An opinion piece in Janmabhumi, the mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Kerala, on Thursday directly contradicted the stand taken by the Sangh’s leadership in Nagpur on the verdict passed by the five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on the issue of entry of women at the popular Sabarimala temple in the state.
In a 4-1 judgment, the top court on September 28 allowed women of all ages to offer their prayers to Lord Ayyappa at the temple, sidestepping temple traditions and rituals that restricted women of menstruating age to enter the temple premises. While the RSS had initially spoken in support of the verdict, on Wednesday, the Sangh’s second-in-command Bhaiyyaji Joshi in a statement said devotees’ sentiments cannot be ignored while considering the judgment. In the statement, Joshi said stakeholders in the decision-making process must be asked whether there is a possibility of submitting a review petition against the verdict.
However, just a day later, R Sanjayan, a prominent Sangh intellectual in the state and deputy director of the Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram, has argued in an article in Janmabhumi that the top court’s ruling does not in any way affect the foundational traditions and rituals of the Sabarimala temple. In fact, as more and more female devotees throng the temple, he says, the temple’s popularity and importance will only increase.
The original article in Malayalam, when translated, reads, “The court ruling does not have anything that can adversely affect the Hindu religion or society. The court has pronounced invalid only the restrictions on the entry of women between the ages of 10-50. No one has been able to logically or through proper scientific methods prove the legitimacy of such traditions.”
The writer says the temple, at some point, has even been witness to ‘choroonu’ (first feeding of rice to newborn child) ceremonies by people with the help of officials of the temple management. It was in 1991 that the Kerala High Court passed orders to restrict women of procreating age from visiting the hill shrine.
“The choice to visit/not visit the temple or even deciding the time to offer prayers must be left to the women. The rational notion is that women have the ability to make that choice. Everyone must understand that the age of patriarchy has ended,” Sanjayan writes in the article.
The Janmabhumi article certainly points to the dissensions that exist within the Sangh Parivar in Kerala over the subject. While the state unit of the RSS had come out in support of the ruling on September 28, gradually the breaking out of protests at several places including Pandalam, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi by different Hindu organisations is believed to have resulted a change in its thinking. Even the state unit of the BJP, which had welcomed the verdict, made a complete U-turn to support the stand of the devotees.
Both the BJP and the Congress in recent days have trained their guns at the CPM-led government and CM Pinarayi Vijayan for taking hurried decisions to welcome women at the Sabarimala temple. Both parties said the CPM, atheist in nature, is deliberately hurting Hindu sentiments associated with the hill shrine and have promised state-wide protests over the issue.
The chief minister, on his part, has stressed that his administration is duty-bound to follow the directions of the top court in taking the necessary steps at the temple. “We are a law-abiding society. We will go ahead and implement the orders of the Supreme Court,” he told reporters.