Secularism for Hindus at the mercy of Courts?
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Secularism for Hindus at the mercy of Courts?

March 12, 2019

The Sabarimala Temple of the presiding deity Swamy Ayyappa, which is under a controversy following a Supreme Court order to allow women of all ages to enter the temple and offer prayers, was opened yesterday (Monday) for the annual temple festival being held for 10 days. The festival will end on Mar. 21. The temple has got a new gold-plated door for the sanctum sanctorum. This may be to make the new rush of women devotees happy. After all, women love gold !!

So far, no news about possible trouble at the shrine with women devotees going on a pilgrimage, with or without Police protection, has appeared in any media. However, one need not be surprised if problems erupt like it happened in the past ever since the Supreme Court gave its controversial decision.

Many were complaining that the traditional practice was a clear case of nihilism or misogynism.

It is difficult to agree with this kind of arguments because the temple has not per se banned women from going to the temple or entering the sanctum sanctorum. The tradition has always allowed women who are below the age of 10 and above the age of 50 to visit the temple and pray. The reason attributed for keeping out women above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 was that they menstruate during this age which is considered impure and therefore the ban.

The matter was taken to Court when in a Secular country, the Government or any Constitutional body, including the Judiciary, should have no role in interfering with matters religious, specially when there is no criminality or Human Rights violation. It is, therefore, not surprising that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) passed a resolution demanding protection of beliefs and traditions of Hindu society at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) held at Gwalior last Sunday. The ABPS also observed that there has been a systematic design to insult and hurt Hindu beliefs and traditions on the basis of non-Hindu beliefs and practices by entities with vested interests to denigrate Hinduism. The resolution specially mentioned the case of Sabarimala Temple as an example of this inimical and anti-Hindu design.

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If Courts were to decide on such questions of faith and belief against the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of a community, we may have to look for an alternative definition of the word ‘Secular’ and its import. Right now, the interpretation of the word ‘Secularism’ and some provisions of the Constitution seem rather discriminatory.

I have been observing the ways of some of the Supreme Court Judges and the obiter dictums rolling out of their lips wrapped in enigmatic veils ever since May 16, 2014. Some senior advocates were even seen prompting the Judges and even giving suggestions to hear Ayodhya case, as old as the Himalayas, after the elections !

Having seen some of the    decisions and reactions to them by some of the political parties and leaders to either nullify, review or simply delay or get a death sentence in a ‘rarest of rare cases’ and also in cases of terrorism involving the security of our nation commuted, I have a suggestion. Setup a Privy Council of the President of India, like that of the British monarch’s in England, above the Supreme Court.

This Privy Council will take the last and final call on cases where the question of ‘Secularism,’ ‘Freedom’, Fundamental Rights’, ‘Socialism’, ‘Patriotism,’ ‘Nationalism’, ‘Nation’, ‘Minority’, ‘Majoritarianism’, ‘Terrorists,’ ‘Militants’ and more are decided in the Supreme Court but challenged.

Recently, I was reading an article about Germaine Greer, an 80-year-old celebrated feminist, intellectual and polemicist of Australia, which alludes to her opinion about the Sabarimala controversy when brought to her notice in the interview — about women fighting for entry into Sabarimala Temple following Supreme Court judgement. This is what she said spontaneously:

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“I will ask why? If it was a golf club, it would be fine (fighting for entry). They could say, ‘We only allow women with red hair in.’ Why can’t we women, start a club (probably with similar conditions) where the men are begging to be let in.”

Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer disagreed with the Court’s ruling rather vehemently and said:

“I think the decision by the Court, a secular authority to ask a religious establishment to abide by their decision is profoundly wrong. India depends on a concept of freedom of religion.”

However, she was equally vehement when asked if it made her angry when women were considered “impure” for a few days each month (during her menstrual cycle). In her retort, she said, “It is nonsense. Not even typical of Hinduism.”

Now, what is that? I guess, it could be that the idea of “impure” is not a rule or absolute belief per se but only an exception as in the case of Sabarimala Temple. If it is so, so be it !

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10 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Secularism for Hindus at the mercy of Courts?”

  1. Natarajam says:

    It is definitely court’s overreach into religious freedom. But, why did we come to this point? Because, the religious leaders of Hinduism went complacent or greedy or power hungry, and totally forget a very important task that every religious head must have on top of their task list- reform. Every culture needs to dispose of the morally and ethically false practices as soon as they are collectively enlightened. We disposed sati, untouchability, and a ton of other immoral practices etc. But we seem to have stopped reforms after Vivekananda’s era. We still turn women into untouchables during menstruation, despise homosexuality, still view egg and meat as some great sins !!! etc. If we do not reform ourselves then the reform will be initiated by external forces eventually.

