Monday, 22 October 2018

On Sabarimala - Why are rational, scientific women upset?

By Girish Menon

“I do not wish to join any club that will accept me as a member” quipped Groucho Marx once. I will pass on this wisdom to women of menstruating age whose efforts to enter Sabarimala have been stopped by their own sisters, male priests and political activists.

In essence the Indian Supreme Court has decided in favour of allowing all women to worship at Sabarimala as failing to do so could be interpreted as discriminatory and in violation of every Indian’s fundamental right to equality guaranteed by the constitution.

The recent violence is testimony to the failure of the Indian state as it could not ensure protection to those women who wished to worship at Sabarimala. This is a replay of Ayodhya 1992 when a mob destroyed the Babri Masjid in violation of court strictures.

I have read reports that those opposed to the Supreme Court verdict in the Sabarimala case have now filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. This is a welcome move and should have been the first step in their protests instead of physically stopping women from entering the temple.

In a democracy the legislature is superior to the courts. So it should have been up to the political activists to pass legislation that suits their political views. However, such legislation will always be of secondary status to the fundamental rights of every Indian which can only be curtailed under special circumstances, if at all.


Tradition has been quoted as the main argument to defend the practices of Sabarimala. Leaders of most denominations use this argument to protest against demands for reforms. This argument gains most momentum because of the historical failure to pass a uniform civil code bill that applies to every Indian uniformly.

In the case of Hindus, The Paliyam Satyagraha in Chendamangalam in 1947-48 enabled a break with tradition as lower caste Hindus were hereafter allowed to enter temples. Thus tradition is only a convenient term to fight against reform and modernity.

Uniting all Hindus

The demographic changes in India along with news of rapidly growing Islam and Christianity in many parts of the world give momentum to the BJP argument that ‘Hinduism is in danger’. Under such circumstances can the BJP afford to alienate Hindu women who clamour for the right to worship at Sabarimala?

In the book The Global Minotaur the author Yanis Varoufakis defines the term aporia

        that state of intense puzzlement  in which we find ourselves when our certainties fall to pieces ; when suddenly we get caught in an impasse, at a loss to explain what our eyes can see, our fingers can touch, our ears can hear. At those rare moments, as our reason valiantly struggles to fathom what the senses are reporting, our aporia humbles us and readies the prepared mind for previously unbearable truths.

For Indians the moment of aporia has arrived. Now maybe the best time to introduce the uniform civil code and ban religious conversions. Else the charge of India turning into a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ may become a self fulfilling prophecy.

On the other hand, why would modern, rational women with a scientific bent of mind and a claim that ‘God does not exist’ fight for rights to worship Ayyappa is something that I have found hard to understand.

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