BJP President Amit Shah was in Kannur on October 27. It was to declare war by BJP ruling at the Centre. The war cry is : bhakti vs communist government. The battle field is Kannur, supposedly the Left bastion, and the place CPM’s Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan hails from. The latest ally BJP roped in was SNDP. The language and the tone were strident. The target is not just Kerala but the entire South, with Lok Sabha polls of 2019 round the corner.
Shah took time off from his busy schedule in the context of polls in MP, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan where BJP has high stakes besides Telangana. Such was the sense of priority and urgency. He invoked Tripura where the formidable CPM government was defeated by a weak BJP, a surprise to many. In fact, soon after Tripura election result, this next battle to ‘ oust CPM from its last bastion’ was declared by the BJP. It was begun but now Sabarimala gave what BJP believes is its great weapon.
Vimochana Samaram, 2018-19 Edition
The situation in Kerala, with so many rallies and protests announced by BJP, is reminiscent of Vimochana Samaram (Liberation Struggle) of 1958-59 , when the first-ever communist government in an Indian state was dismissed by the Centre, invoking Article 356 and imposing President’s rule. It was exactly 60 years ago. Now with parliament election expected next summer, the BJP-led centre may indeed resort to the old game. All the ingredients of Vimochana Samaram are there now: NSS, Muslim League, Christian groups , Congress factions etc joined hands using Sabarimala issue.
Yes, Muslim League indeed joined hands with Sangh Parivar, much against the shallow wisdom of ‘secular’ camp. IUML lead a rally, complete with party flags, in Changanassery, Kottayam district, in support of Hindus protesting the opening up of Sabarimala. Its general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty openly backed maintenance of status quo at the Ayyappan temple.
It may be noted that Syrian Christian groups , among the richest in Kerala elite, were cultivated by BJP since a few years. Even some of the clergy joined BJP sometime ago, blessed openly by a Bishop. So they now have them inside the BJP, not just as allies.
In fact, Shah brought with him K. Alphons Joseph, Junior Minister of Tourism , to Kannur. He is a renowned ex- bureaucrat (IAS) , hails from Kerala’s Christian elite, who was elected as an independent MLA in 2006 with LDF backing, only to defect to BJP in 2011. He was roped into Union cabinet, with an eye on Kerala , and made a Rajya sabha MP from Rajasthan. He represents big money bags as well as vote banks from amongst Christians of Kerala. He was not a loner as can be seen from the following Firstpost report of February 2014. One can also see the perseverence and opportunistic electoral foresight with which BJP works :
“ The Heads of the Jacobite and the Malankara Orthodox churches reiterated what the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose had said a few months ago – that the Church has no problem with Modi.
“The fact that the clerics gave Modi a clean certificate on both the counts that he is criticised for – communalism and development – will be a shot in the arm for the BJP which has been trying to gain a foothold in Kerala’s highly polarised political space. Gaining the support of the Syrian Christian clergy is a breakthrough that the party has been working on in the state since the late 1990s. BJP state leader and former union minister O Rajagopal spearheaded the initial efforts in 1999 when the party was willing to listen to some of the long standing issues, such as divorce and succession, of the Syrian Christians.”
Even while Central Congress leadership welcomed the Supreme Court verdict , the state leaders openly supported the agitation by the Sangh parivar. It may be recalled that the previous UDF government of Oommen Chandy had filed an affidavit in the SC that the traditions of Sabarimala temple should not be disturbed. As to be expected, the opportunist central Congress leadership, with its soft hindutva politics, tacitly blessed the state congress.
Almost hinting at a new Vimochana Samaram -2018-19, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, former president of the Kerala Devaswom Board, and a member of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee , echoed Sangh parivar in an interview : “I saw the unity of all believers in Sabarimala. When I say believers, it includes not just Hindu believers, but believers from other religions. They too have become part of the believers of Ayyappa. I also saw the secular face of India at Sabarimala through Lord Ayyappa. Sabarimala heralded the victory of all the believers, eclipsing all the conspiracies and conspirators. And who created such an opportunity? This government itself.” It is a clear case of using religion for politics RSS is blamed of.
He,who is “ at the forefront of the agitation” also echoed Amit Shah when he added : “There are umpteen judgments which were not implemented at all, but the state government wanted to take this upon themselves as their duty to implement it immediately,” And “Yes, all the people associated with this government are atheists and materialists. That was why they blindly thought they could destroy all beliefs easily.”
“We will uproot this government” : Amit Shah
Vimochana Samaram was indeed launched. There was no ambiguity. Shah’s language and the tone were strident. Addressing a gathering on October 27 at an inauguration ceremony of a new district committee office in Kannur, Kerala, Shah said, “We [the BJP] will uproot this government if it continues arresting people who protested the Supreme Court verdict on women’s entry into the Sabarimala, ” PTI reported . Shah, who began his speech with ‘Swamiya Saranam Ayyappa’ mantra, and ended with the same, said the LDF government led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan would have to pay a “heavy price” if the suppression of the agitation continues. He said the effort by his government to clamp down on the agitation amounted to “playing with fire”. “BJP is ready to go to any extent”, he declared.
