The Supreme Court verdict allowing the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple was followed by a powerful picture — thousands of women thronging the streets of Kerala protesting the decision. The irony was hard to miss. The very section of people for whom the verdict was considered “liberating” was questioning the basis on which the Court and others interfered in matters of faith. Article 25 of the Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion, has always been interpreted as a personal right.
Yet, the question regarding the entry of women to the holy shrine is now being fought by people whose rights are not infringed upon. The self-declared torchbearers — who took the cause to the Supreme Court — were seen accepting their lack of knowledge about the traditions related to the temple or deity. The petitioners, belonging to an activist group based in Delhi, were not advocating any cause evoked by Kerala society but of a few with vested interests to portray Sabarimala as an example of gender discrimination.
Due to the dissonance with the “liberators” on the issue, Malayali women preferred to proclaim that they are #ReadyToWait. However, Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government turned a blind eye to the devotees and let the holy seat of Swami Ayyappan turn into a place for activism. Seen in this light, the Sabarimala verdict is not a victory for any rights movement, but the culmination of a deep-seated conspiracy engineered by the Left in Kerala.
The fact that the Pinarayi Vijayan-led CPM government used state forces to facilitate the entry of two women activists, Kavitha Jakkal and Rehana Fatima, into Sabarimala, points to the vested interests involved. Here, scant regard was given to not just the sentiments of devotees but also the SC judgment. The CPM decision not to oppose activists who climb the hills, as highlighted by the party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, should be seen as a deliberate attempt to disrupt peace in the state.
To understand how the centuries-old tradition of not allowing women in the menstruating age group to enter the temple suddenly became a topic of public debate, it is necessary to go back to the time when the issue was converted into a political tool. The first affidavit was filed by the then Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran during the earlier LDF government (2006-11) when Pinarayi Vijayan was CPM state secretary. This was followed by a notification specifying age limits for women to enter the shrine. So slowly was fact and fiction woven together that little did anyone realise that a deliberate narrative was being set that made women look unequal and Sabarimala was portrayed as an embodiment of societal injustice.
By 2016, when a fresh affidavit was moved by the current Left government, many had brought into the narrative of women deliberately being kept out of Sabarimala. Religious leaders tried to argue in vain that it was not the “impurity” of menstruation but the reverence to the celibate form of the deity which kept women away from the shrine. To strengthen its control over Devaswom Board, the CPM government issued an ordinance to remove the then Board president and appointed party leader, A Padmakumar, to head the Board. While thousands of devotees are demanding a review petition, Padmakumar was made to go back on his stance of filing a review petition by Vijayan.
For people who claim to be atheists the moot question here is: What gave them the right to interfere in the religious beliefs of others? It is no secret that from the time of the first chief minister of Kerala, E M S Namboodiripad, the Left in Kerala has been trying to wean people from religion to embrace the party’s atheistic ideology. Perhaps the moment is apt to recall the way Vijayan’s government handled the charges of rape against Bishop Franco Mullakal. The chief minister was well aware of the course the law would take against the accused bishop, but chose not to act for more than a month so that the issue could take the agitational route that created a deep divide in the Christian community.
Despite being chief minister, an office responsible for protecting the interests of the society at large, Vijayan is acting as an agent of the political ideology of his party. “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality”, according to Marx and Engels. Driven by the zeal to emulate its counterparts in China and other communist countries where religions and cultures were crushed, the CPM in Kerala is systematically demolishing traditional religious beliefs.
It may be the realisation of this truth that prompted Nair Service Society General Secretary G Sukumaran Nair to say that the Left government is trying to impose atheism on the people of Kerala. The manner in which the CPM and its governments has handled the Sabarimala issue indicates its deep-seated ideological antagonism to religion. The time has come to reclaim Kerala’s beliefs and traditions to preserve the state’s identity, which the Left is trying to erase.