In response to a question about the government’s stand on the verdict, Irani said, “I am nobody to speak on the Supreme Court verdict because I am a current serving Cabinet Minister. But just plain common sense. Would you take sanitary napkins steeped in menstrual blood and walk into a friend’s home? You will not. And do you think that it is respectful to do the same when you walk into the house of God? So that is the difference. I have a right to pray. I do not have the right to desecrate. That is my personal opinion.”
Irani made these remarks while speaking on contemporary, local and global populism at the Young Thinkers’ Conference organised by the British Deputy High Commission and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
Irani’s remarks came days after she expressed support for the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment of women. “Do not judge those who are speaking out right now. They are mothers, daughters and wives. They are taking a big risk and it must be very difficult for them to speak out,” she had said at a FICCI event in Mumbai on October 11.
On Tuesday, Irani’s comments on Sabarimala were in response to a question by ORF president Samir Saran. This was one of the several issues, including refugee rights and climate change, that audience members listed after British Deputy High Commissioner for Western India, Crispin Simon, asked them to list the topics they wanted to be discussed at the Minister’s session.
Irani drew parallels with the example of her own multi-faith family before she spoke on the Sabarimala issue. “Let me breach my own privacy today and tell you something personal about me. I am a practicing Hindu married to a Parsi. I ensured that both my children are Zoroastrian, practicing Zoroastrian. They have done their Navjote. And what does practicing Zoroastrain mean? Both these kids can go into a fire temple and pray, be it in Mumbai, Delhi or any part of the world. Now what does that mean for me as a mother? What happens to me irrespective of whether I’m a politician or a minister with Zoroastrian children and a Zoroastrian husband is that I am made to stand outside.”
Since many people are talking about my comments — let me comment on my comment.
As a practising Hindu married to a practising Zoroastrian I am not allowed to enter a fire temple to pray.
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) October 23, 2018
The Minister said she had to stand either on the road or sit in her car outside the Fire Temple in Andheri, Mumbai. “So when I took my newborn son, I had to give him at the temple gate to my husband because I am shooed away and I was told ‘ki yahan mat khade raho’. Alright? I believe that I have a right to pray but I don’t have a right to desecrate. And that is a difference that we need to recognise and respect,” she told the audience.
As her comments triggered a debate on social media, Irani tweeted what she called were “two factual statements”. “As a practicing Hindu married to a practicing Zoroastrian I am not allowed to enter a fire temple to pray. I respect that stand by the Zoroastrian community/ priests and do not approach any court for a right to pray as a mother of 2 Zoroastrian children. Similarly Parsi or non Parsi menstruating women irrespective of age Do NOT go to a Fire Temple,” she tweeted.
Terming the rest as “propaganda/ agenda being launched using me as a bait”, she tweeted: “As far as those who jump the gun regarding women visiting friend’s place with a sanitary napkin dipped in menstrual blood – I am yet to find a person who ‘takes’ a soaked napkin to ‘offer’ to any one let alone a friend. But what fascinates me though does not surprise me is that as a woman I am not free to have my own point of view. As long as I conform to the ‘liberal’ point of view I’m acceptable. How Liberal is that??”