He invoked the nation, and the Hindu faith, against “the state government’s cruelty … In Sabarimala, the nation has seen a fight between dharma, belief and bhakti on the one side and an oppressive Kerala govt. on the other. …Today in Kerala, a struggle is going on between religious beliefs and the state government’s cruelty. More than 2,000 activists and workers from BJP, RSS and other organisations have been arrested. BJP is standing like a rock with devotees,” Shah said in the rally in Kannur.(Some reports put the figure of arrests far higher, upto 4000.)
“The LDF is using its power to suppress belief of Ayyappa devotees. But Mr Vijayan, I want to remind you that BJP stands firmly with the Ayyappa devotees.” Alleging that the Left government was trying to “destroy” Sabarimala temple and the “Hindu traditions,” he said : we won’t allow the CPI(M)-led government to “gamble with Hindu faith.”
Opportunist politics of Congress
There has been a discussion of CPM-Left joining hands with ‘secular’ Congress as against the communal and fascist BJP and sangh parivar. It is more wishful thinking than real. Even where it was tried, it did not help: That was in Bengal, not against BJP but against ‘secular’ Trinamul Congress of Mamata Banerjee. In Tripura, Congress leaders and cadres joined BJP, and led their vote banks to shift towards BJP that finally won. In Kerala , the congress would not join CPM, at least at this juncture. Rather it would join hands with Sangh parivar, at least tacitly, to weaken CPM. It has its electoral needs more than any principle to guide it. It worked out its rationale, and slogans, to do so in the context of sabarimala.
The Congress has also expressed support in favour of filing a review petition. Leader of the opposition in Kerala’s assembly Ramesh Chennithala suggested that the Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, file a review petition against the verdict. “Social and religious repercussions of implementing the order should be considered seriously. All places of worship function on the basis of traditions and their violation would hurt the faithful,” he added. Chennithala, who describes himself as a dedicated devotee of Ayyappan, has been fierier than his saffron counterparts in his criticism of the SC and the refusal of the Pinarayi government to file a review petition, pointed out one commentator.
Former CM Oommen Chandy also suggested that the government should not “hastily implement the order”, adding, that while the court order is binding, it has also “created grave concern among the faithful”.
Anand Kochukudy , recently commented in The Wire :
“The Congress’ strategy seems to be devised to prevent further erosion of Hindu votes from their kitty. Having already lost a large chunk of the Nair votes to the BJP, they took a call well before the BJP to oppose the verdict in solidarity with the devotees. The blatantly regressive statements on menstruating women by Congress working president K. Sudhakaran and general secretary K.P. Anilkumar have not gone down well. But the Congress has always engaged in such appeasement politics in the state and their stand doesn’t surprise seasoned political observers. …( The same report also mentions how the women’s wing backed it.)
“Mahila Congress state president Lathika Subhash said: “I fully back the decision of the state leadership. Moreover, I am an Ayyappa devotee and I have visited Sabarimala on more than one occasion. I don’t see any contradiction in my stand as a woman and a politician as customs and traditions are associated with the sentiments of people and faith a subjective matter.”
The national leadership of the Congress had declared it as a “historic judgment”. Many of its State leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, had welcomed it initially.
But it took no time for the state congress leaders to turn into chameleons. The Central Congress leaders kept silent in the face of this somersault. Soft hindutva is what they are betting on , more so in the context of current polls in the North.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on October 30 asserted that the Congress was a party of Hinduism and that he is a “nationalistic leader” who respects every religion, The Hindu reported: Interacting with journalists, professionals and members of the business community in Indore, of poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Gandhi said : “The foundation of the BJP’s Hindutva is based on hatred, anger, insecurity. Whereas the Hindu religion is based on self-confidence, self-belief, respect for others, listening to others and embracing others… so we [the Congress] are not a Hindutva party but a party of Hinduism,” he asserted. Mr. Gandhi started his tour of Madhya Pradesh on Monday with prayers at Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar temple.
Former Union Minister AK Antony and senior Congress leader, in an earlier context, had provided the rationale for electoral opportunism : “Pinarayi Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan led the CPM to play the communal card in Chengannur in the same way Modi has done at the Centre. LDF has played the caste and religion card; we will analyse booth-by-booth, examine seat-wise setback.”
It is one thing to say ‘ I am Hindu’, though it too has implications. But The Hindu reported : so we [the Congress] are not a Hindutva party but a party of Hinduism,” he asserted. That is like acknowledging soft Hindutva.
Why Amit Shah rushed to Kerala, with little prior publicity, despite his busy schedules amidst these polls was clear by the time he arrived in Kerala. A new deal was stitched up, and it was to be demonstrated at a ‘hallowed’ place, the Sivagiri mutt, and on a ‘holy’ occasion:
SNDP, the new ally in Sabarimala affair
“Using the court order as cover, the state is trying to turn Kerala into a battlefield,” Amit Shah said, Times of India reported , putting the onus on the CPM. He was speaking at Sivagiri Mutt in Varkala, while inaugurating the 90th anniversary of Mahasamadhi of Sree Narayana Guru. He was roping in a powerful ally, the SNDP : SNDP Yogam and Sivagiri Mutt should continue to work together for a better tomorrow, Shah said. SNDP Yogam has been projected as a mass-based, secular, progressive cult of Kerala, renovated , re-worked and patronized lately by Ezava elite. It had its factionalism and friction within, apparently sorted out and greased with the good offices of the BJP and its Government.
