Judiciary repeats transgression of Hindu Temple laws

continued from previous issue

9. Sabarimala Verdict drives deep discord Sri Rantidev Sengupta a renowned columnist writes in Bengali News Paper “Yuga Shankha” on 31.10.2018 as follows :
The Supreme Court verdict on the issue of Sabarimala Temple entry has rocked the nation, creating much furor, raising many debates and questions, radically polarizing the society into different groups of sentiments and demands.

But behind all the brouhaha, some fundamental questions remain unanswered. If the Supreme Court Verdict on Triple Talaq can be deemed acceptable, what’s wrong in
accepting the Sabarimala verdict? Aren’t both the verdicts supposed to pave way for women emancipation? Many ultra liberals, leftists and communists are raising the question.

The basic difference between both the verdicts is that, while Triple Talaq verdict was
initiated at the demand of the real victims of the practice, the Muslim womenfolk, in case of Sabarimala Temple, the Hindu milieu, in particular the reverential Ayappa sect had never raised any such demands violating the age old custom. In fact the women of the Ayappa Sect, the millennia old custodian of the temple are rather happy in observing the tradition devoutly and have already expressed their anger and frustration towards the verdict. The demand has actually emerged from a group of women, who are neither respectful about the temple and its presiding deity, nor concerned about the sentiments of the devotees. In fact the rebels, some of them leftists, some atheists, some secularists,
some having deep connections with Christian Missionaries, are all united by their anti-Hindu sentiments.

The problem basically lies here. The Sabarimala Temple has long remained a stumbling block in the path of overzealous Christian missionary conversion agenda. The Keralite Christian Missionaries tried to destroy the temple by putting fire on it in 1950’s. The ruling leftist Kerala government who has ordered mass arrest of the protesting Ayappa group will be siding the Christian missionary for earning the dividend of vote bank politics and to cling on to the power by missionary help.

This also happens to explain the ironic and eerie silence of this same rebel group over the allegations of repeated rape raised by a Christian Nun against a Bishop. These so called vanguards of women’s right never bothered to take up the case of the raped nun, never stood by her even though a criminal case was registered against the Bishop and he was eventually arrested. The fighters for women’s cause might even well be aware that while they take up the case of women’s temple entry so vehemently, there are many mosques, where Muslim women are not allowed as well. The obvious question that stirs is why not a protest, a movement with an aim to allow all women from all religions to all religious places across the country, is not being initiated?

Well, an even more obvious reply is readily understandable. Sabarimala Temple is never the focus of the attack. The true focus is Hindus and their sentiments. Issues relating to
oppression of Muslim women or exemplary punishment of the raping Bishop is never
discussed, cried or raised. But Sabarimala, Sani Singnapur, Jallikatu and several other
Hindu motifs, beliefs, practices and customs will continue to be in the focus. The true essence of this so called progressive movement for women’s rights is truly fishy.

10. On 8th July 2018, Kerala Govt passed a law. Through this extra ordinary law that they passed, they tried to amend the Travencore-Cochine Hindu Religious Institution Act. It was institutionalized in 1950, available on the Kerala Govt. website – Kerala.uv.in. They have amended a lot of things. Out of these the shocking thing is clause no. 5, amendment of section 29, – in sub-sec. (2) of sec.29 of the principal act, the words “Who shall be appointed by the board, he shall be a Hindu” shall be omitted. The entire law was passed for this amendment i.e. whoever be the head of the board which controls the temples, need not be essentially a Hindu. What they mean that, for controlling the temple Sabarimala, he may be a Christian or Muslim. It will be the Government to decide who will control the board. Communist parties are in general against any religion. That is when we started smelling the conspiracy. Why is the Communist Govt. of Kerala is so interested about Hindu religion?

11. The chronology of Sabarimala Verdict : On August 4, 2006, Indian Young Lawyers Association files a plea in Supreme Court seeking to ensure entry of female devotees between the ages 10 – 50 at the Lord Ayappa Temple at Sabarimala. Ironically, after
sometime these ladies realised that what they had done was not correct. One of them Prerana Kumari who filed the petition wanted to withdraw claiming that she was not from Kerala and was not aware of the rules of the temple. She said, “After studying literature, I realised that I was wrong.” She tendered apology if she had hurt the sentiment of devotees. She wanted to withdraw but Supreme Court had ceased the case. The Communist LDF Govt. of Kerala has been earnestly placing affidavits to pursue
the case in the Supreme Court since 2007. In November 2016 the Government sent a special affidavit to the Supreme Court that the case has been long pending and the Kerala
Government wanted to get the verdict that the Supreme Court allow all women to enter the Sabarimala Temple.

