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Science goes missing from Ram Sethu debate
By Kancha Ilaiah, The Asian Age, November 16, 2007

Scientific thinking has low prestige in India. Nothing has instanced this more significantly than the recent controversy over the Ram Sethu.

The contentious issues raised by the BJP in connection with the affidavit submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India to the Supreme Court, and the party's dispute with Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi are
portentous signs as far as the scientific temper is concerned.

It is natural for a court to seek scientific opinion when it gets an affidavit related to an ancient structure. And with regard to such structures in India, the ASI is the right organisation to conduct a study and give its opinion.

However, since the construction in question involved the name of Ram, the Supreme Court should have either dismissed the petition right at the beginning, handing over the responsibility to the executive, or it should
have examined the ASI affidavit carefully.

Of course, the BJP raised hell over the issue. Is it the BJP's stand that no construction related to religion or no personality associated with religion should be subjected to scientific scrutiny?

The fundamental question is whether Ram was a messiah as Jesus was termed by his followers, or he was God Himself. If Ram was God, then all structures are part of his creation. So why should one structure be singled out for controversy? On the other hand, if he was a prophet, or a saint, like Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, then his actions are subject to verification and scrutiny by historians and scientists.

If he is said to have constructed something, archaeologists have every right to examine it. If he was a king, then historians need to study his reign and his actions. If the BJP is not ready to tolerate such discourse on religious
figures, then that will spell doom for other kinds of scientific discourse and innovation in the country. As a major political party, the BJP should clarify its position on science.

Neither the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom nor the Republican Party of the United States will dare to say that the life of Jesus cannot be critically examined by social scientists, natural scientists and
archaeologists. Though they are ideologically right-wing, they will never think of opposing scientific investigation. This is one of the reasons why science makes great progress in the Christian world.

In the Islamic world, however, mullahs take an anti-science stand on every issue related to religion. In India too, the BJP is trying to create a similar situation.

In fact, Dr Subramanian Swamy, who has a PhD in economics, put his discipline to shame by filing a writ before the Supreme Court saying that Ram Sethu was a matter of faith. And now the BJP and its sister
organisations are trying to make political capital out of the Ram Sethu issue. It is the scientific temper that will become the first casualty of their misguided campaign.

Does the BJP think that Indians will stop believing in Ram if the Supreme Court allows the Sethusamudram project to be completed?

Millions of atheists around the world have attacked the very concept of God and the followers of each religion have questioned the divinity of the leaders of other religions. None of this has prevented people from believing
in their own traditional religions.

A political party cannot have religion as its basis. If the BJP consistently works on religion-based agendas it will fail to be a modern, democratic political party.

In the minds of the people, the BJP has turned Ram into a figure who creates conflicts, and the Indian masses will not appreciate this in the long run. They will also realise, sooner or later, that the leaders who chant the name of Ram are mostly corrupt. They do not really bother about the problems that people face.

Courts should also think twice before admitting cases relating to mythology and ancient history. The judiciary should solve the problems of the nation and should not add to its problems.