The Supreme Court of India struck down a rule banning the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the temple of Sabarimala in Kerala.
This verdict, however, received mixed responses from the people.
Some people including women strongly criticised this verdict. They exclaimed that their religious sentiments would be hurt as this was breaking an age-old custom. They justified their stand, by citing that the deity at the temple, Lord Ayyappa is a celibate God and hence the entry of women has to be restricted and pledge to do it at any cost.
The other side, however, argued that it was primarily a patriarchal misogynistic custom which tends to consider menstruating women as ‘impure’.
The government of Kerala stood with the latter side and most of the opposition parties after a dubiety decided to stay with the former. Not anticipated, the issue spiralled into a bigger political debacle. Both views polarised as State Government vs the opposition. The principal opposition was from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to front called itself the guardian of the ‘believers’.
Many women who tried to enter the Sabarimala were injured on the course and none could complete their pilgrimage due to the violent measures by some of the so-called ‘believers’. Irony at its peak! Even a few women aged above 50 years, and women journalists (who were on Sabarimala duty) also suffered mistaking them as young women devotees.
Abruptly this became a matter of prestige for either of the parties. Some women misused this opportunity as tried to enter in as a mere style statement or to become an icon and not out of devotion. Hence disrespecting the deity and the customs. This infuriated the ‘believers’ further.
The state government took further stringent measures beating up many, arresting many people ruthlessly unfortunately including many innocent ones.
The opposition wanted the government to sent a review to the verdict and protested heavily. A request that the government strongly declined. The review was later filed by many other organisations (interestingly not by BJP, arguing that a political party’s petition has less value in eyes of law). A furtive speech of the state BJP president later leaked and he was seen saying to see this as a golden opportunity for their party to rise up. The intention of the party is doubted and comes under the scanner.
The Supreme Court gives a date in the 3rd week of January to hear the review petition but refuses to give a stay to the verdict. But the pandemonium still just clings on.
The issue may have two views. They may have their valid justifications.
But the things that I find the most saddening are:-
- Sabarimala is gradually turning into a vote source. A mere tool to gain votes. Just as the Ram Mandir in the north of India. (As elections come closer, we hear the issue of Ram Mandir louder! Soon after, none cares.) We want elections to be held by promising development and welfare schemes but not any Ram Mandir!
- Other issues of much importance are forgotten or sidelined by this single pointless issue. Kerala faced a Cyclone Ockhi and its largest flood in a century which killed more than 400 people in a gap of few months. With hardly 5 months passes, since the horrors of the tragic floods, the improvements made have slowed down. The compensations have not been completely distributed. The reconstruction and renovation programs have not yet been fully completed. Much of the work is yet to be complete. Such issues of real importance are being ignored. This certainly requires more time to complete. The vigour to get things better which was prevalent until a few months back has disappeared. Less light is showered on progress made. Not much is known on what is being done, where and how. The media and opposition turn a blind eye to that. TRP ratings and votes are of more value to them.
- Sand mining in Alappad has caused massive soil erosion along the coastal stretch. Much of the land would be submerged under the sea, if no proper action is taken. 89 sq km land has already been reduced to a 8 sq km over the years.
- The tourism sector which used to be a big income provider for the state, has not climbed up much after the floods.
- The Welfare policies for immigrant laborers in Kerala goes haywire. They still struggle a lot.
The government is now staging a statewide women wall, to express solidarity with women and fight against patriarchy by spending money out of the cash crunch account of the state. Simply, just another prestige show.
I don’t really understand, where things are getting at. I was much more optimistic about my state during the floods even while the water level rose above two-floor height, than I am now.