Sabarimala: Why BJP wants to 'empower' Muslim women but is against equal rights for its Hindu daughters

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
Kancha Ilaiah ShepherdOct 18, 2018 | 14:31

Sabarimala: Why BJP wants to 'empower' Muslim women but is against equal rights for its Hindu daughters

Despite their sharp differences, one thing that unites radical Hindu men and Muslim male fundamentalists is their opposition to gender equality within their respective communities.

The Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to enter Lord Ayyappa's Sabarimala Temple is being opposed by the right-wing forces just as Muslim fundamentalist organisations didn't agree with the striking down of instant triple talaq.

What is absolutely ironical is that the RSS/BJP, along with the Shiv Sena, has been mobilising women against women’s right to spiritual equality in Hinduism.


Radical Hindu men, just like their fundamentalist Muslim counterparts in India and the world over, believe that a woman's body is impure because of her menstrual cycle. They, however, feel a man and his body is absolutely pure and spiritually superior. Hence, men of all ages can go to all temples, but women are not allowed to enjoy that equality.

The Supreme Court has thrown open the doors of Sabarimala Temple to women of all age groups.  (Photo: PTI file)

The radical Muslim men also believe in imposing purity-related restrictions on women. Added to that is the burden of burqa culture to avoid arousing impure thoughts in men. They believe that a woman’s body should be zealously guarded from men.

The radical Hindu men are doing exactly the same thing. The RSS is quite open about it now and I am glad it has finally shed the cloak.    

The notion of men’s 'prerogative' to divorce a woman in a manner he likes and chooses is still treated by many Muslim men as a divine right. But the Hindu men from radical Hindu organisations believed that the Muslim women must be liberated and the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre supported that "cause" before the Supreme Court.


And once the instant triple talaq judgment was out, the BJP government enacted a law abolishing the same. But the same BJP government opposed the entry of Hindu women (of menstruating age) into the Ayyappa temple.

Right-wing forces are now mobilising Hindu women against Hindu women’s right to spiritual equality.  

Does that mean the RSS/BJP want freedom and equality for Muslim women, but are opposed to Hindu women enjoying equal rights as men?

The issue of women’s equality following the Sabarimala judgment is, quite understandably, being seen as a 'leftist' verdict.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is being targeted for his resolve to implement the SC verdict.

Why men feel a woman's body should be zealously guarded from men. (Credit: PTI file)

While the Congress leadership in Delhi is trying to play safe, in Kerala, it is supporting the most imprudent Shudra approach by the Nair Service Society (the most cruel Shudra patriarchal society that supported Sambandham marriages for a long time in history). The NSS, with the tacit support of the Congress, is mobilising the Nair women against themselves. Nair women were forced to live as concubines of youngest Brahmin sons for centuries. Now, they do not want the women to visit a temple in Kerala.


The Nair men implement all Brahminical rules against their own women. They have no sense of self-respect. Whatever was written as temple code by Brahmin spiritual theoreticians, these Nair men are happily implementing that.

According to the Agama Shastras (written by Brahmins), Shudras, including Nairs, don't have the right to priesthood. The same pundits wrote that women should not enter temples and the Nairs want to implement it at their own cost.

Ayyappa is also known as a chief God of the Shudras. The temple bhakts are mostly Shudras, but the rules are written by Brahmins.

The black dress code for Ayyappa devotees, the ritual singing for Ayyappa is entirely Periyarite. Periyar Ramaswamy Naikar from nearby Tamil Nadu took over the black dress code from Ayyappa only.  

No Shudra temple in India has written rules that discriminate between men and women. In fact, the Shudra faith is mostly intertwined around female Goddesses.

Most of the Shudra Goddesses are women. From the famous Telugu Goddess Pochamma to Durga and Kali, Goddesses don't discriminate between men and women.

Radical Hindu men have pitted women against women in the name of Lord Ayyappa. (Credit: PTI file)  

It is only the RSS/BJP-led right wing which is destroying the egalitarian spiritual systems.

Now, Ayyappa is being pitted against women. Good that the Supreme Court, except a female judge, saw through Lord Ayyappa’s egalitarian spiritualism.   

Apart from Muslim women, the RSS/BJP mobilised their own, even non-Muslim women activists, against triple talaq.  

Similarly, several Muslim organisations mobilised their women to protest against their own right to dignified and safe divorce.

What is worse is now the RSS/BJP and Shiv Sena are making their own Hindu women further perpetuate the notion of impurity of women and their bodies and shout slogans of opposition against "defiling the pure male Ayyappa God”.

This is like what the Shudra masses believed that "they are inferior and should never become priests in any Hindu temple".

The radical Hindu and Muslim men want no change in the man-woman equation (read gender inequality) both in the spiritual society — at temples and masjids — as well as civil society.

The changes brought by the Indian judiciary — by carefully considering all human relations, particularly the man-woman equation — in the light of the Constitution is being opposed by such fundamentalist forces even when sitting in positions of power. This is true of all such men whether in India or Pakistan (a theocratic state).

The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre has proved that. In Pakistan, successive governments have done that.

At the time of the triple talaq issue, a lot of Hindu men and women — in TV channels, newspapers, social media and other public forums —pretended to be liberators of women — the Muslim women, to be precise.

The same men and women are now saying faith is more important than reason and equality. They believe that the Constitution and judiciary cannot unsettle faith.

Now, the Indian Constitution and judiciary are being attacked as anti-Hindu because the SC judgment built a legal theory for man-woman equality as it did in the case of triple talaq.

The BJP/RSS has shown its real face in the aftermath of the Sabarimala verdict.

Whether in was triple talaq or the Sabarimala issue, the Supreme Court decision was a step in the right direction.

Quite surprisingly, the radical Hindu men are quite vocal in defending the triple talaq judgment.

However, the radical and liberal Muslim men and women are not getting involved in the Sabarimala judgment. They left it to the Hindus to decide. But the radical Hindus working in the RSS/BJP do not leave Muslim religious matter to Muslims.  

One hopes that the RSS/BJP would realise the ill-effects of this kind of patriarchal Hindu spiritual movement on the national morale as well as constitutional democracy.

They want to push the Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasi women further into a corner just as they did with the Brahmin women. 

There is a need for a counter-mobilisation by women and men across the country, particularly the Shudras (including the Shudra upper caste men and women, unlike the NSS forces).

The OBCs, Dalit and Adivasi forces must save the Shudra worshippers of Ayyappa from the Namboodiri Brahmanical patriarchy and the anti-women (and anti-Dalit) culture it has perpetrated for generations.          

Last updated: October 19, 2018 | 19:23
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