Sri Lanka India sea canal row escalates

Standing left to right – Mr. Dinesh Jebamani (Chief Manager Liability Product Management and New Age Media – Seylan Bank), Mr.Sudesh Peiris (Senior Manager – Digital Banking Channels – Seylan Bank), Ms. S.Senevirathne (Representative of the Revenue Department – Western Province), Mr. Tilan Wijeyesekera (Deputy General Manager – Retail Banking – Seylan Bank) and Mr. Malik Wickremanayaka (Deputy General Manager – Operations – Seylan Bank)

CHENNAI, India, Sept 21, 2007 (AFP) – A state leader in India has dismissed a deity worshipped by millions as a “big lie”, deepening a highly sensitive row over plans to dredge a shipping lane through an area sacred to Hindus. The chief minister of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state said the government was justified in making a half-billion dollar canal that would allow ships to save more than 30 hours by skirting around the southern tip of India.

The comments have already sparked protests and two deaths in the south of the country, police said.

The shipping project involves dredging a lane through Adam’s bridge, a chain of islands between India and Sri Lanka. At the moment, ships moving between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal also need to travel around Sri Lanka.

The Hindu epic Ramayana says the geographic feature was built by an army of monkeys to allow the god Ram to cross the narrow strip of sea and rescue his kidnapped wife from a demon.

“Ram is as big a lie as the Himalayas and the Ganga (river) are true,” Tamil Nadu’s chief minister, K. Karunanidhi, told reporters on Thursday.

He was repeating comments earlier this week which led right-wing Hindus in the neighbouring state of Karnataka to a