Saturday, September 15, 2007

News from all over.

Hindu nationalists have forced the Indian government to put on hold plans to dredge the Palk Strait be-tween Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, saying the project would obliterate the submerged vestiges of an ancient bridge built by the Hindu god Ram and his army of monkeys. . . .

The Ram Setu (Ram's Bridge), a chain of shoals between the two countries, is one of Hinduism's holiest sites. The Ramayana, a holy epic, describes how Lord Ram commanded his monkeys to build a bridge to Sri Lanka thousands of years ago so he could rescue his kidnapped wife, Sita. Hindu groups say the limestone shoals between Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu and Mannar in Sri Lanka are the remains of that construction.

... [T]he government had argued that mythological texts could not "incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters or the occurrence of the events depicted therein"and said researchers had found the "bridge" was nothing more than the product of centuries of sedimentation.

L.K. Advani, a Bharatiya Janata party leader, said the government had "poured contempt on the religious sentiments of tens of millions of Hindus". Narendra Modi, the BJP chief minister of Gujarat, who faces elections this year, said: "We will not allow the dredging of Ram Setu for as long as there exists a drop of blood in us."

Thousands of Hindus protested in several Indian states on Wednesday. Pravin Togadia of the World Hindu Council accused the government of "appeasing Muslims by hurting Hindu sentiments". He warned that "even the strongest drills" would break when applied to Ram Setu's foundations.

The project, called the Sethusamudram Ship Canal, would have carved a navigable sea route around India and lop a day off the journey time for cargo ships that need to loop round the southern tip of Sri Lanka.

Financial Times.

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