Windfall for BJP (SEPTEMBER 18, 2007)

Of late the Ram Sethu (Adam’s Bridge) between India and Sri Lanka has come into sharp focus of our political life once again. BJP and other Sangh outfits have clung to this "issue" like the proverbial sinking man clutching at a straw.

To them it has the untapped promise of Babri Masjid "issue", which they have already milked dry. Over the last couple of years they have tried hard to change that natural formation called Ram Sethu-Adam’s bridge into a political turf where they can convincingly defeat their rivals as in Ayodhya.

To this end they have used all means, fair and foul. The means they have resorted to include hiring a fraud "scientist" of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This scientist, whom the Sangh used as its expert on Ram Sethu, claimed that he was also a joint secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Both ISRO and PMO denied any connection with the fraud scientist, who immediately vanished into thin air after the ISRO and PMO revelations.

BJP claimed that scientists at the National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA) had declared Ram Sethu to be "man-made", which vindicated their position. When NASA came to know of this claim it categorically denied having called this natural formation a man-made structure. It was merely a tombolo, a natural bar of sand, it said.

Now they are at it again. This time round they have got a government affidavit as a windfall. The affidavit said something to the effect that as there was no historical Ram, there was no question of his having built the Ram Sethu with his army of monkeys. The Sangh took it as an affront to Hindu religion. We also believe that the affidavit could have been so worded that it did not hurt religious sentiments.

Muslims have by and large shown a consensus over the issue: that offending religious sentiments of Indians must be avoided at all costs. Even leaders from Kashmir Valley, who generally don’t see eye to eye with Indian Muslims, have expressed disapproval of the tone and tenor of the affidavit. Three important leaders of the Hurriyat Conference have said unambiguously that the government should never have said the things it did in the affidavit.

Contrary to the Muslim goodwill the Sangh has started an exercise in irrelevance. Its supporters are trying to raise a spurious question: If Ram was not a historical figure, was Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) also a mythical figure like him? This question is beside the point in more ways than one. Firstly, the Ram Sethu controversy is about Shri Ram, not the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). Secondly, it is not the Muslims who have raised this controversy, but Hindus and Hindus alone. It is not the Muslims who are going to benefit from the controversy, but the anti-Muslim BJP. Hence, dragging in Muslims is an exercise in irrelevance.

Some Ram Sethu enthusiasts have gone to the extent of claiming publicly that the government affidavit was filed to appease Muslims. How come? Ram Sethu is not Babri Masjid in which Muslims have a stake. They are neither for nor against Ram Sethu. So, how have they been appeased? The Sangh is known for making such outrageous claims, and nothing can be done about it.

However, at least one claim of the Sangh on Shri Ram has been punctured by the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabankhak Committee (SGPC), the religious body of Sikhs. When a Sangh outfit claimed (in the Ram Sethu connection) that the founder of Sikhism, Sri Guru Nanakji, revered Shri Ram, it was quickly snubbed by the SGPC. The SGPC said Shri Guru Nanakji was a monotheist and making such allegations about him was blashphemy. That should encourage the Sangh to refrain from referring to extraneous points in the Ram Sethu campaign.



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