No Relenting Of Storm Over Sea Lane Affidavits !

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New Delhi, Sep 13 (UNI) A government bid today to assuage sentiments hurt by its affidavit to the Supreme Court questioning Lord Ram's existence failed to pacify critics and opponents.

The bid was announced by Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj at a hurriedly called news conference as the government was assailed over an affidavit containing offending remarks on Lord Ram's existence.

The affidavit was filed yesterday in pursuance of a petition to protect Ramsethu, a ridge formed of sand, limestone and coral whose status may be affected by a sea lane to be built across the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka.

Epic Ramayana has it that the bridge was built by Lord Ram's army to cross over to Lanka.

An affidavit filed by the Archaeological Survey of India in the apex court yesterday questioned Lord Ram's existence, sparking a furore.

Bhardwaj told journalists that the government would file a supplementary affidavit in the Supreme Court tomorrow making clear that it by no means questions the existence of Lord Ram who is part of Hindu faith and ethos.

''We respect all faiths and deities,'' Bhardwaj said, adding that these are matters of faith and there cannot be litigation on such matters.

Bhardwaj said he had called on Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani last evening and clarified that there was no question of the government questioning the existence of Lord Ram and ''there should be no controversy'' about it.

''We certainly do not question it. It's a matter of faith and not subject to litigation,'' Bhardwaj said, citing concern voiced by United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Bhardwaj said he will be talking to Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam who had filed the affidavit. Until late in the evening there was no official word.

But Bhardwaj's announcement did not appear to pacify critics and opponents who demanded that the government withdraw the original affidavit filed by the ASI.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders held an emergency meeting today and demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Gandhi apologise for having hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus globally by questioning the very existence of Lord Rama.

Advani said Bhardwaj had spoken of filing a supplementary affidavit but that would not suffice.

''The government must immediately withdraw the affidavit filed before the apex court yesterday. An inquiry panel should be set up to fix ministerial responsibility for the blunder.'' In Bhopal, Bharatiya Janashakti Founder-President and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti announced that a police complaint would be lodged on September 22 at Delhi against the Centre's affidavit.

''The BJ will submit the complaint, against the Centre, under Section 329(a) of the Indian Penal Code for inciting public passion,'' she told reporters.

She said Prime Minister Singh, who laid the foundation for the Sethusamudram Project, UPA Chairperson Gandhi and Union Ministers and officials named in the affidavit would be made respondents.

The sea lane project is intended to shorten the journey of ships coming to the peninsula by 785 km or some 30 hours of sailing.


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