Sabarimala is an emotive issue in Kerala and most of the southern states. The hill shrine ensconced in the dense forests of Periyar Tiger Reserve witnesses one of the world’s largest congregation of devotees with millions of devotees across the divides of class, caste and even religion undertaking an arduous pilgrimage to pay obeisance to their beloved ‘Ayyappaswamy.’ Everyone is equal here- even the Lord himself; that is why both the deity and the devotee is called “Swami.” The words, ‘Thathwamasi’ which means “it is you” inscribed on the top of the entrance to the sanctum reinforces this beautiful notion. After 41 days of sacrificial lifestyle and crossing the 18th step into the sanctum of the lord, Ayyappa tells his devotee that the God he is searching for is within him.
The Sabarimala logjam is not about gender equality. There is no blanket ban on entry of women at this hill shrine. Moreover, contrary to propaganda by leftist groups, menstruating women are not kept out on account of perceived “impurity,” but because of the eternal celibate status of the deity. One can question this line of argument on the grounds of rationality. However, then, will any religious belief of any faith stand the tests of rationality? The widespread public anger originates from the stubborn over-enthusiasm of the ruling Communist party in using the Supreme Court verdict for their ideological aim of destroying faith. The well-documented hypocrisy of the communists in dealing with matters of faith when it comes to other religions with perceived vote banks have only added fuel to the fire. The most recent incident being the incumbent CM coming heavily on an honest sub-collector for destroying a makeshift Cross in illegally occupied property in the hill station of Munnar where land mafias allegedly have the blessings of district leaders of CPM.
The public would have forgiven the government if it was only doing the constitutional duty of implementing the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age’s entry into the sanctum. However, the ruling communist party, drunk with the power saw an opportunity to target the temple in particular and Hindus in general possible thinking that it might get them the votes of radical Islamist groups with which it had tied up many times in the past. The Chief Minister personally gave a dressing down to the Devaswam Board President as he was in favour of a review petition and building consensus before bringing in drastic changes to age-old customs. The Vijayan government grossly misjudged the ground sentiments and played right into the hands of RSS and BJP resulting in a never seen before consolidation of Hindus across caste and political allegiance. Even the Congress leadership in Kerala started making sympathetic overtures to the cause of devotees as it realised the groundswell of anger among even apolitical Hindus, with leaders like K Sudhakaran, a bête noire of Communists in the state and often linked to a move to BJP taking the lead.
As the stalemate continues, the police clampdown on Sabarimala has become worse than even the emergency. The devotees including old and children were denied sufficient access to toilets, food and even drinking water until public outrage eased the restrictions by a notch. The “Natapantal,” stoned pave way where pilgrims traditionally used to rest after the tiring trek was made out of bounds by the police who is terrorizing devotees in the name of security as per the whims of the Communist government. The cops even indulged in destroying vehicles of devotees in the initial days of standoff, with apologists on the payroll of communists declaring them to belong to protesters. The state-owned KSRTC exclusively controls the logistics made it a nightmare for the devotees for making them wait for hours, all under the guise of ensuring ‘security’ before the High Court pulled them up. The police Raj has resulted in dwindling number of devotees to Sabarimala, as their right to pray peacefully is being crushed in their own land by a hostile government. The state Human Rights Commission and the High Court has come heavily down on the CPM government for the police atrocities and denial of even fundamental human rights to pilgrims.
Political leaders and even ordinary devotees are being taken into preventive custody in and around the sanctum without any provocation and even charged with non-bailable offenses under draconian provisions. The absurd reasoning being anyone suspected to be against the hasty implementation of the verdict by the Communist government is an RSS activist or criminal and has no rights. This horrendous absurdity is reminiscent of the English repression of the Scots or closer home, the Islamist subjugation of Indic people in the medieval period. Imagine devotees arrested for chanting “Har Har Mahadev” in Ujjain. That is precisely what is happening in Sabarimala, devotees including children being arrested even at the temple premises and remanded just for chanting “Swamiye Sharanamayyappa,” the sacred mantra which used to reverberate across the temple town and even the whole state.
The Police armed with the draconian section 144 which has been clamped in one of the holiest Hindu temples for days together is vigorously pursuing the political agenda of their Communist masters. K Surendran, State General Secretary and one of the few mass leaders of BJP in the state was arrested for leading the Sabarimala protests and is being inhumanely persecuted by the communist government by slapping dozens of fake and old trumped up cases on him. Surendran is being taken from one jail to another across the state under the pretext of producing at courts. Grave non-bailable sections are arbitrarily included allegedly under explicit instructions from the CM who handles the home portfolio. Cases are being ludicrously piled up to ensure that K Surendran stays behind bars even after getting bail in the cases registered initially. The irony is that these are the same bunch of dummies who make a hue and cry for Naxalites and even convicted terrorists. It is evident that CPM fears Surendran who lost by a mere 89 votes in the last assembly elections. However, CPM seems to be shooting itself in the foot by this act of political vendetta as the popularity of K Surendran is surging with each day of his incarceration. It is not just the party cadre who is predictably rallying behind the leader who fearlessly led from the front, but even the largely apolitical sections of the society is fuming at the apparent injustice, contributing to his rising stock.
BJP and RSS have been unrelentingly spearheading the protests and even managed to bring powerful warring caste organisations like NSS and SNDP together. The mood of the state is ripe for reaping political benefits and give a body blow to Communists in their last remaining citadel. However, questions remain on how BJP can do justice to thousands of ordinary devotees with no marked political allegiance who has braved a hostile police force acting on the commands of a brutal Stalinist regime to protect their Dharma and self-respect. Many of them are not against the entry of menstruating women per se, but the high handedness with which Communists sought to crush their faith without consulting any of the stakeholders. As India’s ruling party, BJP has the responsibility of protecting both the sanctity of the Indian constitution and the soul of India’s Indic culture. A difficult job especially in a nation full of fifth columnists looking for every opportunity to weaken the native culture and drive a wedge between different sections of the society. The real test for BJP will come in brokering a consensus between devotees, judiciary and the executive. However, it seems to be possible only after the public throws out the incumbent CPM led government in the next election. As of today, Sabarimala is indeed a Marxist experiment in state-sponsored tyranny.