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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let's leave Ram Sethu Alone

Let’s leave Ram Sethu alone
Mike Ghouse, September 27, 007

On the faith side, Ram Sethu is a bridge built by Hanuman and his friends; this was the bridge that Rama crossed over to go to Sri Lanka.
It is not only an Indian heritage; it is a world heritage site. We may need to explore this and learn about the science and art of bridge making during the times of Rama. How did they fill the dirt in the ocean, what materials did they use? Will it bring an understanding of Ramayana?
Scientists on the other hand claim that the bridge is a natural formation of sand dunes when two oceans collide, they may need to find a parallel to prove it or determine if it is a unique phenomenon?
Why was Lanka, a far away land mentioned in the Ramayana? Did they travel from Ayodhya to Lanka? Who were the occupants of the stretch of the land that is at least 1000 miles in between? We may learn a lot more history by being open to exploration.

We will see continuous debates on the issue, mostly politically motivated. The Sangh Parivar has lost its sails and wants to make a political capital out of it, where as the industry captains want to capitalize on the canal as well, and CM Karunanidhi is not far behind to strengthen his party’s hold on Tamil Nadu.

The ships have been going around Sri Lanka for over 5 centuries, cutting the route short may not bring much of an economic gain, whether there is a gain or not matters less as the cost is absorbed in the current cost structure.

However, cutting through the bridge will hurt the sentiments of the believers, and mind you, the belief did not spring out of thin air, it has been around for centuries and it must be honored. After all, what is life without faith? The faith that gives hope, helps one understand the death and mysteries of nature, we are yet to comprehend. The faith that gives a sense of relief knowing that every one’s actions will be accounted for in this life or in a presumed life hereafter. Hope that there will be justice, the justice that is the basic human craving.

Let’s leave Ram Sethu alone, and put our energies on things that will produce without hurting any one.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "Good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is www.MikeGhouse.net and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his Blogs: http://MikeGhouseforAmerica.Blogspot.com and http://MikeGhouse.Sulekha.com Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com - For a full bio: http://www.mikeghouse.net/ProfileMikeGhouse.asp

I am merely collecting the following articles and sharing with you to understand the gamut of the issue.

1. Ram Sethu row
2. Faith upon the earth
3. A humorous version – just laugh it off.

Ram Sethu row

Amulya Ganguli [IANS, 23 September 2007]

The Bharatiya Janata Party must have realised by now that the Ram Sethu controversy will not be a rerun of the Ram temple issue of a decade-and-a- half ago which propelled the party from the margins of Indian politics to centre-stage.

The reason is that there is no anti-Muslim angle in the Sethu dispute. As such, it will not be possible for the party to exploit communal sentiments, as it did in the 1990s, to build up political support.

In contrast, the BJP must have noted with dismay that there is a distinct possibility of the Sethu affair leading to Hindu vs Hindu clashes, as has already been evident in the attack on the Bangalore house of the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, following the latter's anti-Ram comments.

Any such development, reminiscent of caste conflicts, will be hugely damaging to all the parties involved. In the present instance, it is the BJP and the DMK, which have squared off for a fight over what many people will consider an esoteric issue.

It is perhaps to avoid such clashes — which claimed two lives when a bus from Tamil Nadu was set on fire probably by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists near Bangalore — that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has intervened. The suggestion of this paterfamilias of the saffron brotherhood is to set up a panel — the Ramesswaram Ram Sethu Raksha Manch — to conduct a movement to 'save' the Sethu, thereby denying the BJP the leadership role.

The move is in tune with the earlier exhortations by the VHP to the BJP not to politicise the dispute. In making this appeal, the VHP may have had in mind the fate of the 'politicised' temple agitation, which has faded out.

The decision of the RSS will partly check the BJP's attempts to make political capital out of the issue — something which will not please L.K. Advani, the party's senior leader, who was said to have been contemplating embarking on yet another rath yatra (chariot ride), recalling such a journey he made in 1990 to launch the Ram temple agitation.

While the success of that movement made the BJP eager to seize on the Ram Sethu dispute, its enthusiasm is not shared this time by some of its allies. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), for instance, which is in power in Bihar along with the BJP, has dismissed the subject as a non- issue, declaring that other matters, such as poverty and unemployment, were more important.

