Kanaka and Bindu are just women misled by media and Left propagandists into mistaken heroism.
They have been used as pawns in the larger game of humiliating Hindus and their traditions.
Over the last few days, the media has declared 'victory' and announced that history has been 'created' by two women in the 10-50 age group who were smuggled into Sabarimala Temple in the wee hours using state power aimed at mocking the faith of millions of Swami Ayyappa devotees, who have respected tradition. Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga have been declared heroes ('sheroes' to the hardcore feminist) in the cause of gender equality and religious freedom.
C**pping in the courtyard of Swami Ayyappa is victory for nothing beyond state sanction of open defecation in the area of faith. Spitting in the faces of thousands of devotees, especially women, who have lovingly respected the entry restrictions for decades, if not centuries, is boorish behaviour, not a strike for gender equality.
The media has also conducted spurious debates over issues of 'purity' and the 'untouchability' of women during menstruation, when these are actually side-issues. The real issue is the scandalising of faith by the unfaithful.
If you think Bindu and Kanaka are heroes, consider the following analogies and think again.
How would you feel if someone were to hold a feast in front of fasting Muslims during Ramzan in the name of the “right to eat”? How right would it be to celebrate the prodigal son while ignoring the feelings of the son who never went astray? It’s like indulging in sex acts in a church in the name of “free love” just to spite those who believe in virgin birth.
A fourth analogy – from a non-faith field – would be the mocking of farmers, who never defaulted on loans by announcing an immoral loan waiver. Thus, the farmer who tightened his own belt to repay banks, is now made to look like a fool, when he is the hero. The real heroes of Sabarimala are the millions of women, who watched in dismay as their traditions were trampled on with spiked shoes, and then saw the issue degenerate into a political fight between the Left and Right. Even if the Right is right, it has to fight for the devotees, and not just for its political interests.
In this writer’s view, Kanaka and Bindu are just women misled by media and Left propagandists into mistaken heroism. They have been used as pawns in the larger game of humiliating Hindus and their traditions.
If you don’t think so, consider the case of Prerna Kumari, one of those who first filed a petition against the Sabarimala tradition as part of the Indian Young Lawyers Association, thinking she was fighting for gender justice.
In an interview to Bar and Bench, she now admits she made a mistake. She says: “When I filed (a) petition in this matter, I was not fully aware of the facts of this case. Further, I am not from Kerala. Justice Indu Malhotra (the dissenting judge in the Sabarimala bench) has also said that no petitioner is from Kerala, and hence petitioners cannot give a real picture of the case. I think she is right because after I filed the case I received a letter from a woman devotee. The devotee told me that there are many Lord Ayyappa temples in Kerala where women are allowed to enter and can worship. Further, there are woman priests also in Kerala. Importantly, she told (sic) that women in Kerala are themselves not interested in entering the temple so why was I taking the initiative for them? I then did some study and felt that I might have unintentionally hurt the sentiments of the devotees there. I realised that I was wrong. I came to know about many facts at a later stage.”
The same thing happened when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) organised a Women’s Wall against the backdrop of the Sabarimala controversy. One of the women convenors of the wall, Preethi Natesan, spouse of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam president Vellapally Natesan, who read the pledge during the CPI(M)-sponsored Vanitha Mathil (Women’s Wall), is now shocked that she was used for collateral purposes.
The Times of India quotes her as saying, “I am disturbed that women were escorted by police and taken to Sabarimala, a day after Women’s Wall. This is no renaissance.” She says she read the pledge because there was nothing objectionable in it. But “if there was mention of Sabarimala or women’s entry, I would have walked out. If we were told that this Wall is for women’s entry, none of us would have gone.”
Clearly, the CPI(M) leadership misused the wall event to pretend it had the support of ordinary Hindus while attempting to breach the rules of Sabarimala, all in the name of a flawed Supreme Court judgement.
The media, which seems to think it is the knight in shining armour rescuing damsels from Sabarimala distress, has been holding vacuous debates that seek to scandalise the issue. It has flagged the 10-50 years entry ban as resulting from Hindu notions about menstruation and impurity, and likening it to the untouchability practised against Dalits by the upper castes.
Even assuming some conservative Hindus have such false notions on menstruation, the reality lies in the nature of the deity worshipped at Sabarimala, where the local custom, possibly originating in a tribal past, is to treat Swami Ayyappa as a Naisthika Brahmachari, a celibate. Hence the ban on women in the reproductive age.
Nonsensical counters have been offered to this aspect on the ban by super-sophisticated intellectuals. One, they have wondered why Swami Ayyappa cannot restrain himself if there are women around; and two, the ban is imposed by ordinary humans, and the lord did not come down to announce the ban.
This is nothing but a deliberate attempt to denigrate a long-held sacred tradition. Jesus did not emerge from Mary’s womb to announce she was a virgin, nor did Allah appear in person to announce Mohammed as his prophet – at least in ways that rationalists will accept as a law genuinely handed down from up high. All sacred traditions and beliefs are thus essentially human in origin, and it is for this reason they are held sacred.