The ally was given the price: Shah announced the Centre’s decision to sanction Rs 20 crore for the Varkala Sivagiri railway station to help improve facilities for Sivagiri pilgrims. Junior Minister of Tourism, K J Alphons, sanctioned works worth Rs 70 crore to the mutt, towards including Sivagiri in the national pilgrim tourism circuit. There can thus be more and more all-India mobilization.
SNDP Yogam general secretary, Vellappally Natesan , shared the dais with Shah. Natesan sought to fortify himself: he stressed the need for unity between SNDP Yogam and Sivagiri Mutt. He had earlier hit headlines for his contradictory views on the Sabarimala agitation. In fact he had hobnobbed with NDA earlier, but the deal did not come off. Now it is well brokered.
Making it clear that the saffron party was all set to make the Sabarimala issue one of its main agendas in the state, he concluded his speech by asking party workers to call “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa.” It is popular not only in Kerala but in all southern states the BJP is aiming at. Around 30 million pilgrims visited Kerala last year, as per one estimate. Some say it is 50 million. This is the season they have all their ears and eyes on Kerala and Ayyappa. So Shah arrived just in time.
Reformist Face, tailored for Kerala
Being in Kerala, Shah tried to appeal to reform and reason too: “Beliefs should be respected. Man-woman equality is must, but gender equality cannot be established by giving entry to men and women together. There are several temples that deny men entry,” he said. He listed some from North and some from Kerala itself. His translator focused on Kerala’s Attukal Bhagavati devi temple, in the capital city, where for a whole week men are barred, and entry is for women only. He said , in sync with the festive season: Hindu traditions honour women as during Dussehra and Navratri, daughters are worshipped. “Women sit next to us for pujas…we have respected women but there are temples with different traditions,” he said.
He made out a special case for Kerala : “There is no restriction for women to offer prayers in any other Ayyappa temple… The uniqueness of the Sabarimala shrine has to be protected,” he said. Kerala government was trying to “destroy” the Sabarimala temple by “suppressing” the agitation of Lord Ayyappa’s devotees. He singled out the enemy : “The communist government is conspiring against temples.
He tapped into the democratic opinion too : They have created an emergency-like situation in Kerala,” he added. He was referring to arrests of more than 2000 people across Kerala, and scores of cases filed. BJP next day put the figure of those arrested or detained at 4000 plus. ) He said the BJP fully supported the protests that were being organised against the state government’s cruelty inflicted on protestors at the Sabarimala temple.
Constitution and Law
About Shah’s remarks on the Supreme Court verdict, Chief Minister Vijayan later said: “The remarks of BJP President Amit Shah in Kannur are an attack on Supreme Court, Indian Constitution and our judicial system. BJP president’s assertion that courts must only pronounce verdicts which could be carried out conveys the message that fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution are not meant to be implemented. These statements of Shah also reveal the true colour of RSS and Sangh Parivar.”
As if anticipating this , Shah in Kannur had his argument : To those who speak of the Court, Constitution and laws, he said: “I hear people speak of article 14(equality before Law) , but under the articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution, I also have the right to live by my religion. How can one fundamental right override another fundamental right,” he asked.
He is armed with the latest decision by the Supreme Court to hear the review petitions on Sabarimala verdict.
Shah is also aided, ironically, by the only woman judge on the bench, Indu Malhotra, who in a minority verdict , favoured protection of religious practices. In her judgement, she said, “In a pluralistic society comprising of people with diverse faiths, beliefs and traditions, to entertain PILs challenging religious practices followed by any group, sect or denomination, could cause serious damage to the constitutional and secular fabric of this country.”
The Shah was emphatic : “I want to tell governments and courts, ‘give orders that can be implemented’. They should not give orders that work to break the faith of people,” Shah said in Kannur.
The supreme leader of the ruling party , BJP’s Shah, advised the Supreme Court : Listing court verdicts which have not been implemented, including on ‘Jallikattu’ (traditional bull-taming sport of Tamil Nadu) and prohibiting loudspeakers in mosques, Shah said “impractical” directions should not be given by courts and they should pass orders that can be implemented. (hindustantimes.com) . Shah also asked courts to issue “practical instructions to governments”.
His reference to Jallikattu seeks to rope in the secular-minded, while mosques he mentioned was to rake up and beef up the communal camp.
Recalling that the Left government had not implemented several court orders before, Shah said the court order in the matter should be implemented by respecting the sentiments of devotees.
