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Saturday, January 05, 2008

“Ram Sethu fully qualifies to be declared and protected as ancient national monument”: J. Jayalalithaa

Expressing her support to the Ram Sethu Raksha Manch, the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa sent the following message to the VHP president Shri Ashok Singhal. We reproduce the full text:

International conventions have consolidated the solidarity of nations in preserving historical/archaeological sites and India, being a party to these conventions, is obliged to preserve heritage sites like the Ram Sethu.

Dear Shri Ashok Singhalji

Right from the day the Ram Sethu bridge demolition issue came into focus, I have been issuing statements pointing out how the destruction of the bridge would be a grave threat to the environment, the flora and fauna of the region, apart from posing a very real danger of extinction to the marine life in the area, thereby seriously affecting the livelihood prospects of the fishing community for whom marine life is the only source of income. The historic and legendary association of the bridge with Lord Ram is deeply enshrined not only in the minds and hearts of the people of India but indeed in the minds and hearts of Hindus living all over the world.

Quite apart from the religious significance and historical importance of the Ram Sethu, and leaving aside the argument as to the origin of the bridge, whether it is man-made or a natural formation, it is an undeniable truth that the bridge is one of the wonders of the world and should be preserved for its value as a World Heritage Site. No government has the right to destroy this bridge, which is why my government refused to accord environmental clearance for the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project despite enormous pressure from the central government.

When the union government recently constituted a committee to examine the project afresh before submitting a report to the apex court, I felt it was my duty to bring to the notice of the people the following facts:

This committee can hardly be described as a committee of experts as is being claimed by the union government. At least three of the members are historians and they can only vouch for the historical validity of the Ram legend. One represents NEERI (National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute) which, being an interested party, is bound to have biased views. One member, R.S. Sharma, is a witness in the Ramjanmabhoomi case. Shri S. Ramachandran, the chairman of the committee, has already expressed his views publicly supporting the Sethusamudram Project. He cannot be expected to take a different or unbiased view now. All these facts hardly inspire any public confidence about the neutrality of the members of the committee. More ominous is the fact that there are no social scientists to discuss the problems of the coastal people, particularly fishermen. To discuss navigational issues, there are no maritime or naval experts. There are no defence personnel to discuss security concerns, especially when the Sethusamudram Ship Canal becomes an international seaway. There are no oceanographers to discuss ocean currents and their effects especially as it comes within a tsunami-hit area. There are no economist to discuss economy-related issues especially when the Sethusamudram Project is being touted as one that will economically uplift Tamil Nadu. These conspicuous and glaring omissions raise serious doubts about the credibility of the committee and the possible veracity of its report.

While setting out the above facts, I made a demand that the committee be disbanded.

In this context I had also pointed out that the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project as conceived would be of little use to the nation, as it would have a centrifugal effect on the economy, navigational tonnage of ships, the environment and the sentiments of the widest sections of our people.

I had also filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India to protect the Ram Sethu, a structure of immeasurable historical, archaeological and heritage value from being destroyed, in the garb of carrying out an infrastructure project, on the following irrefutable facts.

Ram Sethu would fully qualify to be declared and protected as an ancient national monument, because it falls within each one of the parameters laid down in the definition of “ancient monument” in the 1958 Act.

The Rama Sethu, which in geographical terms is described in various survey maps and historical texts as “Adam’s Bridge”, by reason of its antiquity and unique features qualifies to be treated as a World Heritage Site.

In a recent satellite image. NASA of the USA has spotted the ancient bridge and confirmed the physical existence of the bridge, which is a crucial structure of a bygone era, dating back millions of years and is estimated to be over 17,50,000 years old.

The bridge is of immeasurable sentimental value to millions of people in India and Hindus living all over the world and hence the structure is worthy of protection purely from a historical and archaeological standpoint.

The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project proposes to dredge the shallow ocean floor near the Dhanuskodi end of Rama’s Bridge, to create enough leeway for ships to pass through the channel and will cut through the bridge, thus damaging it.

International conventions have consolidated the solidarity of nations in preserving historical/archaeological sites and India, being a party to these conventions, is obliged to preserve heritage sites like the Ram Sethu.

Even during the tsunami devastation the Ram Sethu bridge acted as a natural barrier, preventing direct devastation, thus establishing its utility in the ecological/geographical preservation of the area also.

I wish the rally to be held on 30.12.2007 in New Delhi by the Ram Sethu Raksha Manch all success as it reflects the strong sentiments of the vast majority of the people of our country.

With kind regards
Yours sincerely
J. Jayalalithaa

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