Humans worship what others hold worship-worthy. The Indian Constitution is also a human document, and that is why we are asked to worship it. It is no more infallible than any law applied to deities or places of worship. No one breaching the Constitution is held up as a model for freedom, but we think Bindu and Kanaka are such models for breaching the laws of Swami Ayyappa as enunciated by his first devotees.
The other nonsensical argument is to compare Sabarimala to triple talaq. Sabarimala is about a tradition that hurts no one, including the women who are kept out, since they can worship elsewhere to their heart’s content. The triple talaq ban, is, on the other hand, about combatting genuine injustice suffered by women at the hands of some inconsiderate husbands. This is a false equivalence.
The Supreme Court, having allowed Bindu and Kanaka to enter Sabarimala and refusing to stay its earlier order pending a review, has indirectly aided and abetted this breach of the sacred. Did it not occur to the bench that by allowing their new law to overrule the previous one they essentially gave the atheist CPI(M) leadership in Kerala another handle to humiliate Hindus? What is the use of a review, when you allow a desecration in the meanwhile?
Any law, which is supposed to be reviewed, ought to be stayed while this is being done. Even convicts are sometimes given a stay on their convictions and sentencing so that they can appeal, but the Supreme Court never did so in the case of Sabarimala. It is a travesty.
The Supreme Court judgement on Sabarimala, delivered in the name of upholding “constitutional morality”, is essentially in breach of another part of “constitutional morality” as enunciated in articles 25 and 26. Article 25 promises “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”, subject to some conditions, which include clause 2(b) that provides for “social welfare and reform, or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus”. Can a provision invariably made applicable to only one section of the population be considered fair?
The Sabarimala verdict is also in breach of the spirit of Article 26, which promises citizens the “freedom to manage religious affairs”. Subject to public order, morality and health, “every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law.”
If Article 25’s clause 2(b) is used as justification to disallow the ban on women in the 10-50 age group, Article 26 clearly allows denominations to have their own religious practices.
Two questions arise: how can an article that allows the judiciary or lawmakers to throw open religious institutions to all sections be restricted only to Hindus? And how can Article 26 be used to specifically exclude Hindus or Hindu denominations like the Ayyappans to deny them the rights promised under it?
If some rules apply only to Hindus and no other religions, and if some rights are available only if you are not a Hindu denomination, where is the basic “constitutional morality” of equality of treatment for all classes of citizens regardless of religious affiliation?
In claiming to fight for constitutional morality and gender justice, the Supreme Court has essentially allowed itself to ride roughshod over another equality: equal treatment under the law for all religions. The Supreme Court has undermined this aspect of constitutionality. It has now created conditions for small groups of Hindus to claim they are now not Hindus.
On the other hand, the court has chosen not to understand the essential diversity of Hindu practices, which ensure that even if one Ayyappa temple restricts entry to women for a specific reason, hundreds of others don’t. It has chosen to see discrimination where essentially there is none.
When the court hears the review petitions on 22 January, it should not stand on ego or prestige. It should allow Sabarimala to decide its own rules, and leave it to one set of devotees who believe the restrictions are fine to discover areas of compromise with another set who think the ban is not fair to them. The court has no business driving a coach and four over Hindu sentiments, and worse, allowing cultural vandals in the CPI(M) to decide what constitutes gender equality.
If the Communists want to fight for gender equality, maybe they ought to look to their own ranks. In a cabinet of 19 ministers, only two women are present, and that too with insignificant portfolios. In the entire politburo, there is no significant female presence beyond Brinda Karat, who is wife of the former general secretary, Prakash Karat.
The Kerala communists also turfed out the one woman, K R Gowri, who had better claims to the chief ministership in 1987 than E K Nayanar when the Left Democratic Front or LDF scored a victory. Gowri, who was the revenue minister in E M S Namboodiripad’s ministry in 1957, steered Kerala’s path-breaking land reforms.
A Frontline article has this to say about Gowri Amma’s political life, quoting from a book by political scientist Robin Jeffrey, titled Politics, Women and Well-being: How Kerala Became a Model. “Though she has been the most prominent woman in Kerala politics for 30 years… she has paid a price. She is unlikely to gain the prizes which, had she been a man, she might have expected. Her career stands as a warning against romanticising about the place of women in Kerala.”
Despite being one of the ministers with the longest tenures in the Kerala assembly, and with a stellar record of administrative efficiency, Gowri Amma has been relegated by the communists to a footnote in history. She was turfed out of the male-dominated party in 1994, two years after Jeffrey predicted that she would not get her due.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has belatedly taken up the cause of Sabarimala in the hope that this will help it increase in political footprint in Kerala, has to be clear that this is not about them. It is about the millions of genuine devotees of Swami Ayyappa. If it lets them down, it will be an act of betrayal of Hindus.
One can only hope that Swami Ayyappa will bestow good sense on the Left, the BJP and the Supreme Court bench that so cavalierly chose to trample on the sentiments of millions of devotees through its flawed verdict of September 2018. It must make amends to buy the respect of millions of Ayyappa devotees.
Stomping on sacred spaces with muddied boots is profanity couched as a fight for gender justice.