Ayodhya of the south : Rath Yatra launched
Amit Shah has the mandate and full backing from his party and the government. www.telegraphindia.com reported on October 28 : “ Shah’s aggression and defiance were greeted with delight by BJP leaders in the capital, who hailed his “strategy to turn the issue into the Ayodhya of the south” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Party insiders said both the RSS and the BJP were working in tandem to “address” Hindu concerns in Kerala and other southern states relating to Sabarimala.
“The BJP, party leaders said, believes the Sabarimala agitation can do in the south what the Ayodhya temple movement did for the party in northern India, substantially turning its electoral fortunes around in southern India. ”
It may be noted that millions of people from Telangana , AP, Tamil nadu and Karnataka visit Sabarimala every year. In fact, visitors from Kerala are far less. But it is the biggest business season for Kerala, perhaps next only to Onam, and a big revenue source for Kerala government too. And the season has just commenced and would last upto Pongal, January 2019, just right for Lok Sabha polls. The BJP said that its protest would not be confined to Kerala and would expand to other south Indian states.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s Kerala unit chief, PS Sreedharan Pillai, announced the party’s protest programme against the arrest of Sabarimala devotees who defied the Supreme Court order.
“Over 4,000 innocent people were illegally arrested/detained. So BJP will observe a one-day fast in front of the DGP’s office in Trivandrum and March to the SP’s office in other districts on Oct 30. From November 8 onwards, there will be six-day Rath Yatra from Kasargod to Sabarimala,” he told ANI. He claimed that leaders of the ruling CPI (M) are atheists and have decided to destroy Sabarimala.
In fact, the Rath Yatra of Kerala was already launched with all rabble-rousing rabidity, as reported by The Wire:
“ Malayalam actor Kollam Thulasi has issued an open threat , saying that any woman who attempts to enter the temple should be “ripped apart”. Thulasi’s barbaric comments – that one half of these women should be sent to Delhi while the other half should be thrown towards the house of state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan – have come amid growing protests across the state against the apex court’s judgment.
“ Addressing a public gathering in Kerala’s Kollam city, the actor further said that the four judges who delivered the verdict on Sabarimala are idiots. … The actor – who is also a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party and was their candidate in the 2015 assembly polls – was quoted by The News Minute as saying: “The mothers (elderly woman) taking part in the protest against the judgment should go to Sabarimala. Then those women should rip apart the ones who try to enter the temple.”
“Thulasi was speaking at a rally by the Sabarimala Viswasa Samrekshana Jatha – to protect customs of Sabarimala – at Chavara in Kollam. The rally was being led by BJP state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, who when questioned about Thulasi’s declaration, told The News Minute: “It is a mass protest, a lot of people take part in it. Not all of them would inform us what they were going to speak and seek our consent. Thulasi is associated with an Ayyappa devotee group in Kollam and hence he spoke.”
Not just Manu, but Machiavelli
Thus it is a political battle launched by BJP to grip Kerala in days to come , and grab the South in the immediate election context. Nothing less. It is not guided by mere Manu, as believed by the naïve intellectuals, but Machiavelli as well as Goebbels. Mind you : Shah had warned in Kannur : “ We will go to any extent.”
If BJP is to be countered , it cannot be done by such naivety. Ilaiahs are no match to it. In fact, if Ilaiahs are in your team, you are sure to be clean-bowled, or caught, or run out in no time. BJP wishes and loves Ilaiahs to be the captains.
BJP has appropriated not only Gandhi, Patel and Bose but also Ambedkar , even Nehru; not only Savarkar but also Bhagat Singh. The Goebbels has hired hordes of media outlets to relay falsehood. It wields the carrot as well as the stick. It has Chanakyas of Nagpur. It has the biggest moneybags with it. It is nationalist . BJP tells the middle class : It is not opposed to secularism, mind you; it opposes fake secularism and appeasement politics. Some say it is fascist, but it is democratically elected fascist. It is not merely a Hindu outfit. It was the party that made a Muslim India’s President. It has a Muslim General Secretary , got some Muslim vote banks, and fought for Muslim women, deserted not only by their husbands, but by the secular parties. It is not a Brahmin-Bania party as it is made out to be. It has a Prime Minister who openly campaigned that he is a BC and a tea-maker. It had a BC Chief Minister, supported a dalit woman as CM, both in the largest state of India, UP. It has mobilized the Ati-sudra as well as many MBCs as Ministers. It has as its allies Dalits and Ambedkarites like Ramdas Athwale, Ram vilas Paswan, and even a Udit Raj who has no Ram in his name. It has won , they project, much of North-east and Goa that are predominantly Christian.
Thus BJP is not guided by mere Manu, as believed by the naïve intellectuals, but Machiavelli as well as Goebbels. Any counter strategies that do not take this into account will not succeed.
How NOT to fight BJP
How to fight and contain BJP is a much more difficult and complex subject. But how NOT to fight can be discussed.
