Actor Salim Kumar critiques Sabarimala verdict

Dharma Shasta Temple, Sabarimala

With the Sabarimala issue on the boil again with a group of Tamil activists trying to enter the temple again, Malayalam actor Salim Kumar raised a note of dissent against the Supreme Court order.

Participating in reality show Sell Me The Answer on Asianet, Salim Kumar seemed to object to the way the court overruled the tradition by looking for logic and legal justification in the same.

“I don’t want to come out as being ‘for’ or ‘against’ the judgement,” said Kumar, prefacing his comments.

“But tomorrow, if an advocate attends the court in yellow robes instead of black and white, will the judges allow it, or will they object,” he asked.

“If not, why is there an insistence that advocates should wear black and white with an overcoat and all that,” he asked, before proceeding to answer his own question: “Because that’s how traditions work.”

The episode, likely recorded earlier in the week, was broadcast today, when a group of women from Tamil Nadu have found their way blocked by traditional pilgrims on their way to the hilltop shrine.

Salim Kumar, who hails from the Ezhava community, said he regularly makes the pilgrimage to the temple.

Ezhavas, who make up the largest group of Ayyappa devotees in the state, are also the bedrock of the ruling Left Front’s vote-base in the state, making the Sabarimala issue a political hot potato for the government.

The issue has caused much angst among the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu — two of the states from where the majority of devotees come on their annual pilgrimage to the hilltop temple. Pilgrims from the other three South Indian states — Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka also come to the shrine in their tens of thousands, or even lakhs, every year.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra had in September held the tradition of putting age restrictions on female pilgrims as null and void, finding no logic behind the same. Female devotees between the ages of 10 and 50 do not traditionally undertake the pilgrimage to the temple, which is supposed to have Buddhist origins.

The Supreme Court order has not yet been implemented due to strong resistance and resentment from people in Kerala.

It is estimated that about 50% of the Hindus in Kerala oppose the order, about 40% are ambivalent and around 10% are in favor.

Non-Hindu communities, who make up around 48% of the state’s population, are also largely opposed to the order as they fear it sets the precedent of the government deciding what is ‘integral’ to a citizen’s beliefs and what is not.