  2. Manava says:

    India is not secular, as it treats Muslim religion differently giving them their OWN Personal laws.
    I do not think that the Supreme Court overreached it remit, as it is ludicrous to treat women in the age bracket of 10-50 as impure because of a purely biological phenomenon, and this discrimination in the name of so called tradition was set by Males in the name of tradition. If tradition is to be respected then young women who lost their husbands should sacrifice themselves in fire , the practice of Sati. As for the comment on consuming eggs and meat, in the Western countries , red meat is abhorred because of its link to bowel cancer and eggs are not preferred due to the high blood cholesterol it creates. Vegan diet is spreading fast in Western countries. In Vedic era, meat was consumed by Brahmins, but that consumption stopped somewhere near the time line when Muslim invasion took place. Interesting to do ma bit of research here.
    It is misunderstanding to say the Privy Council is above Supreme Court in Britain. It is not, as the highest court is the Supreme Court. The Privy Council has become a Council to address semi-legal issues outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Indian independence, Privy Council in London was the highest court for Indians.

  3. David says:

    India is Secular! But for some people they want to reach a point where it is pseudo secular that it discriminates against Hindus! The same secularism they want to work differently meaning, the final result must be to act against Hindus! People harping on Sati! Sati was the evil option women took when they had no choice that the barbaric mogul invaded India and killed the Hindu soldiers and raped the women.. the wives, daughters and mothers that women had no choice! For some people thar does not look secular! They would love to see indian women raped! T
    He same happened by Tippu Sultans rule too! But, if the Muslim invaders treated Hindu women with respect, that evil custom would not have started! For some so called secular, some terrorist raping their daughter or wife may not be a big deal, but for self respecting patriotic Hindu soldiers and their wives, that was the only respectable choice!once thar threat vanished, do was sati!
    India giving Muslims their own personal law is not secularism? So, bringing them under uniform civil code is secularism? If both are not secular then, what is their definition?
    THE real problem is ..
    There are two versions on Islam! One is Allah’s version of Islam which is a really and absolutely peaceful religion! They are highly tolerant, God fearing, self introspective and their jihad is agagainst their own evil thoughrs and actions! That is pure and unmateriastic and no Hindu,Chrjtian or Sikh is agaist it fortunately majority of Indians Muslims fall in that category . They are very partriotic indians too and we are proud of them.
    THE second variety is the Mullah`s version of Islam! That is where all the original scripts get distorted interpretation and provides motivation for all the evils on this planet! They are the ones who butchered millions of hindus in Kashmir and Pakistan and creating problems all over the world!
    INdian Secular are defending tgeir rights yo eliminate hindus and that is the REAL problem !

    • Natarajam says:

      Sati may have begun as a way of saving oneself from savagery of foreign invaders. But by 18th century it had turned into a superstition where some wives of laymen were burned with their dead husbands, even when those men died of peaceful natural causes and even though they were no wars or foreign invaders.

      Read some stuff by Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Dayanand Saraswati (his brilliant Satyartha Prakash), Vivekananda or Raja Ram Mohan Roy. They didn’t spend their lives on nothing. They did not focus much on what the foreigners were doing to us, but on the cancer within our culture.

      There is a reason for that too. Even after 1000 years of their invasion, pillaging, large scale destruction and ruling by muslim and christian kingdoms from 1000 ad to 1947, hinduism still remains intact!!! Hinduism, much like other big religions of the past and present, is very hard to be replaced by foreign religions and cultures. But just like how Roman and Greek religions vanished, Hinduism could too. Not due to a foreign culture but due to internal issues, the cultural cancer.

      • Manava says:

        Idiotic and wicked support for Sati and other obnoxious traditions., to treat women as third class citizens asSabarimala does. India is hence condemned for ever as a third world country.

    • Manava says:

      @David A long and confused rant, showing ignorance of the understanding of the practice of secularism. If One religion is given laws which are widely at variant to other religions, thus bestowing special treatment to that religious group in India, the country cannot be secular, although many ignoramuses and politicians claim it is. Many Western Christian countries, in practice practice secularism, excluding the US, where Mormons are treated differently in religious terms-for example, they can practice polygamy where as others in the country cannot.
      You need to educate yourself, before indulging in your rant!

  4. Anonymous says:

    @manava, Thank You!

    I would like to point out in Secular India, Hindu Religon and Religious establisment are subject to Government rules and control. Whereas Christians and Muslims are free from government control. This is not secularism.

    BTW, one correction. Utah , the home state of Mormons, abolished polygamy when it was admitted to the union. In other words, polygamy is illegal in Utah. However, there are isolated mormon communities, along the Utah-Arizona border, who practice polygamy eventhough it is illegal. Mormons living outside Utah are also not allowed to practce polygamy as it is illegal in all the 50 states of USA.

    • Manava says:

      Many Mormons practice polygamy despite what you have said. It is not in the isolated communities alone.

  5. Manava says:

    Indians for long have bought Nehru’s twisted logic of secularism, after he gave the Muslim community of India, their own personal laws which do not apply to outside the community. Still, Nehru and his successors claimed India was secular, and this deliberate deception has prevailed for decades.
    As for Sabarimala saga,it is disgraceful that a coterie of Hindu zealots brand women of certain age bracket as impure for the purposes of entering and worshipping the deity in that temple. The SC did well to remove this disgraceful practice which has lasted for many decades. These zealots have sisters in that age bracket, and what they are doing is calling their own sisters as impure. Scandalous nonsense.

    • Rao says:

      Many times I disagree with your views and u disagree with my views. That’s absolutely fine in any democracy.
      I just wanted to let you know that I like reading your comments as it gives a new perception.


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