Sabarimala agitation-2018 by BJP

by K Vijayachandran

1.  Gender bias and discrimination against women:

Using the Supreme Court Judgement of 28-09-2018 as an alibi, Sangh Parivar could transform Sabarimala into a virtual battlefield in less than two months. It was a well-planned offensive against LDF Government. :

M/s Indian Young Lawyers Association, the petitioners in the SC, had challenged GOK and TDB, the owners and managers of Sabarimala for their alleged opposition to temple entry by women of 10-50 years of age. The full 440 page judgement of the SC as well as the report of Amicus Curie appointed by it, may be down-loaded as pdf files from the SC website: 18956_2006_Judgement_28-Sep-2018.pdf.

It is noted that the minority judgement by Ms Indu Malhotra Judge, had summarised her 75 page dissenting judgement in the following words: The Writ Petition does not deserve to be entertained for want of standing. The grievances raised are non-justiciable at the behest of the Petitioners and Intervenors involved herein. PDFCopy of this document, truly educative on the subject is attached.

Even the majority judgement by Dipak Misra CJI and A.M. Khanwilkar Judge who had virtually endorsed the plea by the petitioners for ending the alleged restrictions on women, had repeated on page-9 para-11 of their report, the earlier recordings and conclusions by the Kerala High Court, on the age-old restrictions on the entry of women into this forest temple, as quoted below:

(1) The restriction imposed on women aged above 10 and below 50 from trekking the holy hills of Sabarimala and offering worship at Sabarimala Shrine is in accordance with the usage prevalent from time immemorial.

(2) Such restriction imposed by the Devaswom Board is not violative of Articles 15, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India.

(3) Such restriction is also not violative of the provisions of Hindu Place of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act, 1965 since there is no restriction between one section and another section or between one class and another class among the Hindus in the matter of entry to a temple whereas the prohibition is only in respect of women of a particular age group and not women as a class.”

2. Indian Young Lawyers Association and other petioners:

Nothing much is known about the Indian Young Layers Association and the other petitioners: Neither the SC nor the GOK has cared to enquire about the bono-fides of this organisation fighting or campaigning for the cause of women. From what and how they have commented on the Sabarimala issue, in their capacity as petitioners is neither known nor seen recorded. It appears, the honourable judges did not find any merit in exploring these or in holding any serious debate on the subject. It cannot be ruled out that the SC was ill-used or misused by some vested interests.

3. Political and Ideological issues:

As understood by the program of CPI(M), India is multinational and multi-cultural but the governing systems as exists today in the country hardly recognize this reality.  This is,possibly, the root cause for the present confusion around Sabarimala, as is usual in several sectors of governance in our country.  Ms Indu Malhotra Judge, of the three member team of judges that included the Chief Justice of India, had accepted the plea of Travancore Devaswom and Kerala Government as the custodians of the legendary Ayyappa Temple and also the legend of Ayyappa which is not a part of the great Indian epics like Ramayana or Maha Bharatha. However, Hindu temples, big and small,had a major role in shaping up the history of the Indian sub-continent and thatcould be no different even in future: Sabarimala was, possibly, seen as thegateway to Kerala their next stop after Tripura, in the project for containingCommunism!

4. Management and administration of Sabarimala:

Administrative reforms and capacity building in the Devswams of Kerala should get immediate attention by the LDF Government. The extremely poor civic amenities that exists today are the results of years of neglect and inefficiencies of the past: Urgent steps are needed for rectifying the past mistakes. It appears the Devaswoms do not bring out and publish even annual administrative reports: I could not locate any in the internet: This is true not only in the case of TDB but also in the case of other boards as well.  

5. Overcrowding and over-exploitation:

Sabarimala temple and its environment are over-exploited, today: urgent measures are needed for regulating  growth. Unplanned growth is polluting and degrading not only the immediate temple premises but also the towns and villages en-route. Hurrying up with half-cooked ideas on airports, railways, highways and tourism should stop, immediately.Sustainable environmental and ecological loads need to be estimated carefully in the best possible manner and monitored with the help of local governments.

