Lessons to be taken from Sabrimala

Sabrimala is a popular Hindu Shrine in Kerala. It has been pushed into a serious of controversies after a recent order by the supreme court. Some agree to the order, whereas others disagree to it. I would like to look at it differently.

Sabrimala was a place of worship and devotees and temple authorities are the major stakeholders. Among devotees (which include priests too), there might be two groups of people (as normally in any religion). One group (traditionals) wants the traditional set-up to continue, others (liberals) want modifications or change in some of the ritual practices. Both the groups have their own valid reasons to justify their arguments. [As in other religions too, we can see that governing bodies (priests and company) normally join the first group].

As in any family or organization, there is a need to settle this dispute by discussions and dialogues. We can’t come into a dialogue with the presumption that “I am fully right.” In many of the cases, the dialogue for consensus building doesn’t take place (I feel this is true with Sabrimala too). Thus, the flame remains.

Traditional group may get the support of the traditional groups of other religions. Liberal group may get the support of various kinds of activists. Many people do maintain an “I don’t care or I don’t have a stand” attitude. All of them have their valid reasons for justifying what they are doing. Situation still can be in control.

Now the question needs to be asked, “How relevant is the issue? How significant/popular is the place of worship? How much political/economic mileage I can derive out of this situation?” The answers could reveal that Sabrimala is an extremely popular place and the benefits for the outsiders (especially political parties) in getting involved with the issue is quite a lot.

Thus political parties get involved in the situation. One is supporting the traditional group, whereas the other supports the liberal group. When the original group was constituted by devotees, the newly added support staff may not be so. A distinguishing factor between a true supporter and an opportunist supporter need not be belief in God/deity, but what is his aim in entering into the issue. Is it humanitarian/religious concern or to fish in the muddy waters? It is very difficult to distinguish between them.

Thus the question got a wider base; instead of two sets of devotees or devotees vs authentic human rights activist, it became a game of field which included two political parties. As I understand in Sabrimala (too big a conclusion), both parties need to win; their reason to win is not any devotion to God/deity or human rights concern, but pure electoral gains.

The worst problem with political parties becoming part of the struggle is, consensus is never allowed. Issues like Babri Masjid/Ram Mandir and others are good examples. The flame, which was started, will be kept alive for political gains. I think we have reached this stage now.

Now the role of original group becomes more crucial. Yes, the group consisting of devotees who want to keep the traditions and devotees who want to change the traditions. Human rights activists can be included if they are acceptable to both the groups. They have to liberate the struggle from political hands so that the serenity and peace of the place of pilgrimage will be preserved. What should be the consensus, is for them to decide?

Now whether the last mentioned paragraph will really be possible in Sabrimala is questionable as Supreme Court has already given the verdict. But this is a good lesson for the future.

Extra bit: Personally, I am for the supreme court verdict. But I don’t think Supreme court (court of law) is the place from which such consensus should emerge. It is the failure of the original groups to discuss and reach a consensus, which made the political parties and supreme court to involve in it. I also state that there are many things in different religions (even my own) which needs to be changed that justice for all is granted.

A Jesuit interested to think and write; Loves philosophy, spirituality, politics…. Believes in God & well-being of all humans… Open to difference & newness..

A Jesuit interested to think and write; Loves philosophy, spirituality, politics…. Believes in God & well-being of all humans… Open to difference & newness..