Dr. Shashi Tharoor is a Lok Sabha MP of Congress from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He is also a progressive, liberal scholar who has a niche in history, law and Indian culture.
But recently, his comments on the Sabarimala issue (allowing women of menstruating age to enter the main temple complex) has saddened me.
Dr. Tharoor is now pleading in the Lok Sabha to protect the right to worship of ‘genuine believers’ from those trying to hijack it to reap ‘political dividends’. He also said that such people have been “disturbing the sanctity of the holy abode of Lord Ayyappa.”
He also urged the government to “to clarify the application of essential religious practices.”
Some time back, Mr. Tharoor said “abstract notions of constitutional principle also have to pass the test of societal acceptance”, on the same Sabarimala issue.
Here is my take on his shocking archaic comments-
The ‘Tradition’ of Sabarimala
As late as 1950, mostly tribals and people of the so called low castes visited the temple, irrespective of their age or sex. These people did not believe in the notion of restriction or impurity of women during her menses.
It was when the rights of the shrine and the forest went to the Travancore ruling family, and a new temple was reconstructed by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) that the upper-caste pilgrims started to rise and brought with them the notion of exclusion.
Sabarimala belonged to the tribals, ‘traditionally’. The notion of menstrual pollution was brought later by the upper castes.
The ‘sanctity’ of Lord Ayappa
This is again based on the upper caste notion of menstrual pollution. This is because Lord Ayappa, the chief deity of the shrine was a celibate and people believe that if menstruating women enter the premises then it will supposedly weaken him.
‘Abstract’ notions of constitutional values
Prohibition of women violates several fundamental rights, clearly written in our constitution, and hence is not abstract. For instance, Article 14 ensures equality, 15 prohibits discrimination and 17 abolishes untouchability.
Unfortunately, these Fundamental Rights contradict Right to Freedom of Religion, which is also a Fundamental Right.
People who cry and wail to save the ‘traditions’ cite the supremacy of the latter over the former to legally validate their outdated religious practices.
Dr. Tharoor is asking the Legislature to iron out the confusion with respect to this contradiction within the Constitution.
When has the society accepted change, especially in a woman related issue?
Anyway, societal acceptance promotes majoritariainism. Ever wondered what would have happened had the court or the legislators did the same in Triple Talaq case or might do in the Ayodhya Case?
Such hypocritical comments by Dr. Tharoor show how secular and progressive ideas are only partially taken up, even by an intelligentsia like him.
It is funny how Congress welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict earlier and changed its stand later. Now Dr. Tharoor is claiming other parties are taking up the issue for electoral benefits.
I guess, 3 months before elections is the wrong time to do anything.
I really like Mr. Shashi Tharoor and hold no grudge against him. I read his books and columns and even follow him across social media platforms.
I am a fangirl of sorts. I’d even vote for Congress had he been the Prime Ministerial candidate. But after his pseudo liberal take on the Sabarimala issue, I am just disappointed in him, and in myself.
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