Ram Setu not integral to Hinduism, government tells apex court

October 14th, 2008 - 11:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) The Ram Setu bridge in the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka is not an “essential and integral part of Hindu religion”, the government has told the Supreme Court, reviving its contentious stance on the construction of a shipping channel in the area.In its written arguments submitted to the apex court Monday, the government reiterated its position nearly 10 weeks after accepting the apex court’s suggestion and appointing an expert panel to examine if a shorter sea route around India’s southern tip could be built along an alternative alignment, sparing any damage to the Rama Setu - considered holy by many Hindus.

“It has not been proved undoubtedly to be the belief of the Hindu community that Lord Ram did not himself break the bridge. Nor has it been established that whatever remains of the Ram Setu as a piece of worship is an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion,” the government said in its submission.

Reiterating its argument that the Ram Setu, also known as Adams Bridge, had been broken by Lord Ram himself while returning from Sri Lanka, the government said that “anything broken could not be worshipped” in the Hindu religion.

“A religious belief or practice which is not an essential and integral part of the religion is not protected by Article 25 or 26 of the constitution”, it said.

It added that the opponents of the project had not proved that the Ram Setu forms an “integral” and “essential” part of Hindu religion, deserving protection.

Following the government assurance on July 30 that it has appointed an expert committee to examine the apex court suggestion, the apex court had reserved its verdict on the lawsuits challenging the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project.

As per the apex court suggestion, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had set up a committee headed by The Energy Research Institute director general R.K. Pachauri to look into the suggestion of alternate alignment for the shipping channel.

The court had said it will consider the panel’s report before giving its verdict and had allowed the contesting parties to file written submissions if they wished.

There is no time frame for the expert panel to submit its report.

In September 2007, the government had filed a controversial affidavit in the court, questioning the existence of Lord Ram. It had, however, later withdrawn the affidavit following protests.

The central government also attacked Tamil nadu leader of Opposition J. Jayalalithaa of AIADMK for opposing the project on religious grounds, while pointing out that it was her government in the state that had given the environmental clearance to the plan in March 2005.

The affidavit also recalled that the AIADMK’s 2001 poll manifesto had promised construction of a shorter shipping route across the Ram Setu but she later changed her stance for political reasons.

“Now at this point to say that the Adams Bridge should not be cut is nothing but a politically motivated submission,” the government said.

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