This indifference of even the BJP's partners is probably due to the perception that the repeated use of religious symbols to boost political prospects can breed cynicism even among their traditional supporters about their motives.

As is known, the BJP's Ayodhya agitation was based on the propagation of the belief that the Mughal emperor, Babur, had built the Babri masjid at the site where Lord Ram was born. Similarly, the Ram Sethu issue is based on the conviction that this 'natural formation' comprising coral reefs and sand banks, which is also known as the Adam's bridge in the Palk Strait, is the mythical bridge built by Ram's simian militia when the Hindu deity went to Sri Lanka to rescue
his abducted wife, Sita, from the demon king, Ravan.

However, as the DMK's response has shown, there is also a north-south divide on the subject, precluding the possibility of the Hindutva camp building up a national movement. If sections in the south are lukewarm about the issue, if not positively hostile, the reason is the tradition of anti-brahmin and anti-north Indian stance, which the Dravidian parties have adopted to consolidate their mainly backward and lower caste support base.

The DMK and some of its allies also like to project the Ram-Ravan war as a reflection of the Aryan vs Dravidian conflict following the 'arrival' of the Aryans in North India around 1500 BC.

Although Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK is currently supportive of the BJP, this attitude is typical of both the DMK and the AIADMK, which are always in opposing camps, whatever the issue. Even then, Jayalalithaa will be aware that she is going against the grain of atheistic Dravidian politics, which can undermine her political position.

Again, it is evidently to highlight his difference from the AIADMK that the Tamil Nadu chief minister has been unusually aggressive in his refusal to accept Ram as a historical figure.

It is a stance that will be endorsed by a wide section of historians. For instance, in her book Early India , well-known historian Romila Thapar says that "the conflict between Ram and Ravan probably reflects an exaggerated version of local conflicts, occurring between expanding kingdoms of the Ganges plain and the less sedentary societies of the Vindhyan region ... the transference of events to a more southerly location may have been the work of editors (of the
Ramayana) of a later period, reflecting an expanded geography, as was possibly also the case in the depiction of Lanka itself as a city of immense wealth".

The Manmohan Singh government and the Congress have been caught between the 'rationality' of the DMK and the Hindutva brigade's emotive politics. They can neither be too critical of the DMK, which is a constituent of the ruling coalition at the centre, nor reject its contention for fear of offending Hindu sentiments.

The Congress also has to guard against such sentiments since its president, Sonia Gandhi, is an Italian by birth. This issue is also being cynically exploited by the BJP, as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's comment that the people have to choose between Ram and Rome shows.

On the other hand, the Congress is also aware that the community of scientists and historians will be outraged if the party endorses the saffron brotherhood' s assertion that the 1.7 million-year- old 'bridge' is man-made — or monkey-made.

Religion and ecology

Faith upon the earth
From The Economist print edition
Daniel Heaf

In many parts of the world, religious groups and environmental scientists are teaming up—albeit sometimes reluctantly

“THERE was a functioning bridge until 1470 AD,” says Praveen Togadia, a Hindu fundamentalist, smoothing out his dhoti. “Due to natural calamities, it was disturbed, and parts went into the sea.” To modern, secular eyes, at least, the “bridge” is a 30-mile (48km) chain of sandy shoals across the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka. But millions of Hindus see the shoals as physical proof of their beliefs. The Ramayana, a Hindu text, says a bridge was built by monkeys at the behest of a Hindu god, Ram—who duly crossed over to wrest his wife Sita from a Sri Lankan demon. The shoals are known in India as “Ram Setu”, or “Ram's Bridge”.

Now take a deep breath and consider the conflict over a plan by India's Congress-led government to dredge the strait for a shipping canal. While Hindus loathe the project on spiritual grounds, ecologists have different objections. At the junction of the deep, cold Indian Ocean and the shallow, temperate Arabian Sea, the strait is an ecological prize. So far, 377 endemic species have been found in nearby waters.

