It has been a crucial year for the Indian population especially in the judicial sphere. The Supreme Court has come out with ground-breaking verdicts like that of the abolishment of section 377, and the most recent being the uplifting of the ban on the entry of women to the Sabarimala temple. Sabarimala has been at the heart of a controversy with regards to this ban which bars the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 inside the temple. Many activists have spoken against this ban stating that this was an infringement of their fundamental rights granted by the Constitution. But, on 28th September, 2018, the Supreme Court gave a landmark verdict abolishing this ban.
This was followed by a huge uproar with many people now blocking the ways from which devotees can climb the hill. This crowd also includes women who are against this Supreme Court verdict.
What is Sabarimala?
It is a temple located on a hilltop in Kerala and is devoted to Lord Aiyappa the God of growth. It is believed that Lord Aiyappa was a perennial celibate. Thus, the devotees undergo a period of celibacy for 41 days before commencing their journey to the temple. Since, for biological reasons, women cannot undergo this period, they were barred from entering the temple.
Overturning this ban, according to many youngsters today, is a step towards a future where equality is indeed present in every facet of life. With the growing unrest against the latest verdict, one can only wonder why anybody would actually want to keep the ban on women in place. What is even more troubling that the political parties of the secular democracy, i.e. India are riding on the bandwagon of this controversy and are doing nothing to calm the situation.
“Well there is a lot that can be said. But, one of the most interesting things I have heard related to this case has been the argument that the restriction on women’s entry is clearly valid because women in the area have themselves supported it and have been protesting against the court’s decision and the only judge on the panel who voted against it was also a woman. It seems that these people are overlooking the fact that internalised misogyny is a very real phenomenon in our country which continues to be reinforced and justified through religious practices. Also, to those who claim that there are plenty other temples for women to visit- it is not about one temple! It is about the principle of the thing, where you continue to rigidly follow religious practices that have no relevance today- if they even did at the time of their conception,” says Rutuja Kulkarni, a college student.
Speaking about this verdict, Sai Vandana, a second-year Communication Management student says that, “Women should be allowed to go to Sabarimala. Though, people seem to believe that their customs and traditions are being changed and do not appreciate that, change is inevitable and we all must learn to live with it. Maintaining traditions is important in a country such as India but without certain changes there can be no improvement or development. We will all live in a world of stagnancy.”
We are at a junction where the youth is speaking up about its perceptions of the multitude of issues that our society is facing. The youth is all the more ready to put forth its views and is using as many tools that it can lay its hands on to widen its reach. Parth Rahatekar, a Mass Communication student says, “A culture that is unaccommodating of inclusivity and prides itself on depriving any section of section of society on ideologies that have no rational basis is a culture which deserves to be left behind. Therefore, in my opinion, the ban on women entering the temple needed to be lifted. Any elements of the society that protest against this step towards inclusivity need to face appropriate education and is there is any further disruption of peace, these elements need to face legal action as well.”
This is a change that we need. With changing times, it is important that every part of the society is able to participate in different activities, especially if these are regarding one’s own beliefs. Thus, it is a good decision that the Supreme Court saw the ban on women entering the Sabarimala temple as unconstitutional. Every human in our secular country has a right to practice their faith and not letting almost an entire gender enter a temple was far away from this notion of equality. Ankita Chawla, an Advertising student and a poet with a great following on Instagram says that, “I believe the SC verdict is a step in the right direction. Patriarchal notions cannot be misused in the name of equality of devotion. Women have as equal a right to worship as men, irrespective of the fact if they’re bleeding or not.”
With this ruling, we can be hopeful for a future where our voices matter. It is very important that we make the most of this time and collaborate to make the best decisions. As children, it was very common to hear the elders say that the future of this nation rests upon the shoulders of the children. But, today with verdicts such as these, this power is more than within our reach. “In a country like India where unsaid social laws determine the mentality and day to day liberty in people’s lives, I think this is a good step. But, then again, the fact that someone wanted a review of this verdict, recently, makes me think if it is actually worth anything. This verdict might not be a game changer, but it is something. Acknowledging something legally does make a difference at some level,” says Shruti Vyas, a college student.
Shivraj Jagtap, a student of JNU, says, “I feel that the Sabarimala issue is a clear reflection of the current situation of our country. Bodies like our judiciary are in a sense enforcing modern values to our society, but our society, backed by outdated (and discriminatory) cultural and religious values is dismissing them. It’s quite a pity, but at least there are people trying to set us in the right direction.”
Today, even with a surging amount of support in favour of women’s rights all across the world, in India, the same looks seemingly impossible. Despite, a Supreme Court order supporting women’s fundamental rights, the public is winding the clock backwards and there is nothing that the government has been able to do. In times such as these, we need to stand together and work harder to ensure that our society breaks free of these shackles.
The opinions in this article have been taken from college students of the age group 17- 22.