Double Standards: While Kerala Communist Government Rushed To Implement Sabarimala Judgement, It Consults Church Factions Over Court Ruling

by M R Subramani - Sep 22, 2020 03:37 PM +05:30 IST
Double Standards: While Kerala Communist Government Rushed To Implement Sabarimala Judgement, It Consults Church Factions Over Court RulingKerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 
  • It is clear that the Vijayan government has different set of rules for different communities.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan yesterday (21 September) held talks with two Christian factions — Jacobite and Orthodox — to settle a long-standing dispute over 1,000 churches between them.

The talks, termed intermediary, were held to find an amicable settlement to the dispute between the two factions of the Malankara church.

The state government’s move to hold talks exposes its double standards as it is not implementing a Supreme Court ruling, ordering handing over Jacobite churches to the Orthodox faction.

This is in contrast to what it did in 2018. Then, the Kerala government went all out to implement the Supreme Court ruling to allow women aged between 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple. Until then, they were barred.

The Vijayan government went to the extent of using force to implement the rules when protests broke out in various parts of the state, particularly at Sabarimala.

The ruling has now been kept in abeyance with the apex court taking up a review petition against its ruling allowing women of reproductive age to visit the revered temple.

Also, a local Kottayam court last week ordered the handing over of the St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Cathedral at Manarcad in the district to the Orthodox faction.

During the talks with the Chief Minister, the Jacobite faction sought a referendum on the issue of who should control which church, while the Orthodox faction insisted that the Supreme Court verdict be implemented.

In 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered that the Kerala government take over the Jacobite churches and hand them over to the Orthodox faction. In particular, it ordered the takeover of the St Mary’s Church at Piravom in Ernakulam district.

The dispute between the factions cropped up due to a split. The Malankara Church split in 1912 into the Jacobite and Orthodox groups. They reunified in 1959 but the unification lasted only until 1973.

Since then, both the factions have been at loggerheads over the churches and properties of the Malankara Church. Besides dispute over 1,000 churches, a few of them have remained closed for years now and some are in dilapidated condition.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2017 came after the Orthodox Church petitioned it, demanding that all churches under the Malankara Church be governed as per the Church Constitution of 1934.

The validity of the 1934 constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to govern the parishes under the church had already been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Orthodox Church has been following this constitution all along.

The Kerala government has not made any serious attempt to implement the Supreme Court ruling and the apex court pulled up the state’s chief secretary in 2018 for this.

When the Orthodox faction moved a contempt of court petition in the Kerala High Court as it was being denied access to the Mulanthuruthy Church, built in 1200 AD, the Vijayan government citied the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic as an excuse.

A large bench of the court rejected the state’s contention on 12 August and ordered that the Mulanthuruthy Church be taken over by it immediately.

Even as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist is dragging its feet in implementing the Supreme Court order, the Orthodox faction is insisting the judgement be implemented in toto.

The faction is upset over rumours that the LDF government is toying with the idea of promulgating an ordinance if the talks don’t yield any result.

The Jacobites, on the other hand, are insisting that the will of the majority of the devotees should be taken into account. They are also backing the reported ordinance.

For now, it is clear that the Vijayan’s government has different set of rules for different communities.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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