Sabarimala and indeed all of is in chaos due to poor handling of the temple entry issue by the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state. The government and the Kerala police should have showed more tact in facilitating the entry of two women into the 800-year old Ayyappa temple for ‘darshan’. The Travancore Devoswam Board that administers the temple was in the dark about this. Enraged devotees and conservative Hindu groups protesting the entry have brought life to a virtual halt. Sabarimala Karma Samiti – the umbrella organisation of Hindu outfits – with support from both BJP and Congress have been at the forefront protesting the split verdict of the Supreme Court throwing the Sabarimala doors open to all women. The sole woman judge on the five-member constitution bench had cautioned against interfering in the diverse beliefs, faiths and religious practices.
This has led to serious violence in ‘God’s own country’ with five hartals and bandhs in 50-days after the court verdict while the state government played a partisan role. Left cadres and Popular Front of India, a militant islamist group, seem to have had a field day with attacks on BJP, RSS and Sabarimala Karma Samiti volunteers at will. Article 25 in the Constitution that provides for religious freedom may not be absolute if one were to go by Justice Indu Malhotra’s interpretation. This may be conditioned by religious faiths, practices and customs. Given that in over 1,000 other Ayyappa temples women had right of entry reserved for them, the Sabarimala practice is strictly religious given that the Lord’s manifestation was in the form of ‘Naishtik Brahmachari’.
In fact, the Supreme Court may have over-reached itself by asking devotees to establish the custom as “essential and integral part” of their faith. The court should have resisted the temptation of jumping into the Hindu religious practices
that are diverse in different parts of the world. Treating women in Sabarimala as “untouchables” may also not be true. There’s absolutely no truth in drawing parallels with untouchability faced by Harijans or Dalits.
Political leadership from different ideological formations and the courts need to be extremely cautious while dealing with sensitive religious issues. Given that situation was slipping out of state government authority with law and order on the verge of a complete breakdown, the centre and governor may have to extend support in restoring normalcy in the state. All stakeholders may have to be consulted before forcibly opening the Sabarimala temple against the will of the people of the state.