuram?all seeking protection of Ram Sethu.
Shri M.S. Karunanidhi, a resident of Rameswaram, who could see Ram Sethu revealed completely the day after December 26, 2004 tsunami, cited earliest Tamil print evidences with mention of Ram Sethu in them.
Shri T.V. Rangarajan, organising secretary for South India, Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana and a Tamil scholar listed literary evidences dating back to more than 2,000 year mentioning Sethu built by Shri Ram. Sethupatis of Ramanathapuram, the rulers of the area, were indeed appointed by Shri Ram himself to guard Ram Sethu, as per the local traditions, he said. Pauraniks in ancient Tamil Nadu went from place to place lecturing on Setu Puranam, an ancient literary work in Tamil, Rangarajan added.
Shri Tad S. Murthy, vice president of the Tsunami Society of Ottawa, USA, the expert who was commissioned by Shipping Ministry (and whose advice that the project include precautionary steps against Tsunami was ignored), had sent his best wishes for the success of the seminar. The message of greetings from Dr S.R. Rao, founder, Society of Marine Archaeology in India, was also read out at the seminar. Dr Rao was to inaugurate the seminar but he could not make it to Chennai owing to ill health.
Ram Sethu, a compilation edited by Dr S. Kalyanaraman, director, Saraswati River Project, that includes the papers presented at the Chennai seminar, was released at the seminar. It is priced at Rs 600. Dignitaries who were among the audience included former ministers S. Tirunavukkarasar and Dr H.V. Hande, Shri K. Surynarayana Rao, senior functionary of RSS, Dr Subramanian Swamy of Janata Party and Shri L. Ganeshan, state president of BJP.