Indu Malhotra is a retired judge and senior counsel of the Supreme Court of India. She was the second woman to be designated as Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court. She also authored the third edition of The Law and Practice of Arbitration and Conciliation (2014).
The Apex court of India in a majority of 4:1 decided to lift the ban from the entry of women between the ages ranging from 10 to 50 in Sabarimala Temple. The four Judges including Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and RF Nariman struck down the provisions of Kerala Hindu Places of Worship Rules, 1965, lifting the ban. The lone dissenter in this Judgment is Justice Indu Malhotra, who disagreed with other judges when it came to allowing the women of all the age groups in the said Temple. By lifting the ban the majority stated that men and women are equal in the eyes of the Constitution of India.
Sabarimala is not a question of culture, the question of Sabarimala is neither a question of misogyny nor gender, and it is rather a question of certain traditions which has origins, which has been contorted, distorted and played out in very different light in public domain. Every person who talks on this particular issue just ask yourself one question that what do you know about the origins of practice and the reason for the existence of the practice and the scriptural basis of the practice, for you to arrive at this peremptory conclusion that this is a consequence of gender inequality, you have thrown out the conclusion out first, I would want you to retrace your steps and tell me what is it that you know about the practice in order for you to arrive at that supposedly informed conclusion that is based on misogyny.
There are two kinds of practice particularly in Kerala where there are certain spaces exclusively for females, others exclusively for males and certain spaces are meant for everyone. Why talk about women alone? There are many temples across the nation and a few of them in Kerala itself where Men are barred from entering the Temple, one such example of it is Attukal Temple in Kerala where Men are restricted to enter into the Temple Premises. If you want diversity to be protected then protect these diverse traditions as well.
There are temples where Men dare not enter and particular days where streets are vacated of men; men cannot even enter those streets because it is meant for women to pray in a manner they want to pray. There are deities which are specifically meant only for females.
The practice of Sabarimala was based on a traditional concept and not on gender inequality, now the question arises what is that tradition? Every temple has the tradition with respect to mythology it subscribes to, the history that it subscribes to, from where the tradition flows.
In this case, the deity of Sabarimala, Lord Ayyappa has taken upon himself the vow of “Naistik Brahmacharya” which means Eternal Brahmacharya. Naistik Brahmacharya is equally a tradition which is observed by a lot of “Sadhus” who are not meant to come in touch with women at all and this is not based on misogyny. There could be reciprocal rules with respect to women and their contact with men. It is not something entirely directed at women based on discrimination, this is the worst possible myth that the spin masters have bought in the public domain.
The rules of Naistik Brahmacharya or the school of thought require that one does not come into contact with women who still have reproductive capabilities. But the spin masters have twisted this entire argument to say that this is based on your hatred of or your stigma based on menstruation.
There are temples in this country which worship the physical process of menstruation, the “Kamakshya Temple” is the perfect example of it. Therefore using one particular instance and that too with truncated knowledge of History of the temple to brand the entire institution and use it as a launch pad for branding the entire community, this needs to be stopped. Let us not bring caste and feminism in every issue because not everything is related to it.
I really want to congratulate the two women who entered Sabarimala for their courage, tactics used and determination.
Why I support entry of young women in Sabarimala
Because there is no logical argument that supports the ban of entry of young women inside the temple. Let me explain why each of the so called reason (for their ban) is absurd.
“Temple traditions must be followed”: Temple traditions can be followed as long as it does not hurt anybody. In these case, this tradition is hurtful in the given manner – a) It hurts women by referring to them as mere objects of lust and pleasure . b) It hurts celibates – A celibate is a person who remains unperturbed even among the most attractive of women and not one who gets distracted by the mere presence of women c) What does it imply about how other Gods (who have not declared themselves as celibates) view their female devotees?
“There are temples where men are not allowed”: So what? How does this justify ban of women in a temple? Are the priests of temples where men are not allowed also not men? If men feel discriminated regarding their ban on entry, they can file a case against that.
“There are many other Ayyappan temples where women are allowed to go”: This is another absurd logic. If it is the desire of someone to visit a particular place, then it can be fulfilled only by going there and not by visiting a similar place.
“Women who want to go there are not real Bhakthas”: Who is a real bhaktha? How do you measure the degree of bhakthi? What is the gaurantee that the men who go there are full of bhakthi?
“Court should not interfere in temple matters”: Court has the right to interfere in any matter regarding the society’s law and order.
“There are bad practices in other religions also”: Does this justify a bad practice in this religion? The idea is that one must develop his/her mentality and progress instead of ‘justifying’ bad practices in their religion by saying that there are bad practices in other religions as well. It is up to the government to change those (bad) practices (of other religions) which I hope they would eventually do.
“Majority of the people are against the court verdict”: Just because the majority support something, it doesn’t imply that it is correct. In pre independent times, there were many absurd practices that were supported by majority of the people. Whenever a change is bought, there will be resistance – even if the change is good.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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