BJP and other Hindutva parties are keenly looking for opportunities to criticize the ruling coalition Government. And they seem to be missing no chances. First, it was the Nuclear Deal with the US and now it is the Sethusamudram project. The controversy has revived following an affidavit filed by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This affidavit is claimed to have hurt the Hindu sentiments, by declaring Ramar Setu (or) Adam’s bridge as a “non-man made” structure.
Adam’s Bridge or Ramar Setu represent the limestone formation south of Rameswaram, leading up to north western Sri Lanka. This formation has two different stories behind it. According to the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’, Lord Rama built this bridge with the help of Vanara Sena to travel across the ocean to Sri Lanka, to get back his abducted wife Sita. Another story from Islam claims that, this bridge has been used by Adam to reach Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, where he stood repentant on one foot for 1000 years (This peak also has significance in the Buddhist Religion). Whatever the reality may be, this bridge has great religious significance.
The sea across this bridge is very shallow, making passage of ships next to impossible. Thus all ships heading to the eastern part of India must travel around Sri Lanka. Dredging this shallow region would enable ships pass through this strait, thus reducing about 30 hours of travel time. This would improve trade and also help the ports on east coast of India to flourish. It was with this vision in mind, the Sethusamudram project was born. Main controversy around this project was religious in nature. But the DMK Government, which strongly believes in atheistic policies, had no problems in giving a kick start to the project.
For many years, number of researches have taken place around Adam’s bridge and many conclusions were drawn. NASA has analyzed the structure and given diplomatic conclusions, mainly declaring the structure as a natural formation. But a research by Geological Survey of India suggests otherwise. They have proof to show that it is impossible for a structure like this, to be formed naturally. Similar contradicting results were drawn by various researchers in the past. (Research findings)
The controversy which was dormant for some time, is back in the limelight, thanks to the affidavit filed by ASI. In a Hindu-majority country like India, any move that hurts religious sentiments would be viewed as blasphemy. With DMK so serious at this project, Congress had no option, but to encourage. But it had shot back like a boomerang. With the 123 Agreement still in a quagmire, Congress has set a wrong foot again. Proceeding with the project would make Congress unpopular among the Hindus and scrapping it would not please DMK. Cultural Minister, Ambika Soni has been made the scapegoat of all this fiasco and it is not yet known, whether she would be able to retain her ministerial berth.
It is ideal for the Congress to set up a committee which analyzes and works closely with all the researchers, who have spent considerable time studying the Adam’s bridge. The major objective of this exercise should be to identify the ways to carry out the Sethusamudram project, without causing considerable damage to Adam’s bridge. If not, the next route for the Congress is to look for ways, to convince DMK against the project. I cannot believe that the third option will be used by the Congress, to continue with the project, against all the opposition.
Let us hope that Islam or Buddhists don’t join the Hindus in claiming the religious significance of Adam’s Bridge. In that case, Sethusamudram project might definitely come to a demise.