6.  Looking back:

Travancore Devaswom Board that took over Sabarimala after a devastating fire in 1950, was an innovation by the British: Similar institutions in UK that were taken over by the Government have developed  far better management methods and culture during the past two centuries and we have plenty to learn from these institutions. Our LSGIs may be encouraged to learn from them and work with the temples and other religious institutions with the help of KILa and others. They have plenty of non-financial resources, human as well as natural, which could be used for socioeconomic development. Development of temples and temple-infrastructure should be seen as an integral part of human development at large: That is the lesson I had learnt, in my capacity as the honorary Chairman of the renovationcommittee of my family temple for the past five years.

7.  Rapid degradation of the facilities at Sabarimala:

I have only pleasant memories about my only visit to Sabarimala temple and that was in 1960 December, when the place used to be far less crowded and far much disciplined: There were tolerably neat bathing Ghats and pit toilets and you could have a leisurely darsahan and overnight stay, if you are prepared to stay some 20 hours or so at Pampa. But within two decades everything changed: Crowds were swelling every year and by the eighties Sabarimala had started polluting even the towns and villages en-route.  

8. The art and craft of nama-japam

This year, BJP and RSS came well prepared, following the Ayodhya model:They had perfected the art and craft of naama-japam: Teams of some three dozen volunteers, men, women and children come and occupy strategic locations along the roads and junctions leading to the temple, and do sit-in en-route and engage themselves in naama-japa and rhythmic clapping of hands. Visual media keep-on broadcasting these never-ending naama-japas by the crowd from half a dozen locations with the ordinary Ayyappas moving around in the background: It was a stage-managed show well-designed by the Sangh-Parivar, who were planning to occupy the whole of Sabarimala forests: They have to be flushed out of the forests only by the evening, adding unnecessary burden on the land and forests: This was an unprecedented move and the provocation for enforcing preventive laws: Occupation of Sabari was possibly seen as the first step towards the liberation of Kerala from Communists!        

9.  Police and KSRTC employees

Kerala police has proved their mettle on this occasion and they need tobe complemented: There was not a single complaint of manhandling by police despite all the tension and provocations that was being built up by the shoutingnaama-japan crowds and helped by the visual media and loud speakers without any break, and inconveniencing the genuine devotees. The enlightened Kerala police have made a mark by their exemplary handling of an emotionally complex situation in an extremely tiring environment. And, so far, the KSRTC employees were rendering comfortable local travel to the devotees and others..

10.  Kerala politics and Sabarimala:

Petty politics, typical of underdeveloped societies, continue to hurt development: LDF Government led by CPI(M) could be doing much better on every front despite the numerous administrative difficulties created by UDF opposition as well as the cultural and political backwardness of the Central government led by BJP.

It is clear from the recent developments around Sabari, including the Supreme Court judgement, Kannur BJP’s call for arming the naama-japam teams etc, BJP has been making its long-term plans and short-term agendas not only around Sabari but also around other organisations and institutions of Kerala. But the ruling LDF led by CPI(M) have done precious little in foreseeing such possibilities and dangers and building-up defenses from a proletarian perspective and sensitizing the people on such ominous developments.

Despite its progressive character, Kerala CPI(M) had preferred to neglect the need and possibilities for building up a broad anti-BJP federal front of Indian nationalities, to fight against the sectarian policies pursued by Modi government, led by the worst type of lumpen bourgeoisie. There were advisers all-around for the LDF pretending to be the best of negotiators in global markets, typical of most third world countries.

In shaping up alternative policies under its mission programs, LDF ministers were a total failure, barring a few exemptions. Even the Joint campaigns by the TUs for reorganizing the infrastructure sectors were not given due consideration. Democratic decentralization of the administration remains a distant goal and the related reforms are not being pursued with any seriousness. Revolutionary possibilities of the working class movement in Kerala, in the formal as well as informal sectors of the regional economy are tremendous. These were more than obvious during recent floods: bureaucratic administration and lack of democracy all around continue to be the major stumbling blocks and these cannot be fought even with the best of imported IT, hardware and software.

11. Concluding:

PDF copy of the 75 page Supreme Court judgement of 28-10-2018 on the Sabarimala case is available at the Supreme Court website: Sabari%20debate/18956_2006_Judgement_28-Sep-2018-337-411-indu%20malhotra.pdf. This minority judgement by the solitary Woman Judge has, I believe, has immense ideological as well as political relevance.