On this issue at least, the devoutly religious and the greens are on the same side. But the former, it seems, have more clout than the latter. On September 12th the government told the Supreme Court that the Ramayana was not proof of the existence of Lord Ram; and that science suggested the shoals were made by sedimentation, not monkeys. On the same day, the World Hindu Council, headed by Dr Togadia, staged protests across the country. On September 14th the government, at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, the (Catholic) leader of Congress, put the canal plan on hold: a setback for a government which wanted to save ships from a 24-hour loop round Sri Lanka. With elections due next year, Congress feared giving its Hindu foes in the Bharatiya Janata Party a new slogan.

India's greens have little love for their accidental allies. “I'm not protesting against this project for religious reasons but for environmental ones,” says Kushal Pal Singh Yadav, of the Centre for Science and the Environment, a Delhi think-tank.

In many other parts of the world, secular greens and religious people find themselves on the same side of public debates: sometimes hesitantly, sometimes tactically, and sometimes fired by a sense that they have deep things in common.

One more case from India: ornithologists who want to save three species of vulture (endangered because cattle carcasses are tainted by chemicals) see their best ally as the Parsees, who on religious grounds use vultures to dispose of human corpses. In China, organised religion is much weaker and conservationists also feel more lonely. But Pan Yue, the best-known advocate of green concerns within the Chinese government, says ancient creeds, like Taoism, offer the best hope of making people treat the earth more kindly.

Other tie-ups between faith and ecology are less obvious. In Sweden, the national Lutheran Church, working with Japanese Shintos, recently held a multi-faith meeting on forestry. They agreed to set a new standard for the care of forests owned or managed by religious bodies—in other words, they said, 5% of the world's woods.

This month, representatives of many faiths, including a local Lutheran bishop and a shivering Buddhist monk (see above) gathered in Greenland to talk to scientists and ecologists. Patriarch Bartholomew, the senior bishop of the Orthodox Church, led his impressively robed guests in a silent supplication for the planet.

The terms of the transaction between faith and ecology vary a lot. In places like Scandinavia, where religion is weakish, a cleric who “goes green” may reach a wider audience; in countries like India, where faith is powerful, spiritual messages touch more hearts than secular ones do. That doesn't stop some environmental scientists from saying they are being hijacked by clerics in search of relevance. But Mary Evelyn Tucker, of America's Yale University, says secular greens badly need their spiritual allies: “Religions provide a cultural integrity, a spiritual depth and moral force which secular approaches lack.” Martin Palmer, of the British-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation, says faiths often have the clearest view of the social and economic aspects of an environmental problem. In Newfoundland, he notes, conservationists put curbs on cod fishing—and left the churches to care for families whose living was ruined.

Still, one selling point often used by the religious in their dialogue with science—the fact that faith encourages people to think long-term—may be a mixed blessing. The most pessimistic scientists say mankind has a decade at most to curb greenhouse gases and fend off disastrous global warming; that doesn't leave much time to settle the finer points of metaphysics.

TN bus torched in Bangalore , 2 killed

Note: The Cheif Minister of Tamil Nadu said Lord Rama was mythological figure, and some of the extremist Hindus in Bangalore torched the bus heading to Tamil Nadu state. Such is the intolerance -burning two people.

TN bus torched in Bangalore , 2 killed
September 19, 2007

Two people were charred to death after a Tamil Nadus SETC (State Enterprise Transport Corporation) bus was torched near Bommahalli on Hosur Road on Tuesday night.

The incident occurred at around 9.30 pm, when the TN registered bus, with 26 passengers on board, bound to Chennai from Majestic (Kempegowda Bus Station) was stopped at Bommanahalli junction near the Oxford Dental College by four miscreants and torched.
Occurring within a span of two hours after the attack on the residence of the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi, the incident sent shockwaves in the Bommanahalli area.

Madiwala police said eyewitness accounts mentioned that the miscreants halted the bus that left Majestic at 8.30 pm, made the commuters get down, poured petrol and torched it. Two passengers, who were sleeping in the bus were charred to death.

The driver of the bus Abdul Majeed and conductor Devadas immediately alerted the SETC office and the Madiwala police.

