Monday, July 28, 2008

Deny Sethu and deny everything - history, geography, economics and environment!

Rama Setu: by denying Setu, Union of India has lost its right to govern

By Dr S. kalyanaraman

The latest affidavit denying Rama Setu may mark the beginning of the end of the UPA government temporarily ruling over Union of India.

Union of India may have just lost its right to govern since Setu is the very embodiment of national unity and integrity, the very quintessence of India's heritage and cultural traditions.

UPA may stay in sattaa by horse-trading MPs' votes, it cannot clam the right to govern by denying the very identity of Hindu rashtram -- a nation with over 83% Hindus.

In Sri Rama's time all were Hindus, some of them may be present day practitioners of Islam or Christian faiths, but their ancestors were Hindus who take the sankalpa saying, Sri Rama Rameti, vyapohati nasams'ayah and go on to define their locus in space and time from the kalpas...

The very aatman of India inheres in the received cultural memory of Rama and Setubandha. Remember, Kings Pravarasena and King Damodara Sena wrote Prakrit kavyas titled Setubandha kaavya in 5th and 6th centuries. Narimaan, to note.

(I hope someone will forward this note to this learned counsel).

I do not know if it is the cleverness of Narimaan or the political obduracy of Sonia Gandhi determined to destroy Rama Setu, it is ridiculous to read about the arguments being advanced.

Narimaan might have just contributed to the repeat of a situation which led to the Union of India withdrawing its sworn affidavit. Narimaan, CJ of Madras HC asked the first question: what is the meaning of 'setu'? Abhidaana kos'am, a Tamil encyclopaedia defined setu as 'man-made bund.'

Do you know that the word, bandha as in setubandha, setubandha rameshwaram is the root for the English word 'bund' which means a man-made embankment? It is unfortunate that learned counsels quibble without attempting to read the orignal texts.

If Sri Rama has broken the Setu, so be it. It is just an admission that the setu existed, it exists. No human power has any authority to meddle with this divine Setu. Citizens of India rightly denied the rights to the Courts or Governments under Art. 25 and 26 to meddle with issues divine or with matters of faith -- as argued earlier by Soli Sorabjee, Parasaran, KK Venugopal, Vaidyanathan and Dr. Subramanian Swamy.

Suggestio falsi, suppressio veri seems to be Narimaan's game plan.

He cites Kamba Ramayana out of context and fails to refer to the evidences provided by Skanda Purana, Kalidasa's Raghuvams'a, Mahabharata, apart from Valmiki Ramayana, Sangam literature texts like Akananooru, and even the 19th century verse of Pamban Swamigal. He also fails to acknowledge the references cited in Madras HC judgemennt of 19 June 2007, citing cartographic (maps), Marco Polo, Al Beruni, Royal Asiatic Research papers, epigraphs of Rameshwaram temple, epigraphs on Velanjeri copper plate of Parantaka Chola referring to the Setu and the fact that it functioned as a causeway for people to cross between Talaimannar of Srilanka to Rameshwaram of India.

Narimaan also ignores the puja vidhanam mentioned in Skanda Purana; he does not have to teach the faithful on modes of prayer at Dhanushkodi. That the Rama Setu is supported by an enormous body of living tradition (as evidenced by the affidavits from Rameshwaram temple, Rameshwaram fisherfolk, apart from volumes of documentation submitted to the Court), cannot be wished away by anecdotal references taken out of context.

What Kamban reports is a continual phenomenon of breaches to the Rama Setu as was the epigraph in Rameshwaram temple reporting breaches at three places during the 1480 cyclone, clearly demonstrating that until that year, the Rama Setu served as a bridge used by pilgrims to go across from Rameshwaram Shiva temple to Tirukkedeeswaram Shiva Temple.

Skanda Purana notes and confirmed by Pamban Swamigal that there is a third shivalingam installed on the Rama Setu itself.

It is the responsibility of marine archaeology win of Archaeological Survey of India to find tis shivalingam and associated mandiram on the Setu.

Affidavits have also been filed showing that earlier generation pilgrims used to go this Setu Shivamandiram praying for children and fulfilling their sankalpa venerating their ancestors.