It is well known that in the Communist Politbureau out of 17 only 2 are women and in
the core committee of 94 only 14 are women. The keenness of the LDF Kerala  government appears to stem from its zeal to divide the Hindu Community. Mr. Sujit Nair, Managing Editor of HW News Network, shares his insights onto the matter in his  Editorial.

The communist government of kerala thus, is keen to usurp the rule of Sabarimala for years and brought such an amendment in the Travancore-Kochin Hindu Religious Act that allows a non- Hindu to function as the Head the Devaswam board that controls various activities related to the functioning of the temple. The entire process seems to be
fraught with chicanery and conspiracy.

12. As per reports by The New Indian Express, the BJP chief Amit Shah said at Thalikkavu, “Today in Kerala a struggle is going on between religious beliefs and state
government cruelty. More than 2,000 activists and workers from BJP, RSS and other organisations have been arrested. BJP is standing like a rock with devotees. Let the Left
government be warned. In the name of court judgment, those who want to incite violence, let me tell you that there are many temples which run on different rules and norms.” (‘You Will Never Walk Alone’: Amit Shah Says, BJP Standing Behind Sabarimala Devotees ‘Like A Rock’, by Swarajya Staff– Oct 27 2018)

13. In India, places of worship of Hinduism, and Hinduism alone, experience the following: control and management by government including altering religious
rituals; government control over administrative and financial decisions including diverting income for other purposes; temple income subject to tax; government role in the management of educational institutes run by religious bodies; ban on preferential hiring within the faith if the institute receives government funding; and so on.

While some of these may make sense in principle, such as non-discriminatory hiring by
institutes availing government funds, it is simply unfathomable why this ought to apply to only one religion. And provisions like government administrators having final say on temple rituals of only one religion, besides indicating systemic bias, are decidedly non-secular by any standard.

This kind of state interference in religion is peculiar. There are theistic states that
discriminate against religions other than the official one (think Pakistan or Saudi Arabia). There were and are theistic states that behave in a somewhat secular manner, with much greater tolerance of non-official religions (think of the late Ottoman Empire or present day Dubai). There are secular states that are perceived to exercise bias in favour of the majority religion (Turkey in recent years). But India seems to be unique, the only democratic, secular republic that meddles in the places of worship of only one
religion, that of the majority population.

While it is every citizen’s prerogative to practice any religion, or none, it cannot be every
individual’s right to impose his version of a religion on others who profess it. Thus, while
he may practise religion as he pleases in private, in a religion’s place of group worship, the rituals, subject to not harming anyone, must reflect the group consensus.

Treating a place of worship like an office or a college will not work. Female college
students often assert their right to wear clothing of their choice on campus, and rightly so. But no visitor to a Buddhist stupa or Sikh gurdwara, man or woman, would insist on
violating their dress codes. Similarly, many mosques in the UK seat women only at the back, and while their government would not countenance such segregation in buses, this it considers the business of the congregation.(Sabarimala and triple talaq: The two situations are different, courts cannot see them the same way, October 24, 2018, Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda in TOI Edit Page).

14. Rajeev Chandrasekhar writes that– I oppose Sabarimala verdict because this is not about women’s discrimination at all. In 2018, I would have continued my annual
tradition of climbing the Sabarimala and offering prayers to Lord Ayyappa for the 25th time – something I started when I was a young boy. It was interrupted by my years in the US, and then restarted in the 90s when I returned to India. So, having completed more than 18, I am a Guruswamy! This year, I was first interrupted by the floods in August-September and now the current agitation by devotees.

Like many temples in Kerala, Sabarimala has its unique mythology, tradition and rituals. One among them is that it is open only for five days in the month – starting with the first day of every Malayalam month. The second is that while men from all ages can worship, the temples traditions place a restriction on women below 50.

All these years as I trudged up the mountain, chanting Swami Ayyappa’s name along with lakhs of other believers – big or small, rich or poor – there has never been any issue. When some years back I could take my mother up to Sabarimala, it was like an immense duty that I had fulfilled.

