Sabarimala: BJP, Congress both think faith is above the law. We should be very afraid

No matter what politicians say, the Sabarimala controversy is no longer a religious issue.

 |  4-minute read |   29-10-2018
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The BJP is the largest party in India, numerically and electorally. It is an extremely popular party. Its president, Amit Shah, is a powerful man, enjoying absolute, unquestioned authority within the organisation. When such an individual advises the Supreme Court of the country to “not give verdicts that can’t be enforced”, and threatens to get his party cadre to “pull down” a government that is trying to enforce aN SC order, it is time to be very, very afraid.

The situation is worsened when the principal Opposition party decides that its patent brand of selective secularism is more important than defending the rule of law.

Amit Shah threatened to pull down an elected government, as well as saying SAmit Shah has raised the pitch over the Sabarimala issue. (Photo: PTI/file)

No matter what politicians say, the Sabarimala controversy is no longer a religious issue.

It’s about whether “feelings” get to formally, officially, supersede the law. It’s an attempt to redefine who is the final arbiter of disputes — a Constitutionally sanctioned court of law — the highest in the country — or the politically stoked sentiments of a particular community.  

In light of the impending Ayodhya hearings, the spectacle of the country’s largest political party making it clear that it will back mob over court — and the Opposition showing it won’t prevent it — becomes even more ominous.  

BJP hardens stand, dangerously  

The BJP is free to disagree with the Supreme Court verdict. It can file a review petition. As the party in power, it can bring in an ordinance against the verdict, like it did recently in case of the court order on the SC/ST atrocities Act.

But the party has not even spoken of these legal options.

Instead, its party workers, along with disparate right wing groups, have laid siege at the temple. The party chief is formally blessing this local-level endeavor, openly speaking the language of threats — and violence.

Shah said: “I have come to issue a warning to Pinarayi Vijayan. If you don’t stop this cycle of oppression, BJP workers will teach a lesson to your government. Your government will not last.”

Governments are voted out by people in elections, not pulled down by rival parties. What 'lesson' is the BJP chief trying to teach another elected government here?

He added: “I want to tell the (state) government and those who pronounce orders in court that you should issue orders that can be implemented, not the ones that break the faith of people.”

Note that Shah is not criticising the Sabarimala verdict alone, he is apparently asking the court to not issue a certain type of verdict at all.

What is the yardstick of deciding the implement-ebility of an order?

Majority sentiments?

The government’s will to implement them?

Of course, politically, the BJP has much to win from the Sabarimala row — Hindu beliefs being “attacked” in a Communist-ruled state. If the government uses force against the protesters, the spectacle will be something the BJP will milk to the last drop.

The saffron party has made it clear — law, democracy, faith are all expendable tools in the single-minded pursuit of electoral victory.

But wither is Congress?

But what about the Congress?

Continuing with its image of “secular nationally, communal locally”, the Congress has steadily backed the “sentiments” of the Sabarimala devotees.  

Whethere they are devotees or vandals, they are obstructing a court order. No woman of menstruating age has yet been allowed to enter the temple, despite the apex court allowing them to. (Photo: PTI)

On October 29, Kerala MLA VT Balram did speak out in support of the LDF government, saying his party “backed devotees, not vandals.”

But this is not a distinction that can be made at this stage. At present, everyone opposing the entry of women of a certain age into the temple is obstructing the implementation of an SC order.

If it at all wishes to live up to its “secular” credentials, the Congress needs to unequivocally state that it stands for the rule of law over the pulls of faith. It can always cater to the sentiments of its electorate by taking the legal route to get the SC verdict reversed.

But the Congress, too, smells political gains here. It is hoping that the Nair Hindus, spearheading the protests, will get disenchanted with the Left, but as an alternative, will pick it over the BJP, for the Congress does have a stronger presence here than the saffron party in Kerala.

However, there is an obvious flipside to this.

One, the Congress is consistently allowing the BJP to set the agenda. Had it firmly backed the rule of law from Day One in the Sabarimala case, the protests would not have snowballed into the crisis they are today.

Secondly, and more importantly, by making its secularism constantly subservient to political opportunitism, the party is destroying any claims to a higher moral ground over the BJP, and turning every election into competitive communalism.   

Dark days are ahead.  

Also read: Why the BJP will stand with the devotees of Lord Ayyappa


Yashee Yashee @yasheesingh

The writer is a journalist.

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