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Wednesday, 19 September 2007


Sethusamudram is the bridge joining India to Sri Lanka. Wikipedia says: “ It encompasses the Gulf of Mannar, the Palk Strait, and a shoal of islands and bays that separate them called Adam's Bridge (or Rama Bridge).”

It’s called ‘Ram’s bridge’ or Ram Setu because of it’s association with the Hindu Epic Ramayana, which is the story of the prince Ram of Ayodhya. The tale tells of how Ram is actually an incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, and encompasses his birth, tutelage under the Sage Vishwamitra, battles with demons, his marriage to the princess Sita, banishment from his kingdom, an idyllic romance with Sita, her capture by the Lord Ravan of Lanka (now Sri Lanka), and Ram’s war on Ravan to rescue his beautiful wife.

The bridge comes into the story because Ram needs a way to get to Lanka, and since there’s a sea separating the isle from the main continent, Ram prays to the sea to allow him and his troops a way to get there . The Sea God tells Ram to built a bridge or a setu to Sri Lanka. He says that as long as every bit of building matter like rock or whatever else they used had Ram’s name on it, it would stay afloat in the water. Ram finally walked across this setu to Lanka and rescued Sita after a long war which concluded in a confrontation between Ram and Ravan.

Now I’m not particularly religious, and I don’t think very highly of Ram for what he did to Sita once they reached Ayodhya, but I’ve been in love with the epic ever since my grand mother 1st read it out to me when I was a very small child, and I actually believe this story to be true. That being as it is, I don’t take very kindly to being told that Ram didn’t exist by members of the ruling coalition government recently.

This happened because of the Sethusamudram Canal Project they want to undertake, so that the Indian Navy doesn't have to circumnavigate around Sri Lanka in order to patrol our coasts...

When the opposition protested, they had the guts to file an affidavit in the apex court saying "There's no proof that Ram ever existed!"

Well, since then 2 middle level ASI employees have been fired, and calls have been coming for minister Ambika Soni's resignation, but what I want to ask is this: had it been a phenomenon associated with any other community, would these high and mighty politicians have the nerve to suggest such a thing?

To me, it's not sacrilegious, but I do find it insulting to be told by some beyond- cure dishonest politicians that someone not just I, but also a long line of ancestors has been looking up to as God does not, and did never, exist- because really, these people would know all about devotion and Godliness, wouldn't they?

And, then there's the environmental aspect... the Ram Setu is at a strategic point in our planet. Environmentalists have been screaming themselves hoarse over the fact that the place supports a fragile eco system which will be forever destroyed if the dredging goes through, but I guess the government is not interested...

Now, though, they may be forced into looking up both these issues, and since they're already red in the face, both my objections may actually get some attention from the concerned authorities.


  1. Excellent article. However, I believe that the Sethusamudram project should be halted for economic reasons. Refer to Indrajit Hazra's article in Hindustan Times "Sethusamudram project: Good politics, bad economics", though it's not even making for good politics. I think we should objectively consider the project's pros and cons before getting religious sentiments entangled in it. And since the project is not economically beneficial and may be environmentally hazardous, I think that's reason enough not to try and build a canal there.

  2. Hi,
    I read this post and the one titles 'it is our color'. they are both interesting to read.

    This is the continuation of our discussion about Sri Lankans hating india which started in sam's blog.

    You have already explained in your comments in my blog that you have seen quite a lot of blogs by Sri Lankans where they say crazy stuff about India. So this is what has led you to believe Sri Lankans hate India.

    As a Sri Lankan I would like to share with you what I know about this. I know my comments in sam's blog may have been a bit confusing because I was trying to make a very long story short.

    Although sam probably knows the background you would need some more details on this. So here goes.

    I know quite a lot of Sri Lankans do have this little problem with India. They are mainly Sinhalese. Now don't get me wrong. Not all Sinhalese hate India. But from my experience almost all 'India haters' in Sri lanka happen to be Sinhalese.And I think I know why. Again it is a very long story but I will try to keep it short.

    Sri Lanka has this ethnic problem between Sinhalese and Tamils.Since independence Tamils were routinely attacked during riots and the Sri Lankan governments ignored it or sometimes actively encouraged it(eg in 1983, the Sri Lankan government provided buses to transport thugs to kill Tamil civilians and provided them with
    electoral lists so they can see the addresses of all the Tamil people who lived in Sinhala areas. Policemen just stood and watched as thugs went about killing Tamils and raping Tamil girls and burning their houses. This went on for three days and
    only after Indira Gandhi issued a strong warning to the Sri Lankan government they stopped it) These riots and a few other problems(Like discrimination against Tamils in university entrance exams, not recognizing Tamil as an official language (the "Sinhala only" act)
    and revocation of citizenship of millions of Tamils of Indian origin) resulted in Tamil armed groups (including LTTE) that demanded a separate state for Tamils.

    Tamils in India sympathized with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. And helped and supported the Tamil armed groups. Every time Tamils were attacked a large number of Tamil people went to India as refugees. When the then leader Indira Gandhi tried to ask the Sri Lankan government to do something about it she always received a rude reply from the Sri Lankan leaders like "Mind your own business, we now how to rule our country" So I think she probably decided that helping the Tamil armed groups and making them strong enough to scare the Sri Lankan government was the only way to improve the situation.

    The Indian government supported these groups during those days by giving them training.

    But later one of these groups,the LTTE ended up fighting the Indian peace keeping forces in Sri ankan due to disagreements over the Indo - Lanka accord initiated by
    Rajiv Gandhi. When Rajiv himself was killed in Tamil Nadu, Most Tamils in India felt they were betrayed and let down by the LTTE they realized supporting the LTTE was a mistake.

    I think most Sinhalese hate India because India helped the Tamil groups. But what they don't realize is it is Sri Lankan leaders who created the problem in the first place. And India only played a minor role in helping these armed groups.

    JVP, (formally a Sinhalese armed group and now a powerful political party) is
    known to be very anti Indian. During the time when the Indian Peace keeping force was in Sri Lanka, (JVP was still an armed group then) their anti Indian madness hit a new high. They 'banned' all products from India. Owners of any shop or business that sold products made in India received death threats. And even medical products made in India was 'banned' by them. As a result Sri Lankans had to buy medical
    products imported from other countries at a very high cost!

    You would think the people would have been annoyed. Some were. But actually the JVP enjoyed(and still enjoys) a lot of support from young Sinhalese (school children and university students). Actually support for JVP from young people increased so much during their anti India campaign in the late eighties and early nineties that the government of Sri Lanka decided to close down all the schools and universities in the country fearing that they have essentially become JVP meeting points.

    I hope this gives you an idea about the roots and the history about the strong anti Indian feelings in Sri Lanka.

    But hating India is a hard thing to do even if they try. Indian movies (especially Hindi movies) are very popular among the Sinhalese and Hindi film stars and Indian sport stars are extremely popular among the them. (Some of my Sinhalese friends have actually gained an incredible knowledge of the Hindi language simply by watching movies!) They know their religion, language and they themselves came from India a longtime ago. So hating India is a bit like hating themselves! And most Sinhalese know this I think.

    Tamils on the other hand have a slightly different relationship with India. They have a strong connection with India through Tamil Nadu. So it is very hard for them to hate India. We too came from India just like the Sinhalese but we have a stronger connection because our language (Tamil) and religion(Hinduism) are still alive in India.

    Former US president Thomas Jefferson once said "Every man has two countries: his own and France."

    Because of the strong connection with Tamil Nadu I think "Every Tamil man has two countries: his own and India." And as a Tamil it is true in my case too! :)