Firstly, it can not be by repression as Pinarayi Vijayan, and many others , think or as Sumanta Banerjee naively prescribed. (Of course, Vijayan is not so naïve.) Banerjee in a comment of October 18, 2018, published in countercurrents.org, wrote:
“ The solution to the Sabarimala impasse is simple. The Kerala government – armed with the Supreme Court judgment – should have deployed its entire police apparatus to forcibly disperse the hooligans of the Sangh Parivar who have been on the rampage for the last two days. A lathi charge would have been enough to make these goons flee – cowards as they are… There is yet time for the Left Front government to make amends for its lapses. It must come down heavily on the Sangh Parivar gangsters, arrest their leaders, and warn the Sabarimala temple priests that they will face legal action if they defy the Supreme Court order.”
Babri Masjid demolition took place despite Supreme Court, and in spite of Mulayam Singh’s bold arrests of Advani etc. Jallikattu was repeated likewise. The Indian state too had thought it is simple : it could handle Left-wing Extremism ( LWE) by police methods. It is five decades since LWE erupted. It has not only survived but expanded. The State knows it better now. This comparison may appear to be odd. But mind you, it is an ideology you are fighting. Yes, Hindutva is indeed an ideology. Indira Gandhi had banned RSS as well as CPI- ML groups, jailed one lakh people, including those of sangh parivar. Neither was eliminated. In fact, both are stronger today than in 1975-76 Emergency days of Mrs. Indira.
Hooligans , goons, gangsters – surely such were there in the crowds. But you cant call thousands, including hundreds of women, as goons etc. Having seen the gangsters going berserk, all over India, you can’t call them cowards ! He banks on the Supreme Court knowing full well it had a woman judge who dissented. Hope the admission of Sabarimala Review petition would help the dawn of wisdom.
Secondly, it can not be by arguments like those made by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd in countercurrents.org, of October 18,2018. And his ‘facts’ are a handle for any opponent to brush him aside easily. But before any discussion, let us see the essence as succinctly pointed out by Farooque Chowdhury in countercurrents.org., on October 20, 2018.
“The same sectarian viewpoint! One sectarianism feeds and fuels another sectarianism, you know it Mr. Professor Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. It is not me who should lecture you this aspect of the sectarianism. Today, you are voicing one section of the marginalized, tomorrow another professor will voice another section; and thus, the marginalized, the dispossessed, the trampled will be torn down into smaller pieces — a position helpful to the dominating capital. Who shall get benefit from this sectarianism? The answer is also known to you, Mr. Professor Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. How long shall this game — segmenting the dispossessed, the marginalized, the trampled — be played? Is not it a game designed by the dominating capital? Is not it a game going against the interests of all the dispossessed, all the marginalized, all the trampled? ”
Because he is now known to be an opinion-maker, also against sangh parivar, it is necessary to know a little about Kancha Ilaiah. An intellectual known to Telugus for around four decades, he is unanimously known for one thing: stubbornness; no adverse situation, even no stark fact, can disturb him. He exhibited utter ignorance on some aspects, commented , R.Gopal . Ilaiah is known to be erudite while at the same time being utterly ignorant on some aspects. And he does not bother to study when pointed out about such aspects. Telugu people have been seeing it all over the last several decades. He has earned a bit of notoriety in Telugu society as a caste-centric, if not a casteist theoretician. In fact, few outsiders knew him by his caste for a couple of decades; he was once known only as a progressive thinker-activist. Then he himself declared his caste affiliation, even as identity movements got accentuated, and he became one of its ideologues. In fact, he changed his name, i.e., added his caste name as a suffix hardly a few years ago. His popularity as well as notoriety have been spreading across India and across English-knowing readers, much beyond India too. Like Ramgopal varma, the film director, he is in limelight for being controversial. He has been refuted and rejected not only by upper castes, as some would say, but also by many SC and BC critics too; not only by Rightists but also Leftists. In fact, at one phase, when he had opposed separate Telangana stubbornly, his fame or notoriety peaked and he was hated by lakhs of people. He now has regained some supporters among some caste-oriented students and people. Like the fringe groups of sangh parivar that make news, he too makes news as he emerged as a caste-centric ideologue on the fringes.
Let us see some arguments like those made by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, and some of his ‘facts’. He writes :
- “The Nairs though are considered to be Savarna in the Kerala society but they do not have any spiritual rights within the temple system. They are the fourth Varna called Shudra, who were slaves for long time in history, from the days of Rigveda…. Yet Nairs—particularly Nair men after establishing the Nair Service Society (NSS) – remain so backward that they almost live at the feet of Brahmins as spiritual slaves.”
“ The Shudra Nairs were the most powerful community in Kerala in feudal times because of their proximity with Brahmin Namboothiris and their land holdings. …When the feudal system collapsed Nairs also suffered in terms of loss of land holdings. But they were one of the first in Kerala to get educated and get the lucrative government jobs…. Nairs still hold majority of government jobs in Kerala. They also built a number of schools and colleges which brought social and economic resurgence to the community….
“ The tradition of a Nair being the Devaswam board chief must be broken…. Now almost 90 % jobs in Devaswam board are held by Nairs. This has to be remedied. ..(See : Sabarimala An Upper Caste Conspiracy? Here’re Ten Ways To Defuse It )
How come Nairs “who were slaves for long time in history, from the days of Rigveda” , and Nairs who remain “so backward” come to occupy such top positions , in government jobs as also in temple bodies? Whether it is UDF or LDF, Kerala always had many CMs and Ministers from among Nairs. And they top the table as bureaucrats and police bosses too.
- Ilaiah asserted : “The Shudra culture of India, which is the culture of majority people, does not believe in this theory of sexual discharge of female or male being spiritually pollutant. All productive communities world over, never believed this kind of anti-production and procreational theories.”
It is totally against facts. People irrespective of caste and religion , in India as also in several other civilizations, observe or entertain some degree of segregation or pollution during menstrual period. Though unscientific, working classes as well as educated middle classes, including those employed, in overwhelming numbers , observe them particularly in relation to religious and social rituals back home. The productive communities Ilaiah mentions are no exception. In ‘lower’ caste and toiling communities, in fact, it has been very harsh and painful. Most of the people keep away from God , or puja (worship) room, even within their homes. No one forces them; it is voluntary. Even after Sabarimala verdict, only a very few women came to see the God. That will be the same even in future. It is only a dispute of rights, and only in the realm of ideas. In fact, that has been a factor in this litigation. Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge did not agree with the majority view, citing several grounds including customs of the believers.
- Ilaiah injected his anti-brahminism, perhaps hoping it would divide the elite communities, into the issue by writing thus: “The Nair men for centuries surrendered the Nair women’s self respect to the Brahmin males in worst Manuvadi system called Sambandam. The Brahmin men exploited the Nair women worse than the slave masters exploited the African American women for centuries. The Brahmin men procreated children in Sambandam and left them to the fate of their own.”
Those who know even a little about Kerala society would laugh at his audacity combined with ignorance. Even his sociology in general will be laughed at . Why is it that the “Manuvadi system called Sambandam” limited to Kerala? Did Manu write a separate section for Kerala?
Did Nair men surrender their women? Was it not known to be a peculiar tradition of Kerala wherein the Nair women were heading matrilineal if not matriarchal family system? The Nair woman was the master, the property belonged to her, not to the man. And not all Brahmins, but only feudal Namboodiris, had such sambandham. Even among the Namboodiris, only the eldest of the brothers had some privileges, and the younger had no such rights.
Based on such knowledge, he writes : “The progressive Nairs, wherever they are, must force the leadership of the NSS to get out of this Brahmin trap. Otherwise the poor agrarian productive Nairs will suffer hugely in future. Particularly the Nair women must be saved from the danger of getting destroyed .”
He should know that today there are almost no “poor agrarian, productive Nairs” in Kerala. Nor are Nairs in Brahmin grip. It is all a make-believe world of Ilaiah. If one ventures to fight Sangh parivar with such ignorance, defeat is definite even before the battle commenced.
- Ilaiah injected his own theories about caste and race into the controversy:
“Ayyappa is a Shudra God like Beerappa of two Telugu states. Both Ayyappa and Beerappa have the Indo-African roots …Thus, Ayyappa in his black dress represents the Shudra-Dravidian culture which has its roots in the Indo-African heritage as against the Indo-Aryan Brahminic Vedic safron dess code. There is no saffron dress code there….
“Ayyappa, Beerappa (the shepherd God of Telugu region) and many others who bear such names like Veerappa, Mallappa and so on must have migrated to the South and have done great service to society. Hence they became Godheads….”
It is true communities have their own beliefs and notions of God…it is man who makes God, and that in his own image. There is no Sudra God, and shepherd God, strictly speaking. But Ilaiah extends his theories to rationalize the belief systems, inherently irrational as they are . North or south, such belief systems, tribal and village deities are aplenty. He is not alone in this, of course.
And this also he does without any regard to facts. He mentions : Indo-Aryan Brahminic Vedic safron dress code. There is no saffron dress code there…Anyone who knows Sabarimala can tell him that senior visitors wear saffron, while juniors wear black. Many ‘ Dravidian’ and dalit communities wear saffron in their rituals….Like Ayyappa, there is a piligrimage to Kanakadurga temple of Vijayawada where devotees , mostly from ‘lower caste communities’, wear saffron. Why ? He should know that Buddhist monks wear saffron and they are not Brahmins, nor influenced by them.
- He wrote : “The Anti-women code of this Ayyappa God was imposed by the Namdoodiri Brahmins only in the recent years when they took over the temple priesthood as it was mobilizing huge finances.”
Here it will not be out of place to mention that Buddhist shrines in Thailand, where “ women are restricted from entering some areas of temples such as the holy pagoda, which contains Buddha’s relics and certain chapels. Many people in the North and Northeast of Thailand believe that the divinities were buried under the ground of these historic places. While these restrictions on women’s movement have been discussed for a long time, there has been little change. According to these customs, women are forbidden to touch or even come close to monks due to Buddhist beliefs…. Thus, most temples in Thailand put an announcement which restricts women from entering….(sometimes, a simple sign such as “no lady” is displayed)… According to a study by Pensupa Sukkata Jai-in, there is a connection between Buddhism and superstition…” (https://www.wikigender.org/wiki/restricted-area-for-women-in-thailand-why/)
Which Brahmin was there in Thailand to impose this on Buddhists? There are restrictions on women in Islamic shrines too. There is no use searching for logic in illogical belief systems. Amit Shah said : “There is no restriction for women to offer prayers in any other Ayyappa temple… The uniqueness of the Sabarimala shrine has to be protected. ”
Others too pointed out, also in the Court, that there are thousands of Ayyappa temples, including in Kerala, where there are no restrictions on women. Why Brahmins did not impose it elsewhere? Why Namdoodiris did not impose it on other places within Kerala? He indulges in economics also, when he says, “as it was mobilizing huge finances.” He alone knows what it means!
The reality is closer to what Binu Mathew, who knows Kerala and Malayali society better, wrote in two comments :
“Brahmin population in Kerala, the Kerala Namboothiris, are miniscule in population numbers. It is the shoodra Nairs who are significant in numbers in Kerala, but fast losing its influence in Kerala society, socially and economically and in numbers, that is at the forefront of this agitation with the support of fascist forces like RSS and Sangh Parivar organizations.” (October 18, 2018, countercurrents.org)
“In Kerala the Brahmins who once were the dominant community were always miniscule in numbers and lost most of the wealth they held by the feudal system. They mostly live as priests in temples many of which are very poor in terms of income generation. Kshatriyas are even miniscule in numbers and were never a powerful community in Kerala. Vyasyas are a non existent community in Kerala. The Shudra Nairs were the most powerful community in Kerala in feudal times because of their proximity with Brahmin Namboothiris and their land holdings….
“When the feudal system collapsed Nairs also suffered in terms of loss of land holdings. But they were one of the first in Kerala to get educated and get the lucrative government jobs. Nairs still hold majority of government jobs in Kerala. They also built a number of schools and colleges which brought social and economic resurgence to the community….”
“When Pinarayi Vijayan speaks of upper caste conspiracy, he in fact speaks of NSS/RSS conspiracy. Unless the LDF government counters this conspiracy heads on and defeats it, the renaissance process in Kerala will not come to its logical conclusion. These regressive forces have to be countered and defeated to ensure the temple entry of all women in Sabarimala. These are the forces that oppose the Sabarimala temple entry and trying to drag Kerala into a Ayodhya like situation….
“ The only option before the government is to neutralise the RSS and Sangh parivar agenda to create another Ayodhya like situation.”
(Binu Mathew, October 20, 2018)
The last two paras quoted above are very close to an effective course of treatment of the malignancy. Following these facts and analysis that are solid and valid, he suggests some measures that, however, may not crack the problem: A few dalit or bahujan elite at the top in some institutions, and in jobs at lower levels – which is what he suggested — will not bring out the envisaged change. BR Ambedkar in his last, Agra speech bitterly commented, and lamented, about how he was let down by such dalit elite. India already has seen it all, more vividly, in the later decades. Mayawati allying with BJP earlier, Paswan , Ramdas Athavale and Udit Raj now have shown it. The NDA today has majority dalit MPs and MLAs. Whether in Godhra or in Odisha, BJP could poison SC and ST masses and used them against minorities. It is doing the same in North-east . But apart that, let us consider what he wrote :
“ What followed was the coming together of casteistic forces against this historic and progressive verdict. Showing total disrespect to the top court of India, casteistic forces led by RSS, Sangh Parivar organizations came forward to oppose the temple entry of young women.” (October 18, 2018)
He like many others has lot of respect and expectations on the Court that gave a “historic and progressive verdict”. That perhaps is to be expected in the current situation. The Review petition will come up soon, as the also Ayyappa pilgrimage season. The Ayodhya verdict is also expected . What is in store, nobody knows. However, a little perusal of current realities will be useful.
How not to fight BJP includes NOT to rely on Constitution , the Supreme Court and laws.
It is a political battle, and should be waged politically and ideologically. Nothing else, more so courts, would help.
Some people say they have lot of respect for the Supreme Court. After all they forget that it is also governed not only by law but also politics. Justice Krishna Iyer wrote how the Court is governed by class and politics. Others including some top judges brought out , and all of us have seen, how caste prejudices operate there, and open discussion of appointment of judges in relation to caste has been there. It needed a Muslim judge and a Sikh judge to give certain verdicts in related cases. Corruption, not just monetary, in the judiciary has been alleged by several top judges, and has come up before the topmost court itself. It was after all the same Court that refused bail, for years, to a renowned pediatrician , and to a handicapped Professor, and now again …. The revolt by four judges of Supreme Court revealed certain things, and many things were still concealed.
- Particularly in relation to political Hindutva , one should be wary. The Supreme Court, some years ago, gave a judgment that defined Hindutva in a manner that is really embarrassing to many:
“ Justice Verma had concluded in 1995 that “no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms
Hindu',Hindutva’ and `Hinduism’; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage”….Classifying Hindutva as a way of life of the people in the sub- continent, he dismissed the idea of equating the abstract terms Hindutva or Hinduism with the “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”…. The Supreme Court declined a plea of social activist Teesta Setalvad to check the “devastating consequences” of its 1995 judgment defining Hindutva or Hinduism as a “way of life” and nothing to do with “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”. (October 25, 2016)
A seven-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, clarified that the Supreme Court is presently only examining what constitutes corrupt electoral practices under Section 123 (3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. The court said it would not be going into the larger issue of whether ‘Hindutva’ means the Hindu religion.
Specifically, the Constitution Bench is hearing arguments on whether it amounts to a corrupt electoral practice if a candidate ropes in the services of religious leaders to use their mass appeal to swing votes in his favour.
- Particularly in relation to Sabarimala itself , see what happened: It was the Kerala High Court that upheld the irrational practices. And advised the government to use police force for the purpose. (Sumanta Banerjee should note this).One can’t rely on them. Nobody knows what the verdict would be of the Review petition before the Supreme Court. Nor about the Ayodhya verdict.
In 1991, Justice K Paripoornan and Justice K Balanarayana Marar of the Kerala High Court in their ruling against the Travancore Devaswom Board, banned entry of women between ages above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from offering worship at Sabarimala Shrine during any period of the year stating that such restriction was in accordance with the usage prevalent from time immemorial. In addition, the Justices of the High court directed the Government of Kerala, to use police force to ensure the order to ban entry of women to the temple was implemented and complied with.( Kerala High Court (5 April 1991) Bench: K Paripoornan, K B Marar;) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabarimala)
Then there was a Rule regarding restriction on entry of women. The ban was enforced under Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965. (The Wire 12/Oct/2018 Jitheesh P.M.)
Thus the Top Courts, laws and Rules had their own role in the whole controversy. The minority verdict in current case and the review petition that was admitted are also to be taken into account.
- But then, the government itself changed its stand , in the Supreme Court. See this report by the Legal Correspondent of The Hindu on July 18, 2018. Sabarimala temple entry: Supreme Court mentions Kerala’s flip-flops is its title:
“The Kerala government’s various flip-flops in the Supreme Court since 2007, in support and against the ban on allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple, were mentioned by the court on Wednesday, July 18, 2018..
The reference came after senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for Kerala, declared the State’s support for allowing women to enter the temple. “Are you changing your stand again? This is the fourth time you have done so,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra told Mr. Gupta, before turning to the other members of the Bench for a brief conference.
In February 2016, when the UDF was in power, Kerala had argued that the prohibition was ingrained in the minds of devotees for centuries. In November 2016, after the LDF returned to power, the government changed its stand in favour of throwing open the gates of the temple to women of all ages. In February 2016, the State government had declared that the restriction was in place since “time immemorial” and was a part of the “unique idol concept of the temple”.
The February 2016 stand of the State directly contradicted its November 2007 position. In 2007, the then LDF government had filed an affidavit saying “it is not fair to deny a section of women from entering Sabarimala temple and making worship”. That affidavit had questioned the rituals, customs and observances followed in the temple.
In November 2016, Mr. Gupta had told the Supreme Court that the State was returning to its November 2007 stand to allow women entry.
The above remark by the CJ can be understood better by an earlier report of 2016 (12.07.2016) by telegraphindia.com.
“Kerala’s Left government today did an about-turn in the Supreme Court and opposed the entry of women aged 10 to 50 into the Sabarimala Temple, contradicting its own stance of 2007 and backing its Congress-led predecessor’s position. As a surprised apex court grilled him, state counsel V. Giri stressed that the new CPM-led Left Democratic Front government was sticking to the viewpoint expressed earlier this year by the previous United Democratic Front government. “As of now there is no change in our stand. I have no instructions on any change,” Giri told the bench of Justices Dipak Misra, C. Nagappan and R. Banumathi.
- We are living in a country where governments do not enforce judgments they do not like or prefer. And parties who ruled for long periods are not bound by laws, Constitution, and judgments. Jallikattu and sabarimala are two latest examples: Few have come out in favor of implementing these verdicts. Thousands have come out opposing it.
It is more a political question also for the ruling party. It has at one phase considered whether to appeal against the verdict. So did the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), presently led by one with CPM. Both were NOT firm in taking steps to enforce the verdict.
Fighting what is called Manuvadis is not big issue. The ruling elite, including those in BJP, are more Machiavellis of modern era, though they will use Manuvad to the extent and wherever it helps. It is a hydra- headed monster. It has many avatars , not just as BJP.
Now that the CM, Pinarayi Vijayan, has taken a stand, let the LDF government organize a big mass mobilization, across Kerala. It had organized human chains, north to south, on occasions. Let there be one on this issue: whether it should implement the verdict. It should not be a predominantly men’s affair. Let women be mobilized too in good numbers. Let it be clear if women of Kerala are for it. Let it be a political message, welcome for the progressive people, and also needed for the LDF in the face of machinations by various reactionary forces. It will serve to counter the vimochana samaram in cooking.
(All emphases in Reports are added.)
(The author is a political observer)