Gender equality Vs religious fanaticism, the battle continues unabated in India (PTI photo)
What shook the epitome of a religious cult to some was a whiff of relief and freedom to many. The recent SC verdict on Sabarimala case raised questions in the minds of many ‘intellectuals’, bearing the crown of religious fanaticism, How can the judicial system decide upon the religious sentiments of people? Although customs itched a clear demarcation between the gender strains, isn't it quite obvious that religion would win the battle against the struggles of freedom and equality in India!
September was the month of happy news. Celebrations were on the edge over SC’s decision of decriminalising gay sex and adultery. To top it up with a cherry of the Sabarimala verdict, the dice of controversies came rolling. And came the storm of the MeToo movement against sexual assault and inequalities. Amid the MeToo rage, the protest against the Sabarimala verdict was a nail that hit just the opposite.
On September 28, the Supreme Court struck down a rule that disallowed girls and women in the age group of 10-50 from entering the Sabarimala Shrine in Kerala. The SC, in a 4:1 majority, stated that the temple practice violates the rights of Hindu women and a ban is a form of gender discrimination. Headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, a five-judge Constitution bench stated that the provision in the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 violated the right of Hindu women to practice religion.
What came next was a nightmare to the agenda of women equality and justice. Less than 48 hours before the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala was to open to women of all age groups for the first time as per the SC ruling in September, thousands of Lord Ayyappa devotees, mostly women, continued to protest against the ruling. The police had to try and control the angry protesters who turned violent and tried to break brigades. A massive protest reached the Kerala secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on October 15. As expected, political parties and Hindu organisations took part in the 'Save Sabarimala' campaign.
Where on hand the cybernauts were celebrating the iconic victory on social media and welcoming the decision with open arms, religious fanatics on the other, made every attempt to bring it down. The protests agitate to a level that the Shiv Sena’s Kerala unit warned that their women activists will commit suicide if any young woman tried to enter the shrine. Such is the irony of 100 percent literate, politically aware and progressive state. Kudos to the brave hearts,
And hence, when the first season at the Shrine ended on October 22 following the SC verdict, not a single woman could enter the temple. Owing to the age-old traditional norm or the political frowning upon it, the temple doors physically prevented women from entering it.
Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakkampally Surendran Thursday claimed that effective police intervention had foiled the protesters' bid to "desecrate" the Ayyappa temple by spilling blood in the premises if women devotees in the 10-50 age group offered prayers. What came as a major shock was that over 1400 ‘self-acclaimed devotees’ stopped a dozen young women from entering the temple. Kerala police have arrested 1400 people in the last two days who took part in demonstrations across the state against the entry of women in the age 10-50 into the divine
In 1965, the Kerala government chose to turn this restriction into a statutory provision by incorporating it in the rules framed under the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act. That’s how the trouble
Freedom is enjoying the individual religious rights, and not restricting others to do the same. The law to stop women from entering the temple in a state with several women deities was not made out of any misogynic intention, but only to prevent women from the struggles of month-long rituals owing to their physiological disabilities. It is the women’s right to decide whether to take up the struggle and not to be forced down their throats otherwise. May justice prevail, not only for women but for a country that would one day stand tall for its equality.