On September 28, 2018, the Indian Supreme Court threw ‘tradition and custom’ to the wind by allowing women of all ages to worship at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, where until then, women between 10 and 50 years could not worship. The ruling was not taken lightly by the rightwing party- the BJP and its crony outfits- the RSS and others. They considered the ruling infringement on the very tenets of Hinduism and of having ‘hurt’ the majority Hindus’ sentiments. The left-led ruling front in Kerala- the LDF, seemed to tag an evident degree of urgent mandatoriness to the Apex Court’s ruling. The Chief Minister turned bête noire of the BJP and rightist forces overnight due to his surprising earnestness to enact the Court’s ruling. The BJP took to the adamancy of the Chief Minister, a sworn atheist to have women worship at the Shrine under police escort as bull to the red flag! Its leaders, including a central minister out to foment trouble at the temple precincts were either stopped on their tracks or arrested. Attempts by women to worship at the temple were thwarted by vigilant right wing activists camping in the temple precincts and the trail leading up to it.
However, at 3:45 am on January 2, 2019, CCTVs showed two women, Bindhu and Kanaka Durga in early 40s, dressed in black and escorted by the Kerala police, clandestinely entering the Shrine, where the reigning deity is believed to be a celibate. That people need to sneak into a place of worship clandestinely to worship the deity bewilders and questions the very credibility and innate strength of that faith. The seemingly impenetrable vigilance of the right-wingers having failed piqued them no end. To them, the women sullied the very tenets of Hinduism and the sentiments of majority Hindus. They seethed. Their displeasure and hurt were underlined by the Prime minister most distastefully when he referred to the above said incident by blaming the ruling LDF government in Kerala for failing to stop the two women from worshipping at the shrine and thus hurting the sentiments of the majority Hindus by overstepping a tradition which was being followed for years when he visited Kerala to inaugurate the Kollam bypass on January 15 2019. He, through his speech, like a true politician and a wily one at that, succeeded in utilizing a proud moment for Kerala into overt electioneering, with general elections of 2019 almost at the doorstep.
Why is this incident that happened on January 2 2019 being cribbed about now? Revisiting the incident about 45 days later has been brought about for two reasons:
- Firstly, the destruction and anarchy that took Kerala hostage on January 3 was almost unparalleled, which will persist as an ugly scar on the state’s conscience. Infuriated saffron outfits called for a hartal promptly on January 3.this hartal was called with the sole intention to set Kerala ablaze in wanton destruction. About 100 buses of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation were damaged by goons on the rampage, inflicting a loss of 3.35 crores on the already sash-strapped Corporation, running at a loss. Roads were blocked with burning tyres and granite blocks. Political ‘workers’ were stabbed at gay abandon. Despite preventive arrest of about 334 people, the state lost yet another humongous 7,200 crore of its GDP, a fallout of every hartal called by every Tom, Dick and Harry at the drop of a hat!
- Secondly, with General elections just round the bend, powers- that-be of the ruling BJP, out to retain power at the center by hook or by crook descended on Kerala. What can be more God-sent than the vexed Sabarimala issue to drum up mass frenzy and emotions bordering on religious pretentions? The rightist forces were determined to utilize the Sabarimala issue to the core. To set ablaze religious passions of the electorate. To divide people along communal lines. To tear asunder religious amity and plurality in Kerala, which had taken a beating following the Apex Court’s ruling on the hill shrine. The BJP had its ‘poster boy’ for the elections- Yogi Adithyanath, the seer Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who spewed venom, as only he can, and as was expected of him to. He exhorted Hindus in kerala to take up the Sabarimala issue on the lines of the contentious Ram temple in Ayodhya. He equated Ram temple with Sabarimala. His agenda was to convert the Southern state of Kerala, the only state to elude BJP’s ‘power grip’, into something like the temple town of Ayodhya, replete with hatred for minorities, and hegemony of the majority Hindus running roughshod across the length and breadth of Kerala. His vitriolic speeches reminded one of Rasputin of Russia of old! One can only hope that the enlightened electorate of Kerala does not fall to the shortsighted and skewed tactic of the rightist forces in the name of Sabarimala, and prevent ‘God’s own country’ being dismembered in His name.