Rama Setu: Centre’s affidavit, bucking State responsibility

Rama Setu: Centre’s affidavit, bucking the State’s Constitutional responsibility

Mirrored at: http://hinduthought.googlepages.com/baalucommittee1.doc

It is the submission of the Petitioners that matters of sentiment and tradition do not have to submitted to mundane frameworks of historicity. Mythology is essence of history – the very essence of peoples’ perceptions of their identity and world-view –and tradition is evidence. This identity and world-view constitute sentiments of millions of people worldwide in relation to Rama, Ramayana and Rama Setu which is a metaphor for the victory of good over eveil, victory of dharma over a-dharma.

In Paragraph 85 of the Respondent (Min. of Shipping) Affidavit, it is stated: “In Chapter 9, views expressed against and in favour of the project from the historical and cultural perspectives have been enumerated. It has noted that no archaeological studies have been undertaken in the Ramasethu/Adam’s Bridge area by Archaeological Survey of India. Following this comprehensive study, conducted on the basis of several previous studies carried out by individuals and institutions over the years, the Committee has come to certain conclusions, which are enumerated in Chapter 10. The Committee has now submitted its Report and it is placed before the Hon’ble Court for appropriate decision.”

Chapters 9 and 10 mentioned above are reproduced below.

It is extraordinary that the Respondent (Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways) who claims that the Counter affidavit is on behalf of the Respondents Union of India, fails to note that the Committee was NOT appointed by the Hon’ble Court but by the Union of India.

Since the Committee was engaged by the Union of India,it is the responsibility of the Union of India, in particular the Respondents Archaeological Survey of India and Ministry of Culture to either own up their own appointee’s that is, the Committee’s Report.

It is strange that the Union of India now disowns its own Committee’s observations. The Respondent’s affidavit notes in Paragraph 87: “Whereas the Committee of Eminent Persons has examined the available evidence and arrived at certain conclusions relating to the nature of the structure called Adam’s Bridge/Ram Setu, issues of faith, except those in which historicity of an event is subject to adjudication, cannot be resolved by taking recourse to science or scientific evidence.” This averment, absurd by itself, directly contracts the views of the Committee contained on Page 111 (Committee’s Report): “The Committee scrutinized the literary, epigraphic, numismatic, sculptural, cartographic and other lines of evidence cited by the petitioners and others in support of the historicity of Rama Sethu. Popular beliefs and traditions about the Ramayana and Rama Sethu have an antiquity covering at least 1500 years in the country. In Tamil Nadu these traditions/beliefs cover 400 to 500 years.”

Why should the Court be called upon to adjudicate or arbitrate between Union of India and a Committee appointed by the Union of India itself – an entity created by the Union of India. The Committee is not a Court-appointed Advocate’s Commission. It has been argued separately that the Committee composition, procedures and biases, atheist foundations and conflicts of interests of some members make the entire Committee deliberations illegal and unacceptable. The Committee’s Report also selectively culls out the submissions/objections and presents with a pre-conceived bias in support of the Project.

The bias and illegal procedures are evidenced by the fact that the Madras HC judgement of 11 pages delivered on 19 June 2007 have not been presented in the Committee’s Report despite the evidences summarized in that judgement. The Committee have also failed to live up to their Terms of Reference and have not submitted the entire sets of over 8000 pages of submissions made to them covering over 160 topics. Petitioners will retain the right to call for these submissions from the Union of India and to submit the available documentation to the Court in support of the principal contention of the Petitioners that the Project should not be complemented cutting through Rama Setu and that Rama Setu should be declared/deemed to be an Ancient Monument of National Importance.

The Committee’s observations bristles with contradictions as may be seen even from a preliminary reading. On Page 113, the Committee notes a submission regarding ancient human settlements dating to 18000 to 8000 years before present and at the same time states that this reported evide3nce has no relevance to events mentioned in the Ramayana. How could the Committee conclude so when they have not found it within their competence to the date the events mentioned in the Ramayana?