The bodies of the passengers were shifted to Victoria Hospital mortuary. Police added that their identity could not be established as they were charred beyond recognition. Traffic movement came to a stand-still on Hosur Road as the burning bus had blocked the road, resulting in a massive traffic jam that led to chaos.

Madiwala police said the identity of the miscreants was not known and its relation to the attack on the residence of Karunanidihi’s daughter could not be confirmed. Investigations are on to trace the culprits and the organisation to which they belonged to.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports also said more than 20 miscreants were involved in the incident. Some eyewitnesses said a short-circuit could have caused the fire.

Sangh Parivar poured petrol and torched a train boggie in Gujarath to ignite communal tension, which caused the death of eight thousand.


Bangalore , DHNS: Miscreants pelted stones and glass bottles at the residence of the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at J P Nagar 9th Block near the Ragigudda Temple Main Road on Tuesday evening.

The incident occurred at 8:30 pm at the residence of Selvi and husband Murasoli Selvam. However, there were no inmates except the watchman and a maid servant.

The attack comes in the wake of the controversial statements made by the chief minister questioning whether Lord Ram was a civil engineer to construct the Ramar Sethu. Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Alok Kumar who visited the area said the identity of the miscreants was not known. “Two to three window panes were broken. The watchman was injured. We have posted two constables at the house after the incident,” he said. The watchman, an eye-witness to the incident, said about 15 to 20 people aged between 20-25 years came and shouted anti-Karunanidhi slogans and handed over a letter/leaflet threatening that the Tamil Nadu chief minister would face dire consequences and that Union Minister T R Baalu should tender his resignation and be arrested

A BRIDGE TOO FAR – Humorous Version.

The Lord surveyed the Ram Setu and said "Hanuman, how diligently and strenuously you and your vanara sena had built this bridge several centuries back. It is remarkable that it has withstood the ravages of the climatic and geographical changes over centuries. It is indeed an amazing feat especially considering the fact that a bridge at Hyderabad built by Gammon using latest technology collapsed the other day even before they could stick the posters on its pillars."

Hanuman with all humility spoke "Jai Sri Ram, it is all because of your grace. We just scribbled your name on the bricks and threw them in thesea and they held. No steel from TISCO or cement from Ambuja or ACC was ever used. But Lord, why rake up the old issue now."

Ram spoke "Well, Hanuman some people down there want to demolish the bridge and construct a canal. The contract involves lot of money and lot of money will be made. They will make money on demolition and make more money on construction. "

Hanuman humbly bowed down and said "Why not we go down and present our case ? "

Ram said "Times have changed since we were down there. They will ask us to submit age proof and we don't have either a birth certificate or school leaving certificate. We traveled mainly on foot and some times in bullock carts and so we don't have a driving license either. As far as the address proof is concerned the fact that I was born at Ayodhya is itself under litigation for over half a century, If I go in a traditional attire with bow and arrow, the ordinary folks may recognize me but Arjun Singh may take me to be some tribal and, at the most, offer a seat at IIT under the reserved category. Also, a God cannot walk in dressed in a three-piece suit and announce his arrival. It would make even the devotees suspicious. So it is dilemma so to say."

"I can vouch for you by saying that I personally built the bridge."

"My dear, Anjani putra, it will not work. They will ask you to produce the lay-out plan, the project details, including financial outlay and how the project cost was met and the completion certificate. Nothing is accepted without documentary evidence in India. You may cough but unless a doctor certifies it, you have no cough. A pensioner may present himself personally but the authorities do not take it as proof. He has to produce a life-certificate to prove that he is alive. It is that complicated."

"Lord can't understand these historians. Over the years you have given darshan once every hundred years to saints like Surdas, Tulsidas, Saint Thyagaraja, Jayadeva, Bhadrachala Ramdas and even Sant Tukaram and still they disbelieve your existence and say Ramayana is a myth. The only option, I see, is to re-enact Ramayana on earth and set the government records straight once for all."

Lord smiled "It isn't that easy today. Ravan is apprehensive that he may look like a saint in front of Karunanidhi. I also spoke to his mama Mareecha, who appeared as a golden deer to tempt Sita maiyya when I was in the forest and he said that he won't take a chance of stepping on earth as long as Salman Khan is around."

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