This together with Gangasagar are the places where during the month of Ashadha amavasya offerings are made to the pitru-s, ancestors by offering sankalpam and tarpanam. Every year about 5 lakh pilgrims go on ashadha amavasya day to Rama Setu. This living tradition cannot be wished away by hypocritical, twisted references by the learned counsel of the Union of India. This Setu is a matter of fait not only for Hindus but also for Christians, Buddhists and Muslims. A Muslim family has given an affidavit that they celebrate marriages in their families singing the glory of Sri Rama remembering that their ancestors came from Ayodhya.

A rejection of this tradition and faith is a clear violation of Section 295 of IPC, a note which was also underscored in the Madras High Court judgement.

Vinaas'akaale vipareeta buddhih.

Evil minds in times of destruction.

These are the swan songs of an atheist supported government and learned counsels who indulge in casuistry in a pathetic show of juristic gimmickry.

Shame on some counsels who cannot see their responsibility to sustain the identity of the nation, the integrity and security of the nation's coastline and act like pied-pipers to a governance governed by evil.

We are continuing to use dharmic means through the justice system with the full confidence that the courts will not be parties to illegalities-- illegalities of national laws, illegalities violating international covenants, illegalities dismissing the concerns of neighbouring states and illegalities violating the Law of the Sea and international laws and norms of behaviour. Protection of Rama Setu is not a one issue concern of Hindus' faith. Protection of Rama Setu is protection of nation's identity, integrity and unity. A court is expected to uphold dharma and these national imperatives, transcending narrow interpretations of jurisdictions and boundaries between state responsibilities and responsibilities of the justice system. If the fence eats away the field, who will protect the crop?

Madras HC judgement has clearly recognized that Rama Setu is an undeniable fact in tradition and faith. The faith concerns millions of Hindus who venerate Sri Rama under whose command the Setu was constructed to protect dharma and to win over a-dharma.

Veda Vyasa states this categorically.

ramas'yaajnaam puraskritya dhaaryate girisannibhaah

(Trans. It is Rama's command to protect this Setu, famed as Nala Setu...) Rama's command is divine order and is inviolate.

Denying Rama and Rama Setu is blasphemy and denial of the very rashtram, the nation.

Narimaan should do well to read the 8000 pages of evidence in 160 volumes made available during court deliberations instead of relying upon suppressio veri, suggestio falsi tactics, thinking that points can be scored on points of law. Sure, law is an ass but don't allow the case to hurt the sentiments of millions of believers just to benefit a few, however high and might.

It is a sad day when counsels forget their larger responsibilities to the nation. The call of duty cannot become a wrestling bout on technical points of law but grounded on national interest. The national interest does not lie in creating a white elephant with the prospect of incurring Rs. 1000 crore loss per annum in perpetuity just to benefit a few dredging contractors and mariners owning small ships. It is the responsibility of jurists to explore the real development opportunities to enssure abhyudayam of coastal people and not an unmaintainable mid-ocean channel passage -- a unique experiment, untested experiment in human history -- without answering the question: for whose benefit is the benefit contemplated?

Evidence is there.

It is for the justice system to render justice, with fairness, equity and compassion.

There is enough expertise in the country of archaeologists, geologists and oceanographers (as in National Institute of Oceanography, Geological Survey of India) who can be commissioned to objectively find scientifically viable solution to the project disaster including options such as Marine Economic Zone, rail-road-container-port coordination. If there is a political will, there is a way. If the political will is skewed and motivated, the citizens will have to reconsider the covenant they established when they gave themselves a Constitution, constraining the powers of the executive and the judiciary and setting up checks and balances to ensure that the development projects do not violate the rule of law.



Sethu project threatens Mannar bioreserve (Pioneer, July 23, 2008)

Swati Das | Chennai

For 148 years, the plan to build a channel cutting across the barrier reef called Adam's Bridge, now politicised with Tamil or religious sentiments, have been stalled for three reasons: Engineering, economic and environmental.

The dream has always been to reduce the distance and time, connecting the east coast to the west without having to go around the island country of Sri Lanka. Top priorities since the British rule were safety of the canal and the ships, ecology, engineering and people's convenience. The prime objective was to connect the Palk Bay in the north of the barrier reef to Gulf of Mannar (GoM) in the south.

Politics today has thrown practical and logical issues to the winds, resorting to evoking ethnic and religious sentiments that threaten to destroy the unique feature of two distinct water bodies that lie side by side, thanks to Adam's Bridge or Ram Sethu, as believed by some. Result: Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP).

