Noted right-wing ideologue and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy today climbed down from his earlier stand that the military should be used to implement Supreme Court’s decision on allowing fertile women into the Sabarimala temple.
In the backdrop of unexpectedly strong protests against the move in Kerala, Swamy today blamed the Left Front government for trying to implement such decisions by force.
“The government should have created consensus. I had told them to sit and hold talks before the judgment came,” he said.
“If people are so wedded to their traditions, persuade them,” he added, blaming the Kerala government for trying to enforce the judgement using force.
The stand is at variance with his stand taken in the immediate aftermath of the decision. At the time, Swamy had said: “I welcome it. I’ve, in the last few months, been quite vocal about it saying ‘what is this non-sense, we’re still living in the stone age or what?'”
“This kind of restriction has no support in any of our divine literature like the Vedas… (The order) should be enforced with the military if necessary,” he’d added.
The change in stance follows a similar move by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party earlier today.
Speaking at the organization’s annual Vijay Dashami function at Nagpur, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the Supreme Court erred in not taking the sentiments of the believers into consideration.
“You should have first held talks, created consensus. The tradition has been going on for so many years, and the people there observe it strictly,” he said.
He also questioned the locus standi standi of the petitioners — a group of young lawyers based in Delhi — to seek an amendment to practices of the temple that lies 2000 km away from the national capital.
The ban on fertile women entering the temple had previously been upheld by the Kerala High Court, which considered it to be a part of the denomination’s right to practice its religion.
Spelling out the new stand, Bhagwat said that those who complained about the practice had nothing to do with the temple and were not an affected party.
“There was no agitation against the tradition. The people who petitioned the courts do not go to the temple. A huge number of women observe the tradition and worship Ayyappa. They were not heard. Their sentiments were not considered.
“Each denomination has its own rules,” he added.
The statement is at variance with the RSS’ previous stand on the issue.
Addressing a press conference two years ago, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi had unequivocally come out in support of allowing women to enter all temples in India.
“Women go to thousands of temple across the country but in reference to some, where their entry is an issue, there is a need to change the mentality. Management of such temples should also understand this,” he had said in March 2016 in the context of a similar issue in Maharashtra.
Not surprisingly, neither the RSS nor the BJP opposed the Supreme Court verdict when it was pronounced three weeks ago.
However, the blowback on the ground in Kerala has been bigger than what leaders outside the state had expected.
Irrespective of the official stand taken by ‘national’ Hindu organizations, Kerala-based workers of the RSS and the BJP, as well as unaffiliated Ayyappa devotees, have been organizing widespread agitations and protests across the state for the last ten days.
Devotees also organized into vigilante groups over the last two days to ‘persuade’ any woman trying to break the tradition, given that the temple was opened to pilgrims yesterday.
The Ayyappa agitation has also found support among the state’s substantial minority population, who have their own misgivings about giving the state the right to decide what is, and what is not, ‘integral’ to their religion.
The agitations are led by Rahul Easwar, the grandson of a former head priest of Sabarimala, who has alleged that extremists within the Hindu right wing want to ‘sacrifice’ Sabarimala to achieve their larger aims.