It is also shocking that in Paragraph 88 of the Respondent’s Affidavit that the following authoritative statement has been made: “The Union of India is of the belief that it should not be called upon to respond to issues of faith, except in recognizing their existence.” This averment raises a fundamental constitutional issue, impacting the basic feature of the Constitution, the meaning of the word ‘Secular’ used in the Preamble (as amended). The word is translated in the Official Hindi version as ‘pantha nirapekshataa’ that is, neutrality as to different paths of belief systems.

Rama Setu issue as submitted by the Petitioners is based on tradition and sentiments of millions of people world-wide. This is reality, as reality as the sacredness attached to Ganga or Himalayas (Amarnath or Kedarnath or Gangotri) or Mahakumbh held every 12 years. It is an emphatic reality of tradition that lakhs of pilgrims go to Rama Setu to make offerings to the ancestors (pitru tarpanam) on Ashadha Amavasya day, year after year and include this tirthasthaanam as part of the chaar dham (four sacred tirthasthaana) yatras.

It is incumbent upon the Union of India to respect the sentiments based on tradition wich is as emphatic as any evidence which can be produced in the justice system. A civil society cannot be allowed to behave like the Taliban who destroyed the Bamiyan Budedha calling it a mere stone.

Rama Setu is not a mere stone or body or cave of water. It inheres the very essence of the identity of the nation as evidenced by the Survey of India logo: aasetu himachalam (meaning: from Setu to Himalayas), defining this bridge effectively as the southern boundary indicator. It also signifies the unity of the nation recollecting as received socio-cultural memory of the travels of Sri Rama from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka to win over a-dharmic forces. As noted by former Supreme Court Justice Shri VR Krishna Iyer, to create a channel cutting through Rama Setu, will be an unpatriotic act impinging upon national sovereignty if the Historic waters of the IndiraGandhi-Sirimavo Bandaranaike declaration of 1974 is converted into an International Waters boundary by creating this channel exactly, just 3 kms. west of the medial line between India and Sri Lanka.

In Paragraph 10.2 of the Committee’s Report while citing the examples of Suez Canal in Egypt and Panama Canal in Panama, there is a surprising failure to note the fact that the proposed mid-ocean channel passage (as opposed to Suez and Panama which are land-based canals) is unprecended in the history of navigation anywhere in the world. No such mid-ocean channel passage has ever been created and bristles with problems of stability as noted by Sir A. Ramaswamy Mudaliar in their first post-indepence Report on navigation across Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait. They clearly noted that the idea of cutting a channel passage through Rama Setu/Adam’s Bridge should be ABANDONED. Despite Madras HC directive to answer this observation of Ramaswamy Mudaliar Committee, Union of India remains silent. What is left unstated in the submissions of the Respondent and the attached Committee Report is a tale of shocking misleading statements, indulging in suggestion falsi and suppression veri, thus negating the very foundations of justice.

It is for the Union of India to engage the necessary expertise to determine the nature of Rama Setu and the high-handed submission made by the Respondent should be rejected as unjust and untenable “IT is now for the Hon’ble Court to resolve the contentious issues raised by the Petitions in the context of the evidence available…” Court is not an appendage of the Union of India. It is not for the Hon’ble Court to resolve contentious issues which should be deliberated upon by the Union of India. The Hon’ble Court should take serious exception to such a high-handed plea made shirking the responsibility of the State, negating the very foundations of separation of powers, a basic feature of the Constitution.

The Hon’ble Court can only respond to request for judicial opinion if the request comes from Her Excellency the President of India in case any constitutional issue or issue of law is referred to the Court for such an opinion.

Given the tendentious nature of the Respondents in dealing with the issues raised by the Petitioners, a humble submission is made to the Hon’ble Court to declare an injunction absolutely staying all work on the entire project and direct the Respondents to re-examine alternative transport modes to achieve the same purpose served bya canal to transship and navigate goods from Tuticorin to Nagapattinam and beyond, if necessary using the existing Pamban Gap which operated with a cantilever Railway Bridge.

Pages 102 to 117 of Vol. I of Report of the Committee of Eminent Persons on Sethusamudram Project, November 2007:




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