"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Dredging of the channel will definitely affect the ecosystem of the National Marine Park. The silting will eventually form a layer over the coral reef and destroy the shoaling, physio-chemical conditions and biological parameters. The flora and fauna in the seabed would decrease and affect the life supporting system of the region. The ebb and flow of the waves will bring the sands to the clear water from the frequent dredging. Would the dredging be economical? We have to first think of the legal aspects, then livelihood and finally scientific," said P Nammalwar Rajan, former principal scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute and former Principal Investigator, Agriculture Authority, Government of India. He is now the project leader in the Department of Ocean Management, Institute for Ocean Management.

The Palk Bay in the north of Adam's Bridge is one of India's five permanent sediment sinks like the Sundarbans where the rivers drain into. There is a constant flow of silt into the Palk Bay and the Palk Straits. It has a shallow seabed and has its own natural reserve. The shallow nature of this area actually makes dredging difficult and expensive, as silting is continuous. The bay extends from north of Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram Island to Kodiakarai (Point Calimere) in Nagapattinam district.

The deep clear waters of GoM, south of Dhanushkodi to Kanyakumari, houses the rich coral reefs, where lies India's National Marine Park along the coast. This forms India's largest biosphere reserve called the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve stretching to 10,500 sqkm - a notified area. Of this, the National Park comprises 550 sq km. The coral reefs can survive only in clear water and some unique sea creatures here help in keeping the water clean. Endangering these sea animals is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, Amendment, 2002, that came into force under the then Union Environment and Forests Minister and now Union Shipping Minister TR Baalu, who is now bent on affecting the biosphere. These creatures include sea fans, sea cucumbers, sponges, some species of sharks, shells and turtles, sea cow, reef building corals etc that come under the Schedule I of the Act - the same that protect tigers.

"The Adam's Bridge is a natural barrier reef. It helps maintain distinct nature of the two water bodies. If this barrier is cut, the constant silting of the Palk Bay would flow into the Gulf of Mannar, making the clear water murky and endanger coral reefs. Though the Tamil Nadu Government is claiming that the current alignment is 20 km away from the National Park, sampling of the canal area shows the presence of coral reefs, sea cucumbers, sea fans and sponges. The SSCP records admit that these will be endangered. But that would attract punishment under the Wildlife Act. There is so much noise about killing tigers. Why not protect these endangered creatures too? Is it because these are not as charismatic as tigers?" asks Sudarshan Rodriguez, Senior Research Associate, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), which has been doing research in the area. In fact, ATREE has done a study on the adverse effect of dredging in the Palk Bay area.

However, there are also those who feel that the alignment currently chosen, being 20 km away from the National Park, would cause only minimal damage to the marine park. "Current alignment would cause minimal damage. Damage is imminent when you want development. It would connect east to west and save time and distance," said DB James, retired principal scientist of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Tuticorin.

Fifteen alignments were suggested in the last 148 years to run a channel. Initially, viability of the alignment was the key reason for shelving the proposals. Then huge costs involved became the major roadblock. Post-Independence, preservation of marine reserve was the key consideration.

There were nine proposals between 1860 and 1922 and six proposals between 1956 and now, listed by the Sethusamudram Corporation Limited. The alignments under consideration in the recent past are the last three. The current alignment is just three km inside the India-Sri Lanka Medial Line and 20 km away from Shingle Island - the closest point of the National Marine Park from the proposed canal. It cuts through two shallows - Adam's Bridge (3m depth) that separates Palk Bay and GoM and Palk Strait (6-8m). It uses the natural depth in GoM south of Adam's Bridge and other areas of Palk Bay. Those opposing the "damage" to Adam's Bridge or "Ram Sethu" want the implementation of the fourth alignment that would cut through Dhanushkodi and exit close to Shingle Island.

But the moot point is if the canal is really worth sacrificing the bio-reserve? The 300-metre wide channel cannot allow the big ships of today to pass through and certainly not the international ships, which was the original need of the State to improve trade.

"Unlike what the DMK is projecting, it is not true that all the fishermen are for the canal. Their livelihood would certainly be endangered. I was at the meetings between TR Baalu and fishermen. The environmental issues were discussed. But all that has been hushed up. I have also told the BJP about the dangers. It was during the NDA regime that sixth alignment was finalised. Even they have turned it into a political issue. A general impression has been created that it is a Tamil pride," said Rodriguez.

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