Mumbai: Saying the Adam’s Bridge could have been built by the “ancients”, the Supreme Court intervened on behalf of the lobby that wants to protect the coral bridge in Tamil Nadu from destruction.
Although it declined to issue a stay order on ongoing work in the Sethusamudram Canal Project, the Supreme Court asked the government to respond to all questions about the bridge’s cultural significance within a month’s time.
In the courtroom on Friday, the two-judge bench comprising of chief justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran said questions raised by a research team at the National Institute of Ocean Technology need answering. The research document, which former president Abdul Kalam had forwarded to the court, says that the coral stones found on the bridge did not occur naturally and had been deliberately placed there. The underwater walkway bridge - made of a special floating coral rock - between Dhanushkodi, in Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka is being dredged as part of the Rs2,462 crore Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. When completed, the government claims the project may shave one day off transport (by ship) between Kolkata and Mumbai ports.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition have drawn battle lines in a dispute over Hindu history since the launch of the project to dredge the bridge in July 2005. According to believers, the bridge in Rameshwaram may just be the one that Ram built and Hindu activists have been lobbying to preserve it.
Attorney K.K. Venugopal, appeared before the court on behalf of those trying to save the bridge. “The research teams at National Institute of Ocean Technology have concluded that in ancient times, when water levels were much lower, it was possible for the ancients to construct this kind of a causeway,” he said.
Proclaiming the court’s instructions as a first step to victory, the VHP declared its intent to continue the andolan (protest). Venkatesh Abdeo, the Joint Secretary of VHP said, “We are not going to call off our protests against the destruction of this most ancient relic of Hindus until all work stops completely.”
The project’s official website claims it has already completed one-fifth of the project work. However, the government claims that the dredging operations conducted so far have not been close to the bridge itself. Observers say that if the government cannot respond to the court’s directive satisfactorily, then the National Monument Act can be applied to protect the Ram Sethu. That would essentially declare the bridge a national treasure and prevent any further demolition. Shipping minister T. R. Ballu, shipping secretary A.K. Mahapatra, and joint secretary Rakesh Shrivastava did not return or answer repeated calls from Mint for comment.