But fast forward to now, the Supreme Court judgment along with a state government enjoying the prospects of splitting the Hindu community has caused a major uproar in Kerala. Thousands of people are out protesting, with Hindu women leading the charge against what is perceived as an insensitive interference in their faith and traditions. So, to most sitting at a distance from Ayyappa and Sabarimala, its traditions are being viewed through the narrow prism of women’s discrimination. Yes, debates on faith
vs Constitution are inevitable. Even challenging faiths to reform periodically will
and must arise. We have seen that in Triple Talaq and women’s entry into mosques.

The natural question is why not here? The right to religion and right to non-discrimination are both prescribed in the Constitution. My political beliefs are firmly grounded in a vision of equity for women and all Indians. So, why am I opposing this?

The answer is simple– this is not about discrimination at all. This is about faith of
both women and men who worship Lord Ayyappa. And while the debate is welcome,
we must be careful and do research before wading into it. To start, most Hindu traditions
practiced in most Hindu temples are not documented. Unlike Islam and Christianity,
which are more recent religions and therefore more codified, Hindu traditions
have been transmitted over thousands of years by hearsay and word of mouth.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that each Hindu god has his or her unique traditions and rituals. And unlike Christianity and Islam where places of worship are in effect places of prayer, Hindu temples are abodes of that god. So a Muslim goes to a mosque to pray, but in Hinduism, the gods are believed to reside in the temple. This is temples that restrict men’s admission periodically and allow only women to pray because of the rituals associated with that particular god, a fundamental difference between a Hindu place of worship and others. There are many temples that restrict men’s admission periodically and allow only women to pray because of the rituals associated with that particular god.

To reduce the age-old Sabarimala tradition to one that’s patriarchal or discriminates against women is wrong, unfortunate and dangerous. It will be seen as and is being seen as an assault on Hindu Dharma by lakhs of devotees. That is why the recent Supreme Court decision is lacking on so many counts. The judgment itself was clearly hurried and seemed more like driven by popular Delhi sentiment than a robust introspection of the issue. It seems to have been built around an objective of creating a false equivalence between its Triple Talaq judgment for Muslims and this for Hindus.

The PIL was filed by a group that clearly did not involve the affected parties – they
were not Ayyappa devotees, but a group of lawyers with alleged Leftist links. The
government of Kerala and the Devaswom board who were respondents were
politically committed to supporting the petitioners, and so almost didn’t defend
Sabarimala’s traditions in court.And those who did try and protect the Sabarimala tradition and faith– the Hindu devotee intervenors– found that the issues raised in their petitions were not responded to by the SC majority judgment at all. Justice Indu Malhotra’s dissenting judgment was right in cautioning against this kind of brute force wading into Hindu tradition.

The anger and distress among Kerala Hindus cutting across castes is deep-rooted and real. There is a feeling that their tradition and faith are being messed around with by those who do not have any stake in it or haven’t made the effort to understand it. Those who ignore this are making an unforgivable and dangerous mistake. The Left government with its politics of dividing and appeasing continuously is much to be blamed for the current situation.I hope the chief minister does the right thing, and ensures a judicial review of this judgment.

Imagine the tinderbox that this judgment has created. Imagine Christian or Hindu
petitioners approaching the Supreme Court on bigamy, hijab and other facets of Islam
that Hindus or Christians do not like. Imagine Hindus approaching courts to scrutinize
constitutionality of an aspect of Christianity that they do not like. There is no doubt in my mind that this issue requires a revisit by the Supreme Court. That is what the Hindus of
Kerala and indeed all Ayyappa devotees deserve.

Swami Sharanam. (The Print, October 25,2018- To call the Sabarimala tradition patriarchal is wrong and dangerous.)

15. If a local infection (the sepsis) is not restricted and remedied in time, inevitably
it may lead to gangrene or septicemia. The designing rationalists and pseudo secularists
promoted by politically notorious groups are keen to create fissures within the Hindu fold, and are incessantly trying to raise non-issues to defame and deform the Shastric Aachaar and parampara. The concept of Brahmacharya, and practices of Shastric rituals which are based on eternal concept of truth, and understanding of the basic laws of nature, in diverse dimension are repeatedly repudiated due to dismal ignorance of the
basic concepts of Hindu Shastras and its sublime spiritual values.

How unfortunate, that it is no foreign invaders like Alauddin Khilji, Mahmood of Gazni or Firoz Shah Tughlok destroying the Hindu’s salubrious culture and temples to
interfere with the worship of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, but our so-called secular
constitution that prompts the judiciary to unleash such tortious torture on the Hindu



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