Thanks to Rebecca for letting me contribute to Skepchick!
One of the Skepchick readers sent in this article about the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. In 2005, the Indian government launched a project to create a canal in the sea that separates India from Sri Lanka. The canal will create a navigable sea route close to the coast and reduce travel for freighters by more than 350 nautical miles. It could transform the area and provide major shipping industry to several coastal cities.
Cool, no? Technology leading to progress and economic growth once again. Indian innovation at its finest. It seems too good to be true.
Which it is. Read the article’s headline.
And the subtitle:
The Indian government has withdrawn a controversial report submitted in court earlier this week which questioned the existence of the Hindu god Ram.
See, the proposed canal will go through a chain of limestone shoals between the islands of Mannar, near northwestern Sri Lanka, and Rameswaram, off the southeastern coast of India. Most geologists agree that this is the remainder of a land bridge that connected India and Sri Lanka at one point. Hindus, on the other hand, believe that Lord Rama got his army of monkey warriors to build the bridge to rescue his love, Sita, from the evil demon king Ravana. The Hindu nationalists are therefore protesting the canal project on the basis that it will… wait for it… destroy an ancient protected monument. The issue is being debated by the Supreme Court.
Read those three concepts together: Monkey warriors. Demon king. Supreme Court.
Ignore the supreme court part for a second. Let’s say it was built by monkey warriors. Wasn’t Sita already rescued? Isn’t it prudent to destroy the land bridge before Ravana comes back across it looking for vengeance? It’s underwater anyway right now. You know how monkeys hate to get their fur all wet and matted. I don’t think evil demon kings like it any better.
ANYWHO… The Archaeological Survey of India tried to help by submitting an affidavit saying there was no historical evidence to prove the existence of Lord Rama or the events depicted in the Ramayana. It said that Adam’s Bridge “is merely a sand and coral formation which cannot be said to be of historical, archaeological or artistic interest of importance.” The area could therefore not be declared a protected monument.
At that point, the howler turds really hit the fan. Big ol’ bag of Rhesus pieces, if you know what I mean. Leaders of Hindu nationalist organizations and the Bharatiya Janata Party (one of India’s major political parties) went nuts.
“This is sheer blasphemy,” said senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotr. “It’s an insult to the Hindu faith.”
“The government has set in motion the process of questioning religious beliefs. We will launch a nationwide movement if it does not withdraw immediately this blasphemous submission questioning the very existence of Lord Rama,” said BJP chief Rajnath Singh. “The government has made an assault on Hindu sentiments, which cannot be tolerated at any cost.”
That’s right – a nationwide movement! Last week, Hindu demonstrators blocked roads across the country in major cities and along major highways and disrupted train service in several areas. And in ‘negotiating with the terrorists’ style, the Indian government backed down, withdrew the report and asked for three months to think about it all. The court said they would take up the case again in January.
India prides itself on being a secular society. This is a blow to that pride. And the fact that the government is backing down, supporting religious myth over scientific fact, shows how powerful the religious community is in India. This issue has grown over the past few days to the point where it may actually lead to an early election in India. Science versus religion. What an issue to polarize an electorate.
At least I live in the U.S. now, where we’re immune to that sort of backwards, 10th-century thinking…