Shashi Tharoor
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Historian Ramachandra Guha called Shashi Tharoor’s article for ThePrint ‘deeply disappointing’, but MP’s position was backed by ex-foreign secy Nirupama Rao.

New Delhi: While the controversy over the Supreme Court’s decision to allow women of all ages to enter Kerala’s famed Sabarimala temple rages on, Shashi Tharoor, the Lok Sabha MP for Thiruvananthapuram, has ignited another heated debate.

In an article he wrote for ThePrint, Tharoor called himself an “instinctive liberal” who felt “torn” about the continued refusal of the temple authorities to follow the Supreme Court’s order, and the public support they seem to have.

However, the article has drawn mixed responses, with many including historian Ramachandra Guha criticising Tharoor’s article, while others like former foreign secretary Nirupama Menon Rao have backed the Congress MP’s position.

What Tharoor wrote

Tharoor wrote that he respected the “equality of men and women” and had “respect” for the Constitution and the Supreme Court, it had become difficult to reconcile these beliefs with another set — that people could follow their own religious beliefs and practices “as long as they did not harm others”, as well as his “respect for Indian democracy and the rule of law that sustains it”.

“…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,” he wrote.

He added: “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.

“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.”

Adverse reactions

Historian Guha criticised Tharoor’s piece on Twitter, calling it “deeply disappointing”. He argued that if great leaders of past had thought like this, then Dalits of Kerala would still not be allowed in temples.

Guha’s disappointment was shared by economist and author Rupa Subramanya, who said she was “yet to hear a convincing explanation from those who claim this is tradition”.

Lawyer Sanjay Hegde also criticised the article.

A ‘brave’ article

However, Tharoor’s piece also received some prominent support. Former foreign secretary Nirupama Menon Rao, while quoting a line from Tharoor’s article, expressed how as “a Hindu Indian and Malayali woman”, she was disturbed by some arguments in favour of women’s entry.

Tharoor also received expected support from activist Rahul Easwar, who has been at the forefront of the pro-tradition protests.

ThePrint’s editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, in response to the ensuing debate, also retweeted a piece he had written in the immediate aftermath of the Sabarimala verdict. In it, he had argued for the Supreme Court to show greater restraint while interfering in religious matters.

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7 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Gender equality & supreme court verdict should b respected.All r coming to worship why then a conflict on the basis of gender discrimination.some r making a commotion over this issue without giving any respect to the supremacy of the law.

  2. Unlike the western democracies where the judiciary and law enforcement agencies completely independent and can not be influenced by anyone however powerful, in indian system they still controlled by politicians and therefore are still weak Inspite of the social media

  3. Which practice do Mr Tharoor, consider sacrosanct? According to ‘great’ Manu, down trodden people are to serve and have no right to education etc. Even if they listen to any words of wisdom, or happen to listen to any words emanating from the learned, he MUST BE treated in the most befitting manner- POURING MOLTEN LEAD TO HIS EARS. Agreed .

  4. Tharoor is increasingly transforming himself into less of a ‘Shashi Tharoor’ and more of a Congressman of the Rahul brigade. No surprise that, when people like Chidambaram too have begun following the ‘Rahul’ lead in their public pronouncements and demeanour. There seems to be no future in Congress for those failing to thus ‘fall in line’.

  5. It is important for bhramacharya purpose. See the devotees mainly follow strict bhramacharya for 48 days and then go to sabrimala. So women of fertility age should not near sabrimala. It a bhramcharis place why do women wants to enter male bhrahmacharis place. What about bhairavi temple of Tamil nadu where mens are not Allowed. What about gender equality. Why can’t Feminism understand simple faith things.

  6. The Congress communication strategy needs to be taut, coherent, geared to fighting on issues where it enjoys an advantage, as happened in the Gujarat state Assembly election last year. No space for mavericks or personal opinions, least of all on issues connected to religion and identity.


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