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The Sabarimala issue has refused to die out. At first glance, it seems that if someone takes an esoteric stand on a Muslim issue like triple talaq, it is welcomed by many, even in the electronic media (The Other Mandir, Dec 3). But when the same approach is employed to critique issues related to the Hindu community, like the Sabarimala issue or the Ram Mandir issue, one is easily branded ‘anti-Hindu’ and, consequently, anti-nationalist. Of course, this generalisation applies to only some groups and some sections of the media, but these groups are in the majority these days and hence what they say, and how they say it, is very important.
On the other hand, there is another vocal section of society, who are quick to weigh issues like Sabarimala without understanding the complexities associated with these issues. They should understand that matters of belief are sensitive and demand much more thought before rigid conclusions are drawn.
In India, women do not traditionally visit graveyards and cremation grounds. Women were not allowed to visit the Haji Ali Durgah in Mumbai before a PIL was filed by a group of nouveau-feminists in the Bombay High Court pleading that their fundamental rights were being violated through such a tradition. I believe that there is another logic or perspective that can be adopted here. The durgah trust, as a private entity is legally free to frame its own by-laws since it is not funded by public money.
Attukal Bhagyawathy temple is a famous shrine dedicated to goddess Badrakali, an incarnation of Mahakali.During the festival of Attukal Pongala, it draws millions of women. At this time, men are not allowed, their entry is banned by convention not by law. The Attukal temple is known as the women’s Sabarimala.
There are many traditional and cultural issues which cannot be sorted or untangled within a night. Intellectuals and educated masses should reach out to the general public to help them understand the nuances of gender equality before the law takes its own course to remove gender biases, if that is what they really are.
Khalid Alvi, On E-Mail
The Sabarimala issue cropped up soon after the resilience people in Kerala showed in the face of unprecedented floods. During both periods of crises, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan showed a steely resolve—first by taking adequate and timely measures to bring about stability in the flood-hit state and then by taking up a brave, rational stand on the ‘spiritual’ crisis gripping the state. The people of Kerala are all praise for Pinarayi and agree—irrespective of their political leanings, save a few top-level politicians and their agenda-driven cadre—that he is an able administrator. Those people who had been holding a negative image of him until now have undergone a metamorphosis in their views after witnessing the way he handled the flood crisis. The opposition parties, UDF and the BJP, had even tried to put spokes in the wheels of the administration by exhorting people not to donate money for the distress relief fund of the chief minister. It is not coincidental that these two parties are in the same side in the Sabarimala issue, even as saner minds among the Kerala public are wondering why the supposedly secular Congress should try to take mileage out of parochial Hindu sentiments, which is the wont of the BJP.
T.P. Sreedharan, Kannur
Can we really call ourselves secular when the courts of the country consider it okay to interfere in the internal workings of the institutions associated with the beliefs of the majority religion while they look the other way when it comes to the internal religious issues of the minorities? But then, the Constitution was designed by our leaders in such a way that this unbalanced administrative practice is accommodated. For reasons of theoretical fairness, this feature of the Constitution demands a revisit.
S.P. Sharma, Mumbai
I am no supporter of the BJP, in fact, I am usually critical of it on many issues. But I have to agree with BJP president Amit Shah on his comments on the Sabarimala verdict—that the courts should not pass unimplementable orders. As Justice Indu Malhotra—the sole dissenting judge in the Supreme Court bench that passed the order of women’s entry to Sabarimala—wisely said, religion is a matter of faith, and the courts should not ordinarily intrude or intervene in it. To test religion on the anvil of reason is a gross mistake.
It is widely believed that the presiding deity of Sabarimala, Lord Ayappa, is a ‘naishthik brahmachari’, a celibate, and that is the reason women of the menstruating age are not allowed in his presence. Devotees (Ayappans) abstain from sex, partially fast, wear black clothes, and pray for 41 days before departing for the pilgrimage. All this may be questionable under multiple principles of rationality, but then, it is the belief of the people.
