Hailed by many, the violent aftermath of the Sabarimala judgment could have been anticipated by few. Thus, violence was witnessed all across the state with women continued to be denied entry to the temple, courtesy of the vigilantes. The question worth asking, therefore, becomes what made people engage in acts of violence post the judgement. To answer this, it’s essential to explore the indispensability of religion in the lives of people. Notably, there exists a dire need for the government to put its weight behind the pronouncement in order to help wean religion away from its discriminatory elements.
After SC passed the judgement which struck down the entry ban on women of childbearing age in Sabarimala, protests ensued all across the state with many being injured. Women hitherto haven’t been able to enter the temple premises with roughly 1400 protestors being detained by the police. Steadfast in its resolve of implementing the verdict, the CPI-M government has been making arrangements to ensure a safe entry to women ahead of the two-month festival, for which the temple will be opened. Meanwhile, two petitions were filed in SC, asking it to review its Sabarimala decision, the hearing for which has been deferred to January by the SC.
Committing Violence In The Name Of God
Indeed, what has transpired in the last few weeks makes us wonder, ‘Why does religion make people engage in violence?’ The answer lies in the salience religion holds in the lives of people. In a world where grief is commonplace and the future remains unpredictable, religion acts as a source of hope and guides people on how to lead their lives. That said, religion is one of the most intimate forms of an individual’s identity. Any ‘supposed’ attack on religion is thus perceived to be an attack on an individual and his autonomy. This threat perception often ends up evoking a violent response.
Additionally, religion is supposed to reveal the divine truth. Thus, given the monotheistic character of Christianity and Islam, they believe in a single truth while in Hinduism, traditionally, the existence of a plurality of truths has been accepted. This belief in a single divine truth is insidious given how it invariably leads to the corollary belief that the opinions of ‘infidels’ are false, thereby containing within it the seed of a violent reaction. In Hinduism, the dangerous trend of moving towards the idea of one correct way of doing things is palpable. This, to some extent, explains the vehement dismissal of SC judgment by Lord Ayappa devotees.
On Protecting God
True religion is generally associated with complete surrender-that is an absolute belief in the all-encompassing power of God and his ability to make everything right. One can’t think that their faith is more important than the divine. The moment one starts to believe that their God, our creator and the ‘supposed’ end goal of human life, is in need of protection from mortals, we’re letting our ego overcome our faith. Undoubtedly, the need on part of the followers to take up the mantle as the protector of Lord Ayappa reflects a breach of faith on their part.
Religions Masking Historical Inequalities
Given the historical genesis of religion, there’s no gainsaying that religions mask hierarchies prevalent in those times. Indeed, one example would be how the Brahmins reified what was originally supposed to be a workable social division of labour with them at the top, by appropriating available resources and power and keeping those at the lower end of hierarchy out of it. The spiritual concepts of dharma and karma were further used to subjugate a large number of Hindus.
These inequalities sit comfortably with prejudices ingrained in our minds. Needless to say, as time and ethics change, religion ought to reform itself as well, regardless of the kind of responses they evoke from the followers. Any attempt at religious reform deep down attacks those prejudicial sensibilities, thereby evoking a fiery response.
The Urgency Of Sticking To The Stand
Despite the regressive and politically expedient stand taken by the two national parties, Congress and BJP, the CPI-M has admirably stuck to its stand of duly implementing the verdict. It becomes important for varied reasons. The judicial pronouncement and government stand accords ‘state’ legitimacy to the idea of childbearing women entering Sabarimala, which influences the individual’s thought process in the long term. Additionally, for religions to be compatible with progressive values of liberty, justice, and equality, they’ve got to accept an element of secularisation and reform their creed accordingly. The Sabarimala judgement is a step in that direction. Furthermore, the authority of the state is backed by coercive power. This power could be used to affect change in people’s behaviour. While there may be protest initially, they’ll eventually come to accept the decision as happened in the cases of Sati, child marriage, the codification of Hindu Personal Law et al.
The Dangers Of Politicisation
All the pandemonium surrounding the judgement aside, the political parties ought to be careful in their stands and while making statements. The flip-flop in the stands of Congress and BJP shows how their present stands supporting protestors are driven by political considerations. Words have power. To make regressive statements for electoral gains leads to the creation of a highly avoidable negative discourse on that front. To take Smriti Irani’s remark on period blood as an example, it’s been a long journey since women have finally had the courage to openly talk about periods. Such an irresponsible statement coming from a minister works to sow seeds of shame and doubt in what was finally being normalised.
The way out? The statements made by politicians need to be accepted with a pinch of salt. The citizens need to be made conscious of the dangers of deriving their morality from a political party since they’re ultimately working in their own narrow self-interest and are likely to have wishy-washy stands. Contrastingly, the judiciary can generally be expected to be divested of such political considerations. Thus, a deeper appreciation of their views becomes more worthwhile.
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