Supreme Court Sabarimala verdict: Kerala government must quickly find golden mean between law and belief

Kerala is burning or, in the backdrop of the floods, Kerala is boiling. The pro-changers and the no-changers are hitting the streets. Feminists versus male chauvinists is the new narrative.

CV Ananda Bose October 02, 2018 12:45:48 IST
Supreme Court Sabarimala verdict: Kerala government must quickly find golden mean between law and belief

Kerala is burning or, in the backdrop of the floods, Kerala is boiling.

The pro-changers and the no-changers are hitting the streets. Feminists versus male chauvinists is the new narrative.

The Supreme Court is supreme and the learned judges ordered that women should enjoy equality in Sabarimala temple. But the women say we don't want it. We don't want equality with god. The dialectical materialism propounded by the Marxist-led Government of Kerala doesn't seem to cut the ice with the die-hard spiritualism of the women devotees, or at least a sizable chunk of them.

Supreme Court Sabarimala verdict Kerala government must quickly find golden mean between law and belief

File image of Sabarimala temple. PTI

Religious pundits draw a subtle distinction between other gods and this god, Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala. You go to other temples to pray to god, but you go to Sabarimala temple to 'be the god'. Here, the heavenly god has an earthen mind. Ayyappa of Sabarimala wants his devotees to be one with him before they come for his darshan. That is why every devotee who comes to the shrine is called Ayyappa, the lord himself.

This transformation of the mortal being to a divine being is not an easy task. You have to undergo penance for 41 days with perfect austerities clensing your mind and body with needle point precision. This is not biologically feasible in the female of the species. That is the spiritual rationale, a time-honoured one at that, which makes women unable to become one with god before coming to Him — a pretty abstruse thought, but a thought that guided devotees, particularly women, for decades.

The court rejected it and said all are created equal, women cannot be an exemption. The lone woman judge in the panel was not convinced. A large number of women devotees turn to look at Justice Indu Malhotra, who wrote the dissenting order as the god-gifted organ voice of women.

Kerala is a pressure cooker now. If the safety valve is tampered with, society can explode. The new imbroglio apart, the rule of law has to prevail if society is to retain its civilised nature. Now the ball is in the court of the government. In the tussle between faith and reason, between law and belief, where is the golden mean? This is a real test for democracy.

Time-servers are lurking in the corner, ready to ignite social tension and have started pleading for women's equality in other religions too. The devil has started citing the scriptures. Should we fail to hear 'ancestral voices prophesying war'?

In the chequered progress of societies, conflicts of interest do take place. American society was torn asunder by the rift between Blacks and Whites. The Cold War witnessed the conflicts of interest between the US, the USSR and their allies. But the world did not end because a balance emerged from the conflicts. The search for balance is a must, so that society goes forward.

The court has defined the crux of the issue in its own way. Now it is up to the government to find the soul of the people through social dialogue.

Strife doesn't end strife and force is no arbiter. These are trying times for Kerala. The floods brought out the best in the common man. He stood upright and brave when the government wavered and faltered.

The chief minister must take a cue from the fortitude of the fisherfolk of Kerala and stem the tide of unrest and resentment through patience and consensus. The flood of nature's anger and the flood of women's rage coming close on its heels is a big challenge to the macho men in politics. The chief minister would do well to pay heed to the admonition of William Shakespeare: 'Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned'.

The author is an IAS officer. He has served as district collector, principal secretary and additional chief secretary in various ministries

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