Why Pinarayi Vijayan must take the RSS-BJP head-on in the Sabarimala fight. The fight is now for more than the one temple


In rural Andhra Pradesh, there is a proverb that is reportedly used by rapists against their victims, “Allow me to rape you — or I’ll cut my own organ [presumably, the penis].” The saying reflects deep-seated misogyny and chauvinistic tendencies.

The threat of self-immolation now emerging from Thiruvananthapuram against the Supreme Court order that allowed women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala shrine may be similarly seen. A man, who attempted self-immolation, has since died in the state of Kerala.

A similar politics, of grave threats, was seen during the anti-reservation protests in the 1990s. The protests notwithstanding, the fight for reservations in jobs and education was fought — and won.

Brahmanic patriarchal forces adopted this culture in the post-Harappa civilisation — and they retain the same anti-women and anti-Dalit/Shudra/Adivasi tendencies to this day. Indian women and food producers have been victims of this culture for millennia. But we need to fight this to its logical end.

Let me go back a bit in history.

The oldest city in the Indian subcontinent is Harappa. As per historical evidence, Harappa was the oldest city in the world built with bronze, brick, crafted wood and stone.

As is well-known, it was built 1,500 years before the Aryan invasion and the writing of the Rig Veda and other Brahmanic texts. Both male and female labourers were involved in the building of the city that can safely be said to belong to pre-patriarchal times.

I have written in my earlier article — How Brahmins ensured India never progressed — that by using the power of Agni and Vayu, the Harappan civilisation was destroyed by Aryan Brahmanic forces. Later, they introduced the varna system and a brutal Brahmanic patriarchy, going on to adopt saffron as a Brahmanic colour and the swastik as their symbol.

Saffron is also now the colour of the BJP and its ideological arm, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Saffron was never the colour of the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis. The Brahmins apparently declared black to be a demonic colour and it became a hue of the Periyarites and Dravidians.

It has now been proven that Harappans were black-complexioned people themselves and their favourite colour was black, the colour of the buffalo — the animal that makes the highest contribution to India’s milk production. The saffron forces never treated the buffalo on par with the cow, which is generally seen as a white animal (though there are a few black cows too, but there is no white buffalo anywhere in India).

Now, to my mind, as sources have referred, Lord Ayyappa is a Shudra or Adivasi deity who was black in complexion himself. Those who take the Ayyappa mala only wear black clothes, mostly a mundu and shirt. The other day, I was at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport and saw hundreds of Ayyappa bhakts, all dressed in black with malas on their head. Among them were children too.

If Harappa is the name of the most ancient city in India’s west, Lord Ayyapa is sitting in a temple in Sabarimala at the southern end of India.

The similarity in the names of Harappa and Ayyappa too can’t be missed. If the black-complexioned Indo-Dravidians built Harappa, the ‘black’ Ayyappa is worshipped by many Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis.

Brahmins, Vaisyas, Jains and Kayasthas generally do not go to the Ayyappa temple and don’t wear the mala dress.

Telugu people constitute the largest group of Ayyappa devotees. In the 66 years of my life, I have not seen a single Brahmin or Arya Vysya in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, taking Ayyappa deeksha and going to Sabarimala in the customary black clothes.

While women too did not wear the mala, I remember seeing a lot of them visit the temple during my childhood. This is in consonance with the Mala Araya tribe’s claim that the Brahmins of Kerala took over the temple in the 1970s and 1980s and introduced anti-women practices. While the tribals want to reclaim the temple, the saffron brigade has apparently thrown constitutional propriety to the winds.

Ayyappa is a symbol of Dravidian male-female equality. Aryan Brahmanism, under the leadership of its saffron brigade, is apparently trying to destroy this Dravidian culture now by Brahmanising that aspect of spiritual culture. However, there is serious resistance to this anti-constitutional and anti-Ayyappan Brahmanism from Pinarayi Vijayan — also the chief minister of Kerala.

After Narayana Guru and Ayyankali, Pinarayi Vijayan is leading a pro-Ayyappan movement, which he calls a ‘new renaissance’.

The Indian renaissance, started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal and Jyotirao Phule in Maharashtra, Narayana Guru in Kerala and Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker in Tamil Nadu, began with the question of women’s liberation from sati, child marriage and illiteracy.

Ayyappa was also always for women’s spiritual equality.

Like Narayana Guru, Vijayan too comes from the Ezhava community. He joined the Communist movement during his student days and has now started the ‘new renaissance’ for good. All the progressive forces — liberals, constitutionalists and women — must support this movement, otherwise, Indian society as a whole would suffer a huge setback.

Vijayan realises that the demand to restrict women’s entry into the temple is backed by the upper caste men of the RSS. He has rightly called it an ‘upper caste conspiracy’.

It is not usual for Communist leaders of Kerala to attack the casteist culture perpetuated by upper castes. In the garb of class politics, they protected casteism for a long time — but now, Vijayan has taken a bold step by calling it out.

Vijayan has started mobilising the OBC, Dalit and Adivasi groups to counter the Brahmanic anti-women and anti-Ayyappa politics. He is already getting huge support from the Periyarites of Tamil Nadu. There is a common cultural bonding in the use of a black dress code by Ayyappa devotees and Periyar followers.

How can the RSS-BJP and other Sangh Parivar affiliates, who never respected the black colour or wore the Ayyappa mala, now call for who should and shouldn’t visit the temple?

The saffron brigade has started this movement to overthrow the Communist government in Kerala.

However, if Vijayan decides to stay the course, he will not only save his government, but also the Ayyappan culture and India as a nation.

Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd Chairman T-MASS and political theorist.

Originally published in DailyO

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