The UPA is bent on hurting Hindu sentiments. As part of its deal to win the confidence vote, the UPA within 24 hours of winning the vote told the Supreme Court a huge lie, that Sri Ram destroyed the Sethu and that the broken Sethu has no spiritual sanctity and that it should be demolished to complete the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. This the UPA said to emphasise its determination to go ahead with the project, ignoring the protests of the Hindus.
The UPA stand shocked the critics of the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project who opposed the continuation of the corridor-through-sea project on the ground that it cuts through the Ram Sethu, a symbol of Hindu religion. This is a major shift in the centre'sstand. From a position that Ram was a fictional character to that he built and then destroyed the bridge. In any case it weakens the UPA stand and reinforces the Hindu belief.
In the Supreme Court, where the fate of the 35-km channel project is hanging fire, centre'scounsel Fali S. Nariman quoted the scriptures of Padma Puran and Kambh Ramayan, which describe how Sri Ram destroyed the Sethu to ensure nobody else would cross over to Sri Lanka.
?We are not destroying any bridge, as there is no bridge,? Nariman said. ?We believe it was not a man-made structure. It was a super man-made structure which was broken by Lord Ram himself,? he said, adding, ?If it was something that was destroyed by the same man who built it, we are dealing with only a belief.?
Quite surprised at the startling revelation by the centre, the petitioners dispelled the doubts by taking refuge under another scripture, Skand Puran, recorded earlier in time to the Padma Puran which does not record the destruction of the bridge by Sri Ram.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, realising the issue to be sensitive, asked the centre to argue the viability of the project by striking a balance between faith and environment since these were the aspects under consideration of the court. Hindu leaders say that if Sri Ram destroyed the Sethu, then it is the oldest available archaeological evidence and it should be immediately handed over to the ASI for protection. It is sacred for Hindus.
The petitioners, comprising individuals and NGOs, had challenged the alignment of the project meant to serve as an east-west corridor, facilitating movement of ships between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Technical expert teams have proposed several alignments from time to time, most of which do not pass through the Ram Sethu area.
The bench, also comprising Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal, said, ?If there is no alternative route except cutting across the Adams Bridge (Ram Sethu), our approach would have been different. But it is a different picture where options are available.?
It said, ?Somewhere down the line, you have to balance faith and biosphere.? Refusing to be drawn into the argument made by Nariman, it observed, ?We don'twant to question the logic of faith, whether this is to be worshipped or that is to be worshipped.?
Despite petitioners objecting to such an argument by the centre, the court accepted it as part of the centre'ssubmissions since it came in response to the petitioner'sclaim supporting the existence of the Sethu.
Nariman said work continued on the project for two years and not once during this period anybody challenged it as being opposed to faith.
Even the political opposition to the project was intriguing, said Nariman, suggesting how the AIADMK, the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, made it the political plank in 2002 and won with a thumping majority.
?You cannot worship anything that was destroyed,? added Nariman, citing this as the reason why over the decades, nobody wanted it to be declared an ancient monument. The petitioners have sought the court to consider declaring the Sethu an ancient monument, besides demanding that the project alignment be changed to save the Sethu and the rich biosphere cover in the Gulf of Mannar.