Modi Attacking Kerala Govt Over Sabarimala Diminishes the Office of Prime Minister

The prime minister has openly supported those defying the orders of the Supreme Court, and more importantly, the wishes of progressive women of Kerala.

The office of the prime minister of India stood diminished when the man occupying it attacked the Kerala government for making efforts to implement the Supreme Court’s order on Sabarimala.

He is not the ideal prime minister for women like Kanakadurga and Bindu Hariharan who broke patriarchal taboos by entering the temple. One of them has reportedly suffered assault by her mother-in-law for having exercised her choice. The prime minister was in the state when this news broke. He did not convey sympathy and solidarity. Instead, he claimed that the conduct of the Kerala government on the Sabarimala issue has been “most shameful.”

This retrograde statement must be condemned by all. Holders of constitutional posts are all expected to uphold laws. However, instead of standing up for the spiritual rights of women, the prime minister has spoken in a reactionary manner. His refusal to stand by a wide population of Hindu women has made evident the deception of his defence of the rights of Muslim women on the question of triple talaq.

Also read: What If Sabarimala Was in a BJP-Ruled State?

Some would say it is futile to expect civility from a man whose silence on the growing hatred and violence in the country is giving a boost to those perpetuating it. He is after all the supreme commander of the violent mobs Kerala saw on its roads after Kanakadurga and Hariharan returned from the temple. This is what J. Devika saw and reported in her piece in Kafila.

“Hours after the two women entered Sabarimala, the Hindu terrorists began their handiwork. Mad mobs, including women, began to roam the streets and attack by-passers, in their desperation to foment violence and provoke riots. In Karunagappally, Muslim establishments and shops were singled out for vandalism. The Sangh-backed Sabarimala Action Council called for a hartal today and they have spared no effort to make sure that people are terrorized.

A library was set aflame in Palakkad in true fascist tradition; CPM offices are being attacked. Small public meetings called by independent feminists and human rights activists in major cities were attacked. In Calicut, activists suffered serious injuries while in Kochi, brave dalit feminists fought back three Hindutva women who sought to disrupt their meetings with Jai-Bhim slogans. The government announced its determination to hold firm against this unspeakable violence against the Malayali people as a whole — by this horde inspired by Indo-Gangetic barbarians who attack their neighbors for the sake of one among the lakhs and lakhs of Hindu deities.”

Was this violence condemned by the Central government? Where did the resolve to establish gender justice disappear? But then it is naive to expect it from those who have come to power by appealing to the most regressive sensibilities in Hindus. It also tells us that the hatred against Muslims and Christians comes in a package: it has to be essentially anti-women and anti-Dalit.

The chief minister of Kerala has been extra cautious fulfilling his task of implementing the apex court order. For this, he has been subjected to casteist and sexist slurs by BJP leaders. The latest is a snide by the general secretary of the Kerala unit over the chief minister being scheduled to attend an event organised by women called Arppo Arthavam.

Pinarayi Vijayan. Credit: PTI

Pinarayi Vijayan. Credit: PTI

K. Surendran posted on social media photos of the programme’s main entrance – which was shaped like a vagina – and wrote that the gate was given the shape of such a “hole” especially for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Also read: Sabarimala Temple: Even If Tradition Has to Be Respected, Norms Change

“The entry hole of a programme which the chief minister of a state was expected to attend the valedictory function. No wonder people around the globe rejected the commies,” he wrote.

The prime minister speaks the same language when he attacks communists for not respecting the Indian culture and spirituality. The issue here is the open support by the prime minister of the country to the goons defying the orders of the Supreme Court, and more importantly, the wishes of progressive women of Kerala.

The BJP is hell-bent on putting Kerala on fire and it is the deft handling of the situation by the state chief minister that has contained violence to the minimum– given the support that the hooligans enjoy from the BJP which rules the Centre.

Pinarayi Vijayan is doing what a leader should do. Apart from maintaining law and order, he is addressing and educating people about the spiritual rights of the women who want to undertake the pilgrimage of Sabarimala.

Protests in Kerala. Credit: PTI

It is unfortunate that he is not being supported by the Congress party. Driven by a short-sighted agenda of putting the Left government in a tight spot, the party, instead of standing by the principles of women’s rights is hiding behind the argument to defend tradition. It is not going to help the party as it feeds into the narrative of insult to Hindus built by the RSS and the BJP.

The biggest culprit is the prime minister. Earlier he had tried to cleverly make a “nuanced” difference between the right of tradition in the case of Hindu women in the context of Sabarimala and the rights of Muslim women in the case of triple talaq. But on the ground, he threw away his cloak of decency.

It is high time Hindus realised that if they want to recover their sense of civility, they cannot but get rid of this deception at the first opportunity. It is only three months away.

Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University.