Sabarimala temple | Commons
Sabarimala temple | Commons
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Expecting BJP to fix Sabarimala is like hoping an arsonist will develop a better fire-extinguisher.

I have been wrestling with the moral, religious and constitutional dilemmas of the Sabarimala issue for weeks. But the ongoing uproar has eclipsed all these with the political.

There are four principles at stake on Sabarimala, all of which I normally have no difficulty adhering to at the same time:

  • Unconditional respect for the equality of women and men;
  • Respect for the Constitution and the institutions it has created, notably the decisions of the Supreme Court;
  • Respect for the rights of religious adherents to follow their beliefs and practices, so long as they do no harm to others; and
  • Respect for Indian democracy and the rule of law that sustains it.

What is unusual about Sabarimala is that it offers the first example, in my experience, of these invaluable and seemingly unchallengeable principles clashing with each other.

As a constitutionalist and a liberal, I can easily uphold the first two principles. As a democrat and an elected representative responsive to his voters, I am happy to uphold the last two. The problem is that the two pairs of admirable values are diametrically opposed to each other on Sabarimala.

The zeal of the state government to implement the Supreme Court verdict has given opportunist politicians the chance to fish in troubled waters. The BJP has leapt on the opportunity to reassert anew its role as the self-appointed custodian of Hindu sensitivities, creating a paroxysm of outrage and violence in the hills around the shrine by leading an agitation to prevent women from accessing the temple. Meanwhile, the ruling party CPI-M blows hot and cold, saying one day that it will implement the Court order by escorting women to the shrine, then ordering its police not to do so and indeed to escort them back if they attempt it. Both have converted a sacred spot into an unseemly stage of political theatre.


Also read: How a photograph led to Kerala HC order banning entry of women into Sabarimala  


Initially, I had taken the view that when there is a clash between two Constitutional principles — in this case, Article 14, promoting equality, and Article 25, promoting religious freedom — it is the duty of the Supreme Court to reconcile the two or decide which one should prevail. The Supreme Court did this, by a 4-1 majority, in favour of Article 14. And I reacted by expressing my respect for their verdict.

But as subsequent reactions in Kerala have demonstrated, abstract notions of constitutional principle also have to pass the test of societal acceptance — all the more so when they are applied to matters of faith.

Judges are, of course, rational beings applying legal principles and precedents. Worshippers have no such constraints. They can believe in Immaculate Conception and virgin birth, in miracles and messages from God, in deities with both human and supernatural qualities. The legend of the deity at Sabarimala is that Ayyappa did not want to see any female in the reproductive stage of life, and deliberately removed himself to His jungle abode for that purpose. Therefore, women are barred out of respect for His wishes. These are questions of faith, not rationality, and susceptible to emotion, not reason.

For a secular institution like the Court to engage in a theological exercise as to what aspect of faith or belief is an “essential religious practice” is therefore problematic; when such a ruling is done by those who do not share the belief or practice impugned in the legal process, the problem is compounded. (In the interests of full disclosure, I myself have undertaken a pilgrimage to Sabarimala as a devotee and ascended the famous final eighteen steps bearing the “irumudi” on my head.)

The overwhelming majority of Kerala Hindus, including a significant majority of women, have now demonstrated that their faith is offended by the Supreme Court verdict. Informal surveys suggest that opposition to the court judgment among Kerala Hindus is above 75 per cent and perhaps as high as 90 per cent. The intensity of emotions on display have surprised many liberals, not least because so many women seem outraged that other women might be allowed to go into the Sabarimala temple and disturb its sanctity.

It is all very well for some liberals to suggest that “false consciousness” makes even victims adhere to or defend the conditions of their discrimination; but in matters of religion, it would be preposterous to tell women that their faith is really a form of Stockholm syndrome. When you disturb the beliefs of worshippers, you violate a space beyond reasoning.

It is all very well to say that religions must adhere to the normal rules of liberal democracy, but the truth is they don’t. Gender equality is a vital principle in civic society and in political democracy, but it is by no means universally observed in the religious world. Muslim mosques don’t allow men and women to pray together in the same space. The Catholic Church does not permit female priests. Some Shinto monasteries are off-limits to women altogether. Eight Hindu temples in India do not allow men to enter during specified periods, and the Kumari Amman temple situated in Kanyakumari does not permit them at all. The law does not interfere in such matters. But in Sabarimala, it has chosen to.


Also read: On Sabarimala, blame out-of-touch Indian liberal elite not the court


In implementing the Supreme Court verdict, politicians should have sought to reconcile the principles upheld by the Court with the believers’ sense of the sanctity of their faith. There is a need for mutual engagement between the liberals and the traditionalists on what their convictions and doctrines mean in a changing world. The Court judgment might have been the occasion for such an engagement; unfortunately, both the Communist state government and the BJP/RSS have chosen the path of polarisation instead.

Their hypocrisy is mutual. The CPI-M could have prevented the crisis if it had chosen to take measured steps to discuss the implementation of the Court order with stakeholders, including respected and representative civil society organisations, like the NSS and the SNDP. The drama of sending hundreds of policemen in riot gear ostensibly to protect women worshippers, and even outfitting some women in police helmets and flak jackets, could then have easily been avoided. The BJP’s hypocrisy is of a different order: they actively do not want a solution, because a prolonged crisis on the streets helps them whip up communal sentiments that they expect in turn to transform into political and electoral support. Their state president boasted as much in a closed-door meeting of his party’s youth wing, which promptly leaked. He spoke not of faith but of a “golden opportunity” to pursue “the agenda”, revealing his cynicism to all.

If the BJP genuinely cared about the believers and wished to end the crisis they claim has been caused by the Court order (and by the state government’s heedless rush to implement it), all they needed to do was to have their own central government issue an ordinance to nullify the Court’s verdict. That ordinance may also be struck down one day; but the reason BJP leaders have not sought such a remedy (or introduced a legislative corrective) is that they do not want to solve the crisis in a hurry. A fever-pitch of emotion on the streets and repeated television images of protesting believers is far more useful to them than actually solving the problem.


Also read: I oppose Sabarimala verdict because this is not about women’s discrimination at all


The central government could also have dampened the disquiet by announcing its intent to introduce legislation to clarify the issues of cultural autonomy and religious practices, to define what lies beyond judicial purview. A broader conversation with all stakeholders on a framework that would allow both the Constitution and each shrine and its traditions to co-exist without prejudice to each other is vital in our society. But expecting any such initiative from this government is like hoping the arsonist will develop a better fire-extinguisher.

This leaves instinctive liberals like me torn between our basic respect for gender equality and our democratic duty to respect the beliefs and wishes of our constituents. In religious matters, beliefs must prevail; in a pluralistic democracy, legal principles and cultural autonomy must both be respected. The Supreme Court has a chance to consider all these issues when it hears the review petitions on 13 November. Once it rules, we must all work co-operatively, in consultation with all stakeholders and with respect for the Constitution and the believers, to decide how to take this complex issue forward.

Dr Shashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 18 books, both fiction and non-fiction; his most recent book is The Paradoxical Prime Minister. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor.

Separate fact from fiction, the real from the fake going viral on social media, on HoaXposed .


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47 COMMENTS

  1. Was it necessary for court to pass a verdict? As it is religious affair (not a land dispute) of a temple, should it nat have been handeld by the temple’s commitee or a governing body.

  2. the hill is itself named after a tribal devotee of lord ram shabari who first tasted all the berries ,ate the sour ones and keep the sweet ones waiting for the arrival of lord ram so as to give him and get his blessings ,mukthi and eventually salvation ,if lord sree ayyappa in his eternally celivbAte form chose as his final resting place the same hill where shabari attained salvation,so that he could attain samadhi ,then i am sure lord ayyappa had no aversion to women ,in any age group ,if he had any allergies to women he would never kept malikapurathamma to his left in his whose honor ,aravana payasam is being made and sold as prashad/prasad/prasadam to humble devotees irrespective of religion ,caste, creed as that is what she used to feed lord ayyappa after his sessions at the kalari of his teacher panicker ,since lord ayyappa was eternally celibate ,that is naishtika brahmachari he couldnt marry malkapurathamma he allowed her to sit at his left where she too attained samadhi/mukthi/salvation ,so women of all age groups were highly respected by lord ayyappa and he had no aversion to them coming near him ,just seeing him ,or touching would never make him lose his celibacy ,let women of all age groups enter thro the malikapurathamma gate as has been done for ages ,let them see lord ayyappa to their heart content and then make a charitable donation to the upkeep and welfare of the temple,collect their prashad/prasad/prasadam and leave contently and happily,who should a ten year old girl wAit for 40 yrs to see an eternally celibate god ,why not now ,women dont tread the holy 18 steps join a seperate que and leave in a seperate que ,the law and the police and the lord is always there to protect women and rightfully so ,kindest rgds prof dr t m saratchandraprasad/prof dr t m s prasad medical director,consultant physician,cardiologist ,diabeologist,che4st physician s m memorial superspeciality centre &ministry of labour govt of india

  3. In any case , the decisions taken by the Supreme Court must be protected because these decisions are taken by the rational,educated,liberal judges upholding the principles of our Indian Constitution.The temple and religious authorities are illiterate,uneducated bunch of illogically irrational fools.What if they start to burn widows all over again?,would educated elites like Mr.Tharoor defend that too?, in the name of religious freedom.

  4. Mr Tharoor, I’m afraid your position is untenable and reeks of political convenience as do those of the BJP, Left and your own Congress party.

    There is no conflict here. The Supreme court has passed judgment and it has to be respected. Your arguments about “democratic will of the people” can be used to persecute homosexuals, people accused (but not convicted) of crimes and many other at risk groups.

    I don’t believe the Supreme Court was right in passing judgement about what should be religious practice, nor do I believe entry to a religious institution is important for equal rights of men and women. There are women’s salons that don’t allow men entry and vice versa, they are not violating any fundamental rights, merely establishing practices within a private space. A temple is ultimately a private space belong to a religious institution.

    But once the supreme Court has passed judgement, the only logical position is to say that the judgment must be implemented in spirit and letter. Anything else is an abnegation of democracy and rule of law.

  5. Calling himself a liberal?..Why this guy blames only BJP.Is not local Congresseess playing with fire by supporting and instigating the agitators. If everything is followed strictly by word of law this will be an ideal society to live in But alas not! Liberals like these need to keep their trap shut and prevent further complications.

  6. Sahshi Tharoor says the Central Govt should have gone for an Ordinance against Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. Ridiculous! Does he want to trap BJP in Congress net, which has been citicised in Shahbano, Soon he would have justified Rajiv Gandhi’s Parliamentary act in Shahbano case.

  7. Mr. Tharoor,
    I have much respect for you but this time I am deeply disappointed. Especially coming from you who knows the type of injustices personal religious beliefs have been used to justify for centuries. In fact personal religious beliefs were used to justify the greatest injustice man has perpetrated against fellow man: slavery. Closer to home they are used for all manner of subjugation of minoroties and Dalits.
    The very premise on which denying post pubescent and premenopausal women entry to the temple is rooted in such misogyny that it should be an affront to every decent freethinking person, liberal or not. But you are an incredibly intelligent man and knew all that. However unfortunately this time the need to retain the support of those constituents of yours that hold this view seems to have triumphed. So, I respectfully disagree.

    • You weild your megaphone of grievances like people outrage nowadays at the drop of the hat. Every issue, every conundrum comes handy to regurgitate your litany of woes. Injustices, discrimination, despicable practices and detestable attitudes are endemic in all societies, but more so in India. I agree with the basic thrust of your comment. But the issue at Sabarimala is of a different order. Kindly go into the nuances and situate it appropriately within its context. What is a goose for some may appear as a gander to others. If you go looking for historical insults, what is a healthy Restriction in one Temple will appear as an act of wilful discrimination.

  8. Biggest hypocrisy was Congress. Cheif minister invited both people concerned for talk and they refused. State administration categorically said they wouldn’t force or make any young ladies to visit but they constitutionally liable to follow the verdict. All major parties welcomed the judgement in first two days. When fringr elements started making noice Congress was the first party tried to exploit situation and asking state government to issue an ordinance which was not at all leagaly possible. Instead of that if they asked central government to amend the law they argument would have some weight. This gave space for BJP to exploit the situation. Now Congress started realizing the mistake and opposition leader started talking about center. But bit late. BJP started exploiting it.

  9. THAROOR has erred on two counts. He has not understood article 25 properly. The court has not upheld article 14 over article 25. Article 25 empowers the courts to interfere and throw open Hindu public places of worship to all classes of Hindus.

    The review petitions are not listed for hearing on Nov 13th. Only three writ petitions related to Sabarimala will be heard that day.

  10. Mr Tharoor is oppurtunist…He really do not care for Hindu religion, but only to save his seat he is talking this…His agenda is only to serve his bosses in Delhi

  11. Totally disappointed Mr Tharoor…. Was hoping to hear you talk of solution, if at all possible, rather than just accusing your opponents. Your being torn is understandable but advocating for an ordinance to nullify SC’s order is opportunistic at best. Democracy must prevail..

  12. When you say
    review petitions on 13 November. Once it rules, we must all work co-operatively, in consultation with all stakeholders and with respect for the Constitution and the believers, to decide how to take this complex issue forward.
    We all know there will be no co operation including Congress
    I am disappointed in you for just playing opportunist politics instead of raising to the occasion and taking A progressive stand and change your party followers
    I believed you have the capacity to become the prime minister of India, but it’s changed now. You are not a brave man, your place in history is with trash, sorry

  13. There is always a void space between the rhetoric and reality.
    Any how the communal political elements have plans to catch fish from ferrago.

  14. Sad yo know through media that Govt is planning to Air lift the women piligrimage ages between 10-50 who has registered for Darshan in coming season.It is an attack of Atheism over theism.Communists who are Atheists are in hurry to implement the order at any cost ,Issue all political parties exploiting for their political gains

  15. Sir,
    I just want to point out from your own article that this is a clash between article 14 and article 25 but the point is that no fundamental right is absolute which means that there are restraints on every fundamental right, therefore the restraint on article 25 is that the religious freedom should not harm other people’s interest but right now due to the ban that women cannot enter the temple my interests are being harmed as a hindu as well as a women. Aa a Hindu i believe that my God who has created me and planned my whole life will accept me in every way possible and hence i should be allowed to enter the premises at any age .
    Now coming to the point of bjp making this a political agenda . Honestly, this is not a new thing. This has happened in the past and many parties have done this, so that is the duty of the opposition to point it out and make the government responsible for it. Sir, my argument is just that not even from a feminist point of view , but from a hindu point of view I should be allowed to enter any temple I want to visit. I also want fight for allowing men into the temples where they are not allowed to visit , but as the youth I believe that the matter in hand must be solved first.

  16. Such a well written article. But BJP’s troll army is still at work in comments. They only like to hear SC when order is in their favour.

  17. Mr.Tharoor, you are blatantly an opportunist ????.
    Can you explain why 5000 policemen were deployed to stop ayyapa devotees? Do you belive those who undertook Namajapayatras are arsonists?
    Let Lord Ayyappa bestows good sense to you!

  18. Tharoor’s blaming of LDF is I’ll justified. In fact while giving affidavit to Supreme Court LDF govt. has suggested a committee of respected religious leaders to discuss the issue which the Supreme Court has not considered. Also SNDP is with LDF in the issue though Tharoor seems to suggest otherwise. His results of informal survey of Hindus is all hubris. It may not be true even for the upper caste Hindus. Tharoor has not mentioned anything understandably about the real joker in the pack the Congress.

  19. I admire Shashi Tharoor for his scholarship and erudition on many topics but this article is deeply disappointing. If we believe in a Constitution- and not tradition-led democracy, then leaders like Tharoor must educate and persuade people to embrace reform and not pander to people defending outmoded customs.

  20. A better understanding of the issues would be arrived at if we understand, how and why this matter of “faith and belief” went to the legal authorities, who will obviously rule on it as they read/understand the ” Constitution, and precedent”

  21. This is deeply disappointing from a politician like Dr Tharoor, which leaves the Congress with few reasonable voices like VT Balram. And very troubling that Dr Tharoor seems to (?) endorse the misogynistic and upper caste attitude and quotes informal surveys. The one formal survey done by India Today shows that 46% in Kerala were not satisfied with the SC verdict. It is nowhere close to 75% as claimed by Dr Tharoor. Apart from the progressive SC verdict there is evidence that the ban on entry of women in the menstruating age group to Sabarimala was not an ancient practice and began to be enforced in the 1990s after the Kerala High Court verdict. Further, one cannot ignore the claims of Mala Arayar tribes who were the original custodians of the temple.
    I would like to state that I am a Malayalee Hindu woman who respects and supports the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. I believe in Constitutional morality. I appreciate the Left Democratic Front run government for not changing it’s position unlike the Congress and BJP. And no I don’t appreciate these upper caste voices who claim to represent Kerala Hindu women.

  22. This is deeply disappointing coming from a politician like Dr Tharoor, who appears to (?) support the upper castes and misogynistic attitude of some people in Kerala about the Sabarimala verdict. It appears that VT Balram is perhaps one of the few sane voices left in the Congress party in Kerala. And quite unbecoming of Dr Tharoor to quote informal surveys, which reveal that 75% of Hindus are not satisfied with the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. Firstly, the one formal survey carried out by India Today shows that 46% of respondents in Kerala were not satisfied with the SC verdict, which is a huge variation from Dr Tharoor’s informal data. Secondly, the SC verdicts are meant to uphold Constitutional morality and not pander to people’s satisfaction or sentiments. In this debate around the verdict, which is being used to fan communal flames in Kerala, people tend to forget that Sabarimala temple did not have a long history of banning the entry of women in the menstruating age group. The strict enforcement of the ban began in the 1990s after the Kerala High Court verdict, though there are voices who state that women in the menstruating age group have gone to Sabarimala even after the High Court verdict. Another important point, which is not mentioned by the upper caste voices is that Mala Arayar tribes have claimed that they were the original custodians of the temple and they plan to approach the court.
    I would like to strongly state that I am a Malayalee Hindu woman. I support the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. I believe in the Constitution of India. I don’t appreciate the upper caste and dominantly male voices who have spoken on behalf of women against the SC verdict.

  23. Shashi Taroor seeems to show that he is progressive by ridiculing Hindu ladies. He is not at all progressive. He thinks that whatever the West propagates is “Progressive”. I am ashamed that he is a Keralite. He should rather go the US and settle there and not disturb the religious cultural Hindu society in Kerala and Bharat. Bye Bye

  24. Indian judiciary has lost its respect the moment it overthrew the NJAC Act that was passed by both houses of the Parliament. The moment the court does not have any respect for representatives of “we, the people” I will also reciprocate the same thought and prejudice about the Supreme Court. Now the Supreme Court has interfered with a highly spiritual place and practice for Hindus. If people like Bharat Singh had thought of respecting the court’s judgments we would not have the Indepedence that we cherish. On second thought are we truly Independent? I am having doubts after the Supreme Court judgment.

  25. Religion has been used to kill largest number of people in all countries and during all ages. The only solution is to ban public display of all religions and confine it up the four walls of one’s County. We can learn from China. How a poor nation with very few resources have made via the strides in all fields promising its citizens good life

  26. Strange that in all these hundreds of words, the esteemed Tharoor has nothing whatsoever to present about HIS own party, the Indian National Congress’s point of view.
    The Congress has been pussyfotting around several issues while trying to occupy the ‘Hindu plank.’.
    However, Rahul Gandhi, who claims to stand for women and Hindus has no stand to offer on several key questions . Since he offers humself up to us as the potential PM candidate who is FOR Hindus and a Janeudhari Shivbhakt, no less..and the leader of the INC, it is imperative we know his stand on issues like the following:
    1. what is Rahul Gandhi’s stand on Sabarimala?
    2. What is Rahul Gandhi’s stand on Ram Janmabhoomi?
    3. What is RGs stance on Triple Talaq and polygamy and Halala..since he claims to stand for women’s rights?
    4. What is his stand on FGM?
    5. What is his stand on the pedophilia and rape accusations rocking the Catholic church? How do we protect the nuns and children?
    6. What is RGs stand on polygamy allowed among Hindu men in Goa? Does he support this regressive law?
    7. What is his stand on poluution? The Ganga? What is his proposal to tackle these issues?
    8. What is his stand on caste in India..would he wish to perpetuate it, since he so boldly and happily assumes a casteist elitist Brahmanical regressive title like Janeudhari? Does he feel he is superior to us non-janeudharis?
    9. What ia his stand on cow slaughter? Does he support it or does he not?
    10. What is his stand on climate change? Does he believe it is happening or not? If yes, what steps will he take to tackle it? Does he believe science where beef and its production contributes to heavy CO2 in the atmosphere? Or does he wilfully close his eyes to this reality?
    11.. What is his view on green energy?

    These are a few that come to mind immediately. There are many more.
    As usual, the congress is playing a double game.

  27. The verdict was in the natural course of a court dealing with and disposing a case at hand. It was supplied with some input, and it gave an output, going by the book. That’s all fair. The question is if there were possible misrepresentations, subtle manipulations and snide ideological motives to get a certain verdict. Going strictly by an agreement, Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice demanded his pound of flesh from Antonio’s body and was well on course to getting it. It had to be pointed out to him that he could take the pound of flesh but it should be without spilling a drop of blood…

  28. “Intrinsic liberal”! No sir, you are an “apparent liberal”. You want the votes of the liberals as well as the faithful and so you blow hot and cold. Sickening hypocrisy.
    Women will be allowed. Not right now, but it will start soon. Liberalism has lost many battles but won every single war. SC is right; may be it is slightly ahead of time.

  29. Mr. Tharoor in many words has expressed, his dilemma over equal rights for women in a civic society, and denial by a temple, and the compounded confusion by various bodies, and their reaction to the court verdict.

    Mr Tharoor, enactments like Hindu Succession (Amendment), Act 2005, and others, have been accepted by Hindus and with much less protestation by political parties, because it was they who paved the law.

    The irony being, regarding the Sabarimala ruling, political parties and their intellectual dilemmas are only a reflection of their populist charades. Less said on the matter the better. Hinduism evolves its own balance to all changes it faces, through enactments as well as rulings. Hinduism is a process that has always evolved, as its followers are open to the factors of evolution, resulting in the consequential enactments and rulings and will thrive despite all else.

    The verdict of the court, is nothing but, the sentiment and evolution, which has it’s genesis within, and not foreign to it.

  30. Tharoor claims he is an “instinctive liberal” . I would say he is a distinguished Fiberal, voicing his fake concerns for the women as well as the implementation of the SC order to the letter. In fact congress party and its leaders have given a walk over to the BJP by erefusing to come out in the open to oppose the SC order and the CPM government’s jack-boots on the hills crushing the devotees. It doesn’t want to be seen as opposing the SC order but its members are opposing it tooth and nail!

  31. So, a politician is first a politician and then, any thing else, thinker, writer, rationalist, international expert or whatever! That is what even Tharoor goes to prove here, simple!

    His party has supported the protest against the SC verdict and he has ambitions to come back to Parliament from Thiruvanantapuram and his constituency has an overwhelming position- so he would set aside his thinker, rationalist hat aside and try this acrobatic article!!

    Mr Tharoor, I would like to make the following points:
    1. So many people who argue so many points in the public domain now, should have found a way to put forth their point of view before the court at the right time. But once the SC decided on the issue, it is very unfortunate that people find it ok to not only disobey it actively but also organize even violent protests. Is it at all ok for the two major parties of India, Congress and BJP, to indulge in vote bank politics and defy SC decision? What political culture do they like to promote in this nation? Mr Tharoor with so much of international exposure and experience and a different image, would have done well to condemn brazen disrespect for SC decision in strong words.
    2. The sabarimala tradition is nothing but an attempt by men to discriminate against women, like so many other forms of male dominance and schemes to keep women subordinated, world over. It is simply unimaginable that Lord Ayyappa would have prescribed any such thing as a wish to remain away from a category of devotees. So the obvious conclusion is that at some point along the route, this schism was created to drive home the assertion of impurity of women during a particular period of their existence. To couch this as an age old tradition worthy of respect is an ingenuity itself and for the likes of Mr Tharoor to uphold it is an evidence that the male chauvinism is ingrained to very great extent in males.
    3. Many arguments of Mr Tharoor are devoid of any merit- that Kerala Govt is wrong in trying to implement SC order, that Central Govt should have brought an ordinance, that the Court that decided on this issue did not have a devotee judge and so the decision lacks objectivity (argument mainly to this effect, not exactly in these words, is especially so stupid looking that nobody needs to explain what is the stupidity in this).

    All in all this article is one of Mr. Tharoor’s huge lows. And I denounce all those who fish in troubled water in this matter, the BJP, the Congress and people of Tharor’s ilk.

  32. Tharoor lost his mental balance and do not understand what he is writing. It is sheer opportunism and a classic example of intellectual dishonesty. His statics of 75% or 90% women, who are not ready to go sabarimala is really laughable. From where he got this statistics? Just to defend the spineless stand of his irrelevant party, he pushed his pen without much meaning.

  33. Could not understand the hurry in implementing this order that too majority of the involved are not in favour. While SC Order has to be respected so also the religious sentiments of the majority. Why dismiss them and what is the hidden agenda? Govt has the option to appeal and can also. Politicians are bent on breaking the Indian culture by comparing with the west. One use it and the abuse. Anything of Indian culture is termed as regressive when it’s accepted world over as oldest culture. It pains.

  34. Sorry to say this but your this piece of offended me very much.
    Constitutional morality has a place much higher than religious scriptures in this country and the apex court has to taken care of this which they have done very well .
    There are many religious scriptures which supports crimes like Sati and child marriage can you support that on this ground obviously not.
    Pandit Nehru had to fight a large majority of people within and outside Congress party to legislate Hindu code bill you know that history much better than me … So it’s now upto you which line you want to follow Nehru or Mr.Modi.
    Secondly Kerala has a unique history probably it’s only place in the world where a religious movement laid the foundation of a communist movement so please take a note on this thing also.
    I don’t want to share “The Lost Leader” poem to your wall as not want to lose a intellectual like you to the conservative line of thought..so please rectify it and come back to your own original position

  35. Am a nobody, just a Kerala woman with an opinion and wants to Thank Shashi Tharoor for being brave enough

    Opinion – Why I think a 7 bench Indian Supreme Court Bench should do a sympathetic review of #Sabarimala verdict

    Before starting, let me quote the eminent Justice Nariman from a separate 2015 judgement 🙂 – “This is the longest pronouncement from a person who does not otherwise take much space”. But as a woman, who genuinely believes in #EqualityofDevotees and, have had a life closely associated with deeply devoted people of all religions (be it my own parents/relatives/friends/neighbors, my in-laws/friends of Christian faith, or my best friend from College who followed Ramzan fast even during exams), I believe the courts shouldn’t take away this equality or redact constitutional pluralism. Which is why I feel I should make my points.

    I will use Justice Indu Malhotra’s very strong dissenting arguments to show why this is a valid request.

    1) #Diversity-vs-Discrimination – First question to determine is if it is a discrimination. Indu Malhotra notes that there are 1000s of temples in Kerala where women go freely, except for this specific temple where people traditionally believe that the residing Deity wants only non-young women to visit, because of Deity’s claimed status in that temple. She notes that actual devotees are OK with such diversity and don’t consider it as discrimination. I agree that it can outrage a sense of righteousness or logic for a public place, but that is not what it is to pilgrims.

    2) #IsitOppressive – We are talking about a pilgrimage to a small shrine atop a hill, inside deep forest lands, which cannot affect anyone’s public, daily or social life in any which way. NOT a normal temple visit!! It is NOT mandated as per religion, not the only pilgrimage available to Hindus, but still has huge footfall, compared to globally known pilgrimages. Anyone who undertakes the pilgrimage, goes voluntarily to pray, for their own happiness, not because of hope/fear of heaven/hell. There are thousands who have repeated the pilgrimage for decades. There are specific rules for globally renowned pilgrimages, complied to by devotees. Very reluctantly, I am taking the examples of globally accepted pilgrimages about which I have seen certain western media opinion.

    a. At the western wall in Jerusalem, women are segregated to a corner. Ivanka Trump and Mike Pence had complied and US journalists complained. There are some activists against this, but shouldn’t a change, if at all, come organically?

    b. Suppose, Hajj authorities in the past had let someone friendly to them to violate non-muslim entry rules, or a lady felt she could uncover her neck, in addition to face and hand, would that serve as a plausible means or grounds for UN to redact the rules? Look at Parvez Sharma, a gay muslim, who feels affinity with Shias, and has made a movie. But wouldn’t the devotees reviewing traditions, if/when they want, the way to live in a diverse and peaceful world, rather than a UN human rights court ordering them?

    c. For an ardent Catholic, a personal meeting with the Pope is a big spiritual experience/pilgrimage. Women are expected to wear a veil to meet Pope. We have seen Melania and Ivanka comply to this recently, while Trump’s glorious hairstyle was in full view of the world. Even Michelle Obama, who broke apparent tradition by touching England’s Queen, had worn a veil in front of Pope.

    I don’t know if any of the above practices make sense, but with all the facts in hand and compared to existing globally accepted conventions for pilgrimages, there is nothing in Sabarimala practices that could remotely be termed as discriminatory. In fact, a feminine deity is also worshipped there, as not found in global practices. There is also a custom to revere female pilgrims. Furthermore, Indu Malhotra correctly notes in relation to the claims of this practice being equal to previously existing oppressive social practices, that social reform always PRECEDED the statutory reforms, and not the other way around. Doesn’t this make sense? She also notes that there is no single precedent to interpret Article 17 as related to women as an oppressed class.

    3) #EssentialReligiousPractice – Indu Malhotra said, “a court cannot impose its rationality with respect to the form of worship of a deity”. She said, “What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide and not the court”. She also says, “except in the case of a social evil like Sati, or oppressive practice” (eg: as in affecting daily/social life), courts cannot decide which practice of a faith can be struck down. Doesn’t this make sense? For eg: if someone tomorrow says God is all-loving and hence cannot claim to be ‘#jealous’, this violates India’s pluralism, #IdeaofIndia, people’s RightoDignity/Equality etc, so all the related verses should be redacted from people’s religious books or Sunday/other schools for young kids & should be declared unconstitutional, are Indian courts going to decide on the petition? Will it be OK in this world?

    4) #RightofDeity – The same example also explains why RightofDeity is important and courts cannot apply it selectively and actively introduce discrimination. Furthermore this right is protected under India’s constitution, which the justices agreed to in the very last day of hearing, but didn’t mention in 411 page judgement. If the tradition says that the Deity chooses to do yoga and has spelt out his specific wishes, it cannot be redacted by a court. Only Indu Malhotra even alludes to this constitutional right in the judgement.

    5) #RightToReligiousaffairs – Article 26 of Indian Constitution provides protection to religious denominations or sects to manage their institutions. Indu Malhotra pointed out that Ayyappa devotees satisfy the requirements, as they are designated by distinct names (eg: Ayyappan/Malikappuram) and follows an identifiable set of customs(eg: Initation into penance as Malayidal, 41 day penance, specific clothes etc). The other justices denied this right. Justice Chandrachud said that temple admits men of all religion, so pilgrims are bereft of a religious identity, and hence cannot qualify as a denomination!! Chief Justice Dipak Mishra said, the devotees are “exclusively Hindus”, there is no identifiable group as “Ayyappans”, so do not constitute a separate religious denomination. Also goes on to say that this clearly is a Hindu temple, managed by Devaswom, hence all rules of Hindu temples must apply!! These reasons for denial seems strange and contradictory and should be revisited? In effect, it seems they are saying that Article 26 protection applies only to India’s minorities and to exercise this right as a sect, you have to be very dogmatic and non-inclusive.

    (Some interesting points: Parsi Fire temples deny entry to non-parsis. Another example, Orthodox Christian priests can deny Kurbana to a Marthomma Christian, because of theological beliefs. Maybe this is not strictly implemented nowadays, but this right is constitutionally protected, atleast now!! Will they entertain petitions to strike it down in the name of Article 25 and 15 and override Article 26 because it was already violated by some?. Is it necessary for the court to interfere there?)

    6) #RightoEquality –By denying Article 26 to Ayyappan Devotees, and effectively saying that only minorities will be protected, isn’t the #RighttoEquality for all faith systems and believers in India also denied? Is it necessary/possible for Indian courts to determine whether some verses in religious books followed globally, comply with Article 14, 15 and gender discrimination, and hence should/should not be read aloud in a congregation or taught to young kids? Is it necessary for an Indian court to issue rules on women traditionally covering their heads in churches or following men in church lines, even if deemed discriminatory by some? Furthermore, world countries would come down heavily on India, saying India is persecuting its religious minorities.

    This is why I believe questioning an ethnic community/global minority’s non-discriminatory/harmless traditions should not be acceptable in 2018 and, reform if any, should be organic. I am inspired by young women like Nobel Laurette Nadia Murad. I don’t believe disrespecting Yezidi people or native Hawaiian sects(trying to hold on to what they have) is OK either.

    7) #Secular Fabric – Some of the points I pointed out may appear disrespectful if common people start talking about in general life. How would a society as diverse as India, with people of all religions having deeply rooted traditions, survive, if common people start questioning and petitioning about traditions of others, which they find discriminatory or silly? This is what Indu Malhotra pragmatically pointed to when she said that the judgement would open floodgates of petitions questioning other people’s beliefs and can affect secular fabric of India.

    8) #RighttoDignity – Scientific temper, mentioned in the constitution should be promoted equally and not selectively. Applying rational thinking to any belief system can be a slippery slope as noted by Justice Indu Malhotra. Young women devotees of the deity are left to deal with the indignity that, while they wouldn’t go out of respect for tradition, someone like Rehana Fathima can go or non- devotees with lack of self-awareness of their own customs, but has full protection of constitution, can easily ridicule them. There is a #ReadytoWait movement supported by educated, emancipated strong women residing in all parts of the world, standing up for what they believe is a right granted to them by Article 25. Would the court totally ignore their pleas and let them be called superstitious or agents of internalized patriarchy/misogyny? There are temples where there are restrictions on men/married men (eg: Chakkulathu kavu, Pushkar temple, etc). Will the courts strike those down too in the name of Article 25, is a genuine concern now, not a rhetorical question!!

    9) Hasn’theCourtAlreadyDecided? WhytheProtestsNow? – I can only vouch for myself. As a person who didn’t jump into the fray in this decade just because national/social media got interested, and as a woman who had deeply contemplated about it from the 80’s, a time when newspapers had pronouncements from Left parties supporting entry, (a party me and my close relatives including parents have actively supported on public record), seen common people’s feelings about reports of tradition violation and the completely unnecessary debate about a right that affected no one’s active life, I have followed court proceedings on this and have formed opinions. If there were women devotees whose active/social/religious life was affected due to this, it made sense. I was saddened when the Govt which controls Devaswom filed an affidavit to support petitioners, as I think it should have reflected people’s sentiments and not the ‘selectively progressive’ party’s ideas. I had wondered why the Devaswom advocates didn’t push for Article 26 rights more actively. Now after seeing the government stand, it seems the case might not have been fought with a will to win. An atheist government in control of a religious institution, is a unique position to be in, and not a happy one.

    Applying Article 26 protection (which looks unjustifiably denied), Applying Right of Deity (which was ignored), Applying Article 25 and 14 to ensure RighttoEquality of faith systems in India (constitutional pluralism) and accepting essential religious practice (which was ignored as a central tenet of the shrine, even when it is held so by all devotees of the particular tradition), all have a potential for making this in favor of the currently actively pleading devotees in the review.
    #SaveSabarimalaTradition

    10) Another important point to be noted is that court gave verdict based on support of Article 25, and stated the practice violates Hindu women’s right to religion. By the government machinery actively supporting activists of various religions, the Kerala government may have violated court stipulations. This is why I believe review petitions should be favorably looked into and the government should be sensitive till then.

    P.S : If the other Justices finally agree with Her Ladyship Indu Malhotra’s pragmatic and visionary arguments, I believe it would be an actual helpful step towards promoting women empowerment. 🙂

  36. Very well written by Mr Tharoor , detached from Politics & Religous hypocrisy & still focussed on issue , before & after SC verdict . State Govt ‘s rush to implement the Court verdict, political parties approach as “path of polarisation”, Central govt lacking right aproach to dampen the disquiet due to Verdict and there by his suggestions on the required approach after the Verdict is equally Commendable to his observation on that Court has choosen to interfere in a matter of faith exceptionally in case of Sabarimala. However this particular verdict has brought More food for thought ….was it needed to exceptionally pass a verdict like this.?, has it not given more room for Chaos in the region of faith where rationale is secondary , What shud b the right approach , role of govt, political parties , religious authorities to deal with such issues, what is the importance of being detached by being in faith or not in faith and dwelling into the subject deeply before raising a demand for change by anyone as a responsible social human before being a Judge or Politician or Group .A law against animal sacrifice in temple or a law against Sati pratha is different than this law. Somwhere law has to stand against a Mass for a individual & sometimes against a individual for a Mass. In this case it has created room for raising Chaos in the name of equality , faith etc etc . A little time more …with more patience …the law makers wud have known that the demand for uplifting ban on specified age grp of women for sabarimala is just like One changing the Party A to Party B on getting a Seat and hence the slogan ” We will not tolerate killing of cow ” , otherwise we don’t mind killing human beings in the name saving cows and we wont agree that we r still Criminals worse to fear, bcoz we r not now Man eaters .Not just as a woman but as a human being i appreciate Mr Tharoor for atleast accepting & bringing those seemingly irrelevant observations for comparison to show that law has interferred without a deep thought and how these cud meaningfully influenze a decision making of this kind to set a example for the Larger Public .

  37. Shame on you, Tharoor. If you are a leader, your job is to lead the people to constitutional values. Perhaps it would be good if the instinctive liberal takes a look at J S Mill ‘On Liberty’ (1859): “The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement, being in unceasing antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary, which is called, according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress or improvement.”

  38. If as Shashi Tharoor says “Abstract notions of constitutional principle also have to pass the test of societal acceptance”, then will he and his party also support if OBCs say that they should be given Reservation equal to their population, which is 52%, and should not restrict them to the present quota of 27%; and also remove the creamy layer concept inherent in OBC reservation, since Reservation scheme is a democratic principle to provide representation to the castes hitherto remained unrepresented in the governance of the country.

    Also, why should courts restrict Reservation quota to 50% when the Reservation class constitute 75% of the nation’s population and they being the vast majority may not concur to the lesser quota allocated to them, and thus ‘societal acceptance’ for that lesser quota ceases to exist.

    The representation of hitherto unrepresented castes is a Constitutional principle and it also has a wide societal acceptance. On the other hand denying women from entering temples based on dubious feudal-religious reasons is unconstitutional and violates fundamental rights of women, and if a referendum is conducted throughout India it will be proved that this denial of fundamental rights does not have societal acceptance too.

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