Sureshkumar Prabhakaran Nair, On E-Mail
Actually, the whole furore is nothing but a political agenda of Hindu right-wing groups. Both the BJP and the RSS initially welcomed the Supreme Court verdict, but soon saw a golden opportunity to polarise the Hindu community and firm up a votebank. Unfortunately, the so-called progressive nature of the state is slowly declining, in tandem with the slow entry of right-wing elements into Kerala politics. The state seems to be slowly moving towards a new dark age, a pre-renaissance period. This needs to be arrested. A society which sleeps ensconced with archaic rituals and customs will find it difficult to move forward and confront the challenges of the modern age.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
Sabarimala was a low-key, seasonal pilgrimage destination. Over the years it has gained immense popularity in the south and millions of devotees now prepare for the austere rituals. The political slugfest currently on is not in the interests of devotees. All devotees ask for a peaceful, safe and spiritually satisfying pilgrimage, instead of this scrimmage.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
It’s imperative to demolish the mandirs of misogyny on our minds if we desire any progress.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to the article on Flipkart co-founder’s unceremonious exit from the organisation after Walmart brought the company over (Press Walmart To Clear Cart, Dec 3). Indian start-up entrepreneurs were having a good run up till now by emulating global models in the e-commerce landscape. But the time has come for the globalisation harvest. After setting up online stores from scratch in the country, founders of Indian start-ups are being pushed out of the game by the corporate giants of the world. How convenient, the longterm post-liberalisation model is: get the local to painstakingly construct business on the ground and then swallow it whole once the crop is ready. Other Indian entrepreneurs should take lessons from this, but wait, it may already be too late to do that since the global godzillas have entered the city.
Anil S., Pune
The story on the Shri Ramayana Express was a winner (The Train To Hindusthan, Dec 3)! The launch of this, deploying almost discarded, junked coaches and traversing much of India is a clever entrepreneurial move by the railways. Apart from bringing in revenue, it heightens a thickening Hindu ambience (Ram-Siya chants, use of drummers, actors dressed as characters from the Ramayana) and ties in nicely with the Modi government’s mobilisation of Hindutva forces. This also would intimidate the Opposition—they can only accept such a thing. The 800 travellers on the train on their 16-day gruelling tour, fully lost in their Jai Shri Ram routine, are also happily putting up with glaring deficiencies in the ragged sleeper coaches. Such schemes indirectly, effectively, help right-wing forces to strengthen their fight against argumentative rationalists. For peddlers of Hindutva ideology, blind faith is essential. Kulbargi, Dabholkar, Pansare and Gauri Lankesh led a crusade against this, and so were martyred.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Cyclone Gaja made landfall near Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, ripped through other districts and claimed several lives (A Storm With Tusks, Dec 3). Though the government took measures to protect coastal districts, the severity of the cyclone, triggering landslides, was devastating. It remains to be seen if government machinery deployed in full strength can minimise the loss of property.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your article on the BJP’s name-changing spree (Welcome to Prayagraj…er Allahabad, Nov 26). In fact, this practice was started many years ago by other governments—for example, those that renamed Delhi’s Connaught Place as Rajiv Gandhi Chowk, Wellington Hospital as Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and metro cities across the city. These are done with an eye on political gain. The name-changing of cities is only a step further in this direction. It’s high time governments realise this is a useless activity. They should instead address unemployment, pollution, agrarian crisis and climate change.
Anand Malhotra, Delhi
Though the name-changing spree is primarily driven by Islamophobia, there are other motives too. The Sangh parivar is aware of the Modi dispensation’s utter bankruptcy on the governance front—skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, falling value of the rupee, failure in generating employment, agrarian distress, farmer suicides and so on. Name-changing may come in handy for the BJP in 2019. The absurdities are mindboggling nonetheless. For example, why are cities being renamed when the country continues to be called by names of Persian and Latin vintage? India is derived from the river Indus, for which the old Persian word was Hindu, which came from the Sanskrit name for that river—Sindhu. Who knows, the global community may take notice of this country as a superpower if it is renamed as Ayodhyastan? Willing to try? Bravo Sangh parivar, carry on!
M. Jameel Ahmed, Mysore