Wednesday October 3 2007 07:51 IST
NOT everything seems to be going well- in fact everything seems to be going wrong - for the rationalist protagonists of Rama Sethu - Sethusamudram project. How is it that the canal project, which was doing so well last month, is now struggling for survival?
Those who are familiar with the case narrate this story: When all was going well for the protagonists of the canal project, with the Supreme Court about to dismiss the writ petition against the project, the Central Government filed that infamous affidavit on September 12, 2007, in which it had denied that Rama of Ramayana ever existed. It triggered a tsunami of public anger that compelled the government to withdraw the affidavit and to put on the withdrawal memo the government's respect for the religious sentiments of the Hindus particularly in this case. Moving further to ease the popular anger the Central Government also gave an undertaking to the Court that it would consider realigning of the canal so as not to disturb the Rama Sethu. This virtually put a brake on all further work on the project.
But Dr Karunanidhi's lectures on Rama and Ramayana that commenced on September 15 at Erode and continued in Chennai on September 18 and 19 ensured that anger aroused by the affidavit did not die down. He questioned the existence of Rama and the truth of Ramayana; trivialised Rama by asking where did that Rama learn his engineering to build the Rama Sethu; characterised the revered deity of millions of Hindus as a drunkard. This was the last straw. If there was one reason that turned the project so controversial perhaps to the extent that it will be impossible to proceed with, it was the anxiety of the secular protagonists of the Sethusamudram project to set up the saviours of Rama Sethu against the Court as they had successfully done in the case of the Ayodhya issue earlier by setting the Ram Temple movement against the judiciary.
The September 12 affidavit was motivated to this end. Had the state forced the Court to consider the affidavit and rule that Rama was a myth, the Court, not the state, would be the target of those who revered Rama. This was the diabolical intent of the authors of the affidavit. What they failed to understand was that in Ayodhya, the fault lines were clear: Ram temple versus Babri Masjid, Hindus versus Muslims and pseudo-secularism versus secularism. Such clear faultlines were absent in the Sethusamudram project.
Actually those who wanted the Rama Sethu saved were struggling to get their views across to those who believed in Rama till the secular government stepped in to help them by filing the affidavit and Dr Karunanidhi supplemented that by his campaign against Rama himself. The DMK leader perhaps rightly staked his entire political reputation to push the project. But, he could well have done this without positioning himself as if he were a Ravana of today against the Rama of yesteryears. It was his tactless targeting of Rama himself that has landed the project in distress as in Poseidon adventure.
If the affidavit was the first goof-up, and Karunanidhi's tirade against Rama and Ramayana was the second debacle, the UPA effort to mobilise the people through the bandh effort on October 1, turned out to be the third, and the worst fiasco. All have helped sink the controversial project even deeper in the trisea waters.
The latest DMK-led UPA action to urge the Centre to expedite the Sethusamudram canal project proudly started off as a bandh, turned into a strike after the Madras High Court order on Saturday and slipped into just a fast on the Supreme Court banning any stoppage of work and finally ended with the Chief Minister and his colleagues, who had asked millions not to go to work and prevented many more from attending work, being forced by an angry Supreme Court to suspend their fast and rush to work at Fort St George.
What an anti-climax and perverse outcome for the protagonists of the Sethu project! The entire Tamil Nadu government, industry, business, shops, schools, hospitals and trade was prevented from working, but the Chief Minister and his colleagues who had prevented them from working were forced to work! “Court sends DMK to work - Nervous Karunanidhi Breaks Fast”. This was the front-page lead news on the fast observed by the UPA and DMK leaders in a leading daily with a large circulation in Delhi.
Not particularly known for distance from the ruling UPA regime and the Congress Party, the daily went on to report thus: “This dawn-to-dusk hunger strike did not even make it to noon. Chief Minister M Karunanidhi ended his fast and went back to work as soon as the word came of the Supreme Court saying President's rule should be imposed on Tamil Nadu.” This is precisely what the ndtv.com and Rediff.com and chennaionline.com had all reported. Many other newspapers had reported that the Chief Minister inaugurated the fast and went to the secretariat.
But they did not say why did that person who had asked the entire state to duck work, go to the secretariat and work. It however does not need a seer to say why did the fast - which started obviously after breakfast and ended before lunch - ended so abruptly. The CM and his colleagues were terrified by the threat held out by the Supreme Court that Constitutional machinery had broken down in the state and that the Court would not mind asking the Central Government to dismiss the DMK government and impose Central rule. It did not take much time for the judges of the highest court to see through the game of those who were doing Gandhigiri in the name of the fast, to enforce, in effect, a bandh on the poor people of the state. This was precisely what the Court had specifically banned in its order on Sunday.
Thus the UPA fast, which had started off in a festive mood, sank into a funeral atmosphere by noon after the Supreme Court began to speak. With the judiciary declaring the bandh – cum- strike- cum- fast as illegal, the entire effort to expedite the Sethu canal has now turned into an issue between the judiciary and the protagonists of the Sethu canal (read the UPA government in the state and at the Centre). It must be said that Dr Karunanidhi behaved exemplarily, saying that he respected the judiciary and actually obeyed the court and went to work. But not his minions. T R Baalu, a Central minister, launched a tirade against the judiciary more than against those who dissented against the project, even saying the judiciary was corrupt! Reacting to the judicial threat to order the dismissal of the DMK government, Arcot Veerasamy, a minister in the state, expressed his faith that so long as two women, Sonia Gandhi and Pratibha Patil, held their positions, no one could dismiss the DMK government! So, even as those who want the Ramasethu protected repose faith in Rama and Court, the rationalist DMK seems to repose faith in Sonia (read Rome?) and Patil. The left groups have also attacked the judiciary. Result, the Rama Sethu- Sethusamudram which was an issue between those who wanted to protect the Rama Sethu and those who wanted the Sethu canal to cut through it, is now turning into an issue between the protagonists of the project and the judiciary.
QED: the saviours of the Ramasethu movement, who are believers, would turn stronger in their belief that the goof-ups of the protagonists of the canal project are the doings of Rama himself. But how would they - protagonists of the canal, who are non-believers -explain everything suddenly going wrong with the project that was doing so well just a fortnight ago?
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS