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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party have found a new rallying point in their campaign against the Sethusamudram project, claiming that some NASA satellite images have shown the remains of a man-made bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka.
Holding an 'American conspiracy' responsible for the Sethusamudram project, which he said breached the mythological Ram Sethu (Adam's Bridge in modern times), RSS chief K S Sudarshan asked the prime minister to halt the ongoing shipping canal project.
"This project is being opposed by all Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The two ships sent for dredging returned with their blades broken," Sudarshan wrote in the latest issue RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya.
The issue also prominently carries interviews by the BJP national president Rajnath Singh and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, demanding scrapping of the project.
The project envisages linking Palk Strait and Gulf Mennar by making a shipping canal through Rameshwaram Island, allowing ships to save 16 hours voyage of 400 nautical miles circling Sri Lanka and Rs 21 crore worth fuel per year.
NASA in its space missions has documented the existence of a bridge on two occasions. The latest one was through Shuttle Radar Topography Mission aboard space shuttle Endeavour launched in February 2000.
"Sri Lanka is shaped like a giant teardrop falling from the southern tip of the vast Indian subcontinent. It is separated from India by the 50 km-wide Palk Strait, although there is a series of stepping-stone coral islets known as Adam's Bridge that almost forms a land bridge between the two countries," say the NASA records.
The other one was way back in 1966, from the images taken from an altitude of 410 miles encompassing all of India, an area of 1250 000 square miles.
"Bombay is on the west coast, directly left of the spacecraft's can-shaped antenna. New Delhi is just below the horizon near the upper left. Adam's Bridge between India and Ceylon, at the right, is clearly visible," George M Low, the then deputy director, Manned Spacecraft Centre, NASA, noted.
Coupled with the RSS campaign is an online petition signed by more than two thousand people till now, which will be submitted to the President and the Supreme Court of India.
Acknowledging the huge benefits arising out of making a shipping canal, the petitioner argue the canal can still be built, without breaching Ram Sethu.
Citing specialists, the petitioners contend that a sea route may be prepared for navigation, without damaging the Ram Sethu, by removing the barren sand heaps near village Mandapam between Rameshwaram and Dhanushkoti railway.
"This will not only give a shorter route but also protect the oldest man-made heritage," it says.
The have requested the President to order 'the reconsideration of the project, keeping in view the historical and religious importance of Ram Sethu, the sentiments of the people and the alternative method suggested for a shorter sea route."
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