Saturday, October 27, 2018

Save Sabarimala - Sacrificing Hindu Traditions on the Political Altar

With over 2000 Hindu protesters arrested by the Kerala Government and a controversy refusing to die down anytime soon, the real Sabarimala issue is not about equality or justice.

Image Courtesy: Karan Acharya

The Sabarimala issue over the past few weeks and the Supreme Court judgement allowing women of all ages to enter into Sabarimala temple is an example of how the judiciary could stray into the religious beliefs of the majority community of India, Hindus. While the majority status of Hindus in the state of Kerala has been dwindling with thriving religious conversions over the years, Hindus still form the majority in India (though the quantum of such majority is questionable due to statistical reliability errors and possible misrepresentations).

It is no secret that India has been one of the prime targets for religious conversions. Christianity has been at the forefront of religious conversions since the 1990s, from the initial focus on Islamic conversions in the 1980s. The nationalist BJP government in power for the past 4 years, and the impending Indian general elections in 2019 featured by lack of consensus on a serious opposition contender yet to match the stature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have apparently rattled the opposition, who may want to maximise havoc to reap political dividends.

South India in particular, has been a hotbed of caste-based politics, ironically, all in the name of eliminating caste. In Tamil Nadu for instance, Dravidian forces have started creating petty differences to reinforce distinctions based on caste. Caste divisions are typically made to look deeper and graver around elections to draw mileage against an otherwise united Hindu majority, and this election would be even murkier, in an effort to dislodge the ruling BJP.

Coming back to the Sabarimala issue, over 2000 Hindu devotees who protested against the Supreme Court judgement last week have been arrested, with over 500 remanded to judicial custody. The same Kerala Government that refused to honour the Supreme Court verdict and filed a review petition on the Mullaperiyar dam case is now intent on upholding the SC verdict on the Sabarimala issue. The Communist government’s hardline stance against religion seems to be at play in acting against the core belief structure of Sabarimala Ayyappan temple. It is yet another issue as to how the powerful arguments made against the litigation in the Supreme Court were discarded and age-old traditions were done away with in one fell swoop by a landmark verdict.

Now, it is up to the Ayyappa devotees of Sabarimala to fend for themselves in what could be described as an emergency-like situation in Kerala – Sabarimala devotees are being hunted based on videos of protests held over the past few days. There have been hundreds of peaceful marches organised in Kerela against the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. The irony is that there are videos that clearly show devotees protesting peacefully being targeted by the Kerala police in a heavy-handed manner.

In a nut shell, an age-old tradition is broken and Hindu religious sentiments are hurt. The judiciary tampers with religion when some of the original petitioners themselves have expressed solidarity with the protesting Hindu devotees, non-Hindu women are facilitated into the temple who allegedly indulged in sacrilege, protesting devotees are targeted by the state machinery with police indulging in violence, and now, over 2000 protesters have been taken into custody.

Spurious "Devotee" Rehana Fathima; Image: 24News

The timing of the controversy that has been deliberately raked up, smacks heavily of political overtones. And as the countdown to 2019 general elections in India gets underway, the political game in India would increasingly resort to fanning religious hatred, hurting religious sentiments, creating and widening existing caste-based fault lines, pandering to minorities, and dividing the people, particularly the majority community, in an unscrupulous quest for power.

The British laid down the rules of the divide-and-rule game, and the Indian politicians have perfected it to a fine art. It is now up to the Hindus to stand by Dharma and refuse to be taken for a free ride in the great Indian political circus.