Monday, September 17, 2007

India-Lanka Strait 07-09-14

Setusamudram Channel- Good Project, Bad Politics

Mirza A. Beg

September 14, 2007

Counter Currents. Org, Friday September 15, 2007

TwoCircles.Net, Saturday, September16, 2007

Daily News, Sri Lanka, Monday, September 18, 2007

Setusamudram, a shipping canal completely within Indian territorial waters in the Palk Strait, the sallow continental shelf between India and Sri Lanka is likely to become a new cause-celebre for the sectarian forces. The canal would shorten the shipping distance between the east and the west coast of India by about 500 miles. The project has been challenged by the rightwing Hindu groups and has landed in the Supreme Court for adjudication. They claim that it will destroy the mythical bridge constructed by Lord Rama (an Incarnation of Vishnu) with the help of the Monkey brigade under the Monkey god Hanuman in prehistoric times. This is a problem that should not have been, but for the crass political calculations of the BJP (A right wing Hindu Party) and the inept handling by the government of India. But that is the nature of electoral politics.

Though the medieval feudalistic systems are on their way out and are being replaced by the democratic, secular pluralistic systems, but the attitudes take a very long time to change. One of the problems endemic to all democratic secular pluralistic societies is how to navigate policies in the interest of progress and public interest through the shoals of religious and cultural beliefs rooted in perceived glorious pasts. Without exception, all who wear religion on their sleeves, read history not with the critical scientific attitude, but with reverence rooted in belief and its glorification. The evolution versus creationism contest falls in this category as well.

In the most pristine form these beliefs are spiritual, personal and beyond question, because by definition belief in supernatural stands above and beyond reason. Democracy has no problem with that, but inevitably for political supremacy they are almost always used to rile up the populace, which without realizing the motives falls for it.

Geologically speaking the Indian Subcontinent and the Island of Sri Lanka are a part of the Indian plate (Plate tectonics). The Palk Strait is a very shallow sea on the contiguous continental shelf that is the real geological boundary of the Indian Plate. India and Sri Lanka have been separated by the rise in the sea level, flooding the low land between India and Sri Lanka forming the Palk Strait. Just as many large tracts in coastal parts of India as well as all over the world would become large Islands, if all the glaciers melt raising the sea level further by about two to three hundred feet.

The mistake the UPA government has made is playing in the hands of the Hindutva forces in its briefs filed before the Supreme Court. The government had no business, commenting on the historical validity of the existence of Lord Rama. That was not germane to the court pleadings and is not the purview of a secular government. Secular government ought to steer clear of references to or questioning any religious belief unless absolutely necessary.

The argument should have been very narrowly focused based on the overwhelming evidence from the findings by the Geological Survey of India and the Archaeological Survey of India, two very old and prestigious scientific organizations.

Geologically it is normal for sand bars to form, connecting two islands or a string of islands in the high energy environment, where sands derived from nearby rivers or degrading coral reefs are deposited by breaking ocean waves. They are called Tombolos, derived from the Latin word tumulus.

Archaeologically no artifacts have been found by the Archaeological Survey of India, indicating human or in this case Monkey activity.

Unfortunately by unnecessarily questioning the historical veracity of Lord Rama the government and the politics is being battered on the shoals and Monkey business of religious exploitation by the feudalistic pseudo democratic parties.

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at or

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