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Sabarimala issue: Kerala Society and Politics

Sabarimala issue once again focused on Kerala Society and politics. Kerala's history and politics are peculiar and unique. It was the State which elected first Communist Government in the Country. It is the State which has substantial percentage of both Christians and Muslims since very long time.Christian apostles came in the early period of Christian missionaries from Palestine  unlike in the rest of country where they came from European colonialists. Similarly Islam came from Arab through sea in the early period unlike rest of country where it came through forceful army invasions from Caliphate. 

  It's culture is unique. Irrespective of religious beliefs, everyone love their unique Malayalam culture and their language. Of course, in the recent past, there are deviations. Saudi and Arab influence is reflecting in Islam religious practices in a section of people. Likewise, NGOs from Christian missionaries are influencing in Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu. However, Society by and large maintain harmonious relations among all communities.  In Hindu society, as in the rest of India, caste system still exist. Another important feature of Kerala society is that it is matriarchal society unlike rest of India. Ayurveda is naturally chosen medicine here.

  Another important feature is its uniqueness in Hindu temples. Tiruvananthapuram is the only princely State which merged in Indian Union in the name of Padmanabhaswamy. Like wise Guruvayur and Sabarimala are unique temples. Particularly, certain customs in temples are still strictly followed. One can not enter into Padmanabhaswamy temple with trouser. Similar is the case with other temples. Though society is so liberal, customs are also strictly adhered to. In this background, let us look to Sabarimala issue. 

   Sabarimala temple customs are so rigorous and these are followed even today by devotees. After Balaji in Tirumala, it is the deity in South India widely visited. But unlike Tirumala, devotees, Sabarimala devotees follow several rituals before visiting the temple. They will take Diksha and strictly observe the customs without deviation. Such practice is not seen in any other temple devotees. That is the reason, it has become so controversial when Society and Country's highest justice system want to reform existing practices.

  Women entry into temple has become such a controversy that entire Hindu society in Kerala is virtually divided. In the earlier occasions when women entry is directed to Sanigram, it was a smooth affair. Similarly, when Blouse wearing movement launched, it was ultimately accepted by Maharaja. Also, the entry of 'low caste' people into temple movement was a successful. The Kerala Society is vibrant since beginning and absorbs generational changes smoothly. So, everyone expected that this reform of women entry into Swamy Ayyappa temple would also be smooth and that too after Supreme Court pronounced its judgement after elaborate hearings. 

  But things moved otherwise. Contrary to the expectations of political system and political parties, there was a serious backlash from devotees. This reaction was not expected. Certain political parties backtracked from earlier stand. Congress party at State level joined with devotees in protesting breaking the tradition where as Central leadership took a different stand allowing State party to follow its own course. BJP at State and Central backtracked from original stand and fully backed devotees sentiment. One way, it has become golden opportunity to the BJP to expand its base among people for which it is desperately waiting since long time. That is why it is leading the movement from the front.

 Unfortunately, the left front ,particularly CPM faced very difficult situation where in it can not shift its stand like Congress due to ideological position. The Party which based on purely rational outlook took a stand in support of social reform by championing the women entry into temple. It can not be said wrong pursuing its own path. Their view can be defended as if they are following reform path and championing gender equality. But the way it became prestigious for Government.It tried to secretly brought two ladies to temple bypassing all rituals and practices. Government would have not resorted to that extent. It would have maintained restraint till protests come down. In such sensitive matters, delicate handling of the situation is needed. What is the need for Government to do all these forceful and surreptitious actions. Their duty is to provide protection to lady devotees in normal route. If conditions are not conducive, they must wait with patience but should not take it as prestigious. Supreme Court never advised the State Government to act in this manner. State Government should not take Supreme Court order as a shelter to implement in such a way.

  Reports are coming now that Hindu society is divided on caste lines and the upper castes, Brahmins and Nairs are polarising under BJP banner and other castes like Ezavas and Daliths are rallying under CPM. If this is true,  it is the most unfortunate incident in Kerala. For this situation, all parties are equally to be blamed. CPM, being in Government should bear more responsibility for this polarisation. It knows fully well that BJP is in waiting for errors to be committed by left front Government. Whatever it is , now polarisation has taken place. Some sociologists opined that the polarisation is between old generation and new generation. May be so. Whether it is old or new generation or high or 'low caste' it is not good for society. Another observation is that first time ,polarisation is taking place between devotees and non-devotees. If it is true, CPM will be at loss. Congress will en cash in the immediate Lok Sabha elections and BJP may establish solid base in the Kerala State. Leaving apart political discourse, social division on the basis of caste, faith is regressive and benefits accrued all these years in Kerala society may be at loss.

  It will take some more time to analyse the societal impact on this sensitive issue. However, we are hopeful that Kerala society being vibrant definitely resolve the issue amicably. Let us hope for it. 

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