PTI | May 22, 2008 | 15:05 IST
With a view to strengthening its movement against the Rs 2,400 crore Sethusamudram Shipping Canal, involving dredging of the Ram Sethu (Adam’s Bridge), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad will organise a two-day national meeting of ‘sadhus’ to press the Centre to announce Ram Sethu as a national heritage of historical importance.
VHP international president Ashok Singhal told reporters in Chennai on Thursday that the meeting, to be held on June 15 and 16 at Haridwar, would also decide on a ‘massive agitation’ involving 50,000 people, in support of the Ram Sethu movement.
“The belief over Ram Sethu is centuries-old and has followers not only in India, but all across South East Asia, including Cambodia and Indonesia, among others. Followers of Lord Ram in these countries revere him as a historical figure,” he said.
“The meeting will equivocally demand that the Centre announce Ram Sethu as a national monument,” he said while welcoming a recent Supreme Court directive to the Centre on undertaking an archaelogical survey of the monument.
The Ram Sethu has been a bone of contention between the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, which wants the project at any cost, and those opposed to the dredging of it as they claim that the bridge was built by Lord Ram to cross over to Sri Lanka.
The issue had even led to the Tamil Nadu chief minister making some critical remarks about Lord Ram, wondering if he was a qualified engineer to have constructed a bridge.
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard had also expressed their reservations over the project.�
While Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had said that the project was ‘viable’ only for small ships, the Coast Guard Director General Vice Admiral R F Contractor said there was a possibility of the channel being used by militant groups.
Recalling the Aracheological Survey of India affidavit in the Supreme Court doubting the existence of Lord Ram, Singhal claimed that this had resulted in even the Congress getting divided over the project.
Claiming the implementation of the project as a “great risk for India’s security,” he expressed apprehension that it could also destroy India’s thorium deposits in the region.
The project envisages linking the Palk Bay in India and the Gulf of Mannar in Sri Lanka by creating a shipping channel through the shallow seas.
To a query on the current internal security of the nation, Singhal said that the entire country was “in the grip of terrorism.”
Responding to a query on the recent mandate handed over to the Maoists in Nepal by the people, Singhal said, “It will be another dictatorship, since the Maoists don’t believe in democracy.”
This was the situation in China too, he said.
“The Maoists believe in bullets, not ballots,” he added.