Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government did a U-turn, stating that it supports the entry of women to Sabarimala temple. This development has triggered a fresh round of controversy around the issue of women’s right to equality.
Before the LDF, the United Democratic Front in Kerala led by the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had supported the Sabarimala temple’s stand of restricting the entry of women belonging to the age group of 10 to 15 years.
Reacting to the latest U-turn by the LDF government, Rahul Easwar, grandson of Kandararu Maheshwararu, senior priest of Sabarimala temple, slammed the LDF government in a TV debate on Kairali People TV. This is what Rahul Easwar stated:
1. Sabarimala temple, unlike many other temples in Kerala, has always been open to people of all communities and religions. Lakhs of women offer prayers to Lord Ayappa at the temple. There is only a restriction on age, not gender. This age restriction is keeping in mind that the sankalpa of this deity (which enjoys a legal status under Indian law) is that of being ”Nithya Bramhachari.” This sankalpa of Lord Ayappa’s Bramhacharya cannot be separated from the deity as it forms the crux of Ayappa worship – which means that all Ayappa devotees undertake 41 days “vrat” which includes celibacy and refraining from eating meat, ahead of their journey to Sabarimala.
2. The latest U-turn by the state government exposes vested interests. The LDF government keeps silent on issues relating to triple talaq but when it comes to Sabarimala temple, it takes a hostile stand and does not respect the deity’s legal status or rights, because it is a government that is run by atheists.
3. The real issues that worry the women of Kerala is not entry to Sabarimala but problems like female foeticide, safety, lack of toilet facilities and rising crimes against women and so on.
4. The Travancore Devaswom Board has no qualms using Sabarimala temple’s coffers and then goes against the deity in court. They should at least honor the deity’s legal rights.
5. In the Haji Ali case, Gopal Subramaniam made a smart move to convince the court – he represented that all holy books promote gender equality, and that he is on a progressive mission to ensure that nothing regressive should be continued. And now what has happened? Everything is on hold – neither men nor women are allowed to enter as “arrangements have to be made” for facilitating infrastructural changes to the place.
6. In the case of Sabarimala temple, we did not use ploys but we did everything to showcase our sincerity in protecting the legal status and rights of the deity, which is recognized by the law of this land, as a legal entity.
MV Jayarajan representing CPI (M), stated to Kairala People TV, “The upper castes in BJP and RSS were silent when Kerala’s famous temple entry issue was debated across the state. That shows their party’s “commitment” to the welfare of backward castes and Dalits in the state, whereas the CPI(M) at the time took a strong position to fight for the temple entry rights. The truth is BJP and RSS are pro-Savarna (upper caste) parties.”
The debate over Sabarimala has only begun and it remains to be seen how this plays out in Kerala politics as every political party will be forced to make its stance clear on this raging controversy.