Ram Setu a matter of faith, needs to be protected: Lalu

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New Delhi, Sept 21 (UNI) Striking a sharp note of disagreement with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today said the Ram Setu ''is a matter of faith'' and should be protected while carrying out the Setusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP).

''The Ram Setu finds a mention in our ancient scriptures. If its existence is proved, it should be protected and not disturbed,'' Mr Prasad told reporters on the sidelines of a railway function.

The minister also asserted that beliefs of everyone, whether a faithful or an atheist, should be respected.

''In our scriptures, there is a reference to the battle betwen Lord Ram and Lanka King Ravan and that the Lord built a bridge to reach Lanka to rescue his wife Sita,'' he said.

Mr Prasad, whose Rashtriya Janata Dal is an important constituent of the ruling UPA at the Centre, was forthright in his observation that the Ram Setu, which has triggered a political storm, should be protected. ''It should not be harmed,'' he said.

Asked for his reaction over Mr Karunanidhi's controversial comments on Lord Ram and the Ram Setu, he said he was not aware in what context the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister made his observations.

''Everyone is entitled to his opinion. Even saint-poet Kabir had questioned idol worship, so the criticisms should be taken in that spirit,'' he added.

About his own belief in the existence of gods, Mr Prasad said, ''I had a darshan of Lord Shiva in my dream, and afterward I stopped taking non-vegetarian food.'' With regard to the disproportionate income tax case in the Ranchi High Court filed against him and his wife Rabri Devi by the Bihar government, Mr Prasad said it involves the jurisdiction of the CBI and the state government.

Asserting that the court had not made any adverse observation against him, he said it had merely stated that hearing would be conducted on the maintainability of the petition.

''If the court proceeds with the matter, I will contest it there, not on TV channels,'' a visibly annoyed minister said while replying to a query from a TV channel reporter.

UNI

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