Aage Se Right

Why the media is at fault in its coverage of the Sabarimala Temple row

Media houses staged a near-circus over the Sabarimala Temple for the sake of a few TRP points.

 |  Aage Se Right  |  5-minute read |   24-10-2018
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I can bet a million rupees that many of my colleagues in the media (especially the ones currently outraging on Twitter) haven't even seen the latest Supreme Court order on the Sabarimala Temple. If any of them had cared to go through it, they would have been shocked.

Why shocked?

The Supreme Court order doesn't talk about media coverage at all. It doesn't even go there. 

Here is the .pdf copy of the Order from the Supreme Court's website and the first paragraph says:

"The irony that is nurtured by the society is to impose a rule, however unjustified, and proffer explanation or justification to substantiate the substratum of the said rule. Mankind, since time immemorial, has been searching for explanation or justification to substantiate a point of view that hurts humanity. The theoretical human values remain on paper. Historically, women have been treated with inequality and that is why many have fought for their rights. Susan B Anthony, known for her feminist activity, succinctly puts, 'Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.' It is a clear message."

This order, by a five-member constitution bench comprising then-Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, in a 4-1 majority, struck down provisions of The Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which banned women between the age of 10 and 50 years from the Temple.

Justice Malhotra, the only honourable woman Judge on the bench, had a dissenting view.

sc-supreme-court-cop_102418114603.jpgThe Supreme Court recently ordered the opening of the Sabarimala shrine to women between the ages of 10-50 years. (Photo: PTI)

This is considered a landmark judgment since it overturned an earlier judgment (in 1991) banning the entry of female devotees to the Temple, which is considered to be one of the holiest sites of Hinduism, with an annual footfall of 50 million pilgrims.

Let me repeat, the order only concerns itself over the entry of women devotees at Sabarimala, specifically of all ages — it never ever goes into the territory of the traditions, customs and rituals followed at the Temple or the way Lord Ayyappa is worshipped. The honourable judges only concerned themselves with the entry of female devotees for a darshan of Lord Ayyappa.

I am sure some of my media friends haven't bothered to find out but here's an elaborate set of rituals that need to be followed before you get a glimpse of the celibate God. There are eighteen Dos and eighteen Don'ts to be followed before you gain entry into the holy Temple. There are also certain traditions that need to be followed before the Yatra commences. 

These traditions have been followed for centuries, both by men and women, who have been visiting the Temple. 

The Supreme Court hasn't commented or passed a judgment about the above practices. More importantly, the court, in various paragraphs of its judgment, acknowledged the deep respect and devotion with which devotees worship Lord Ayyappa.

Having said all that, I want to ask my colleagues in the media now: What prompted you to attempt to barge into the Temple premises and breach its boundaries, with a boom mike and camera crew in two? Which part of the Supreme Court order has armed you to do that? Which exact line of the order allowed you to encroach on the larger boundaries of the Temple, disregarding the traditions and customs that have been followed for centuries?

sabarimala2-copy_102418114736.jpegFurious protests have ensued around the shrine over women's entry. Some media houses also joined the fray. (Photo: PTI)

The Supreme Court order talks about devotees and women devotees — how could you, dear journalist colleague, qualify as a devotee if you have not observed the holy rituals that precede a visit to the Temple? If you don't qualify as a devotee, what are you doing at the Temple site? 

What about the feelings of the fellow Yatris who have gone through penance to get a view of Lord Ayyappa? How can you hurt their religious sentiments?

I am appalled at the way some media houses staged a circus near the Sabarimala Temple for the sake of a few TRP points.

First of all, the media reached there even before a certified copy of the court order reportedly did. Then, they tried to get near the Temple. 

Secondly, as the devotees were getting over their initial reactions, a posse of media persons and a huge contingent of police force reached there.

Then began a circus to the horror of the locals. Some media channels started stating that they were being stopped from reporting when most of the fellow devotees actually stopped the media because they weren't devotees in the first place. 

As the channels engaged in tone-deaf reporting, the situation got complicated as certain "activists" also reached the same spot, just to breach the boundary walls of the Temple. 

sabarimala2-copy_102418115001.jpgIf you are not a devotee, then you have no business being at the Temple. (Photo: PTI)

As things stand, the media frenzy has dimmed after the public outcry but it hasn't died down yet.

To my colleagues in the media, in my opinion, you will be going against the very letter and spirit of the Supreme Court order if you choose the site for activism or activism disguised as journalism. If you really want to enter the Sabarimala Temple, then first please follow the 18 Dos and Don'ts for entering the Temple, get into proper attire and start the Yatra with due courtesy.

If you are not doing that, then you are not trying to enter the Temple as a devotee.

If you are not a devotee, then you have no business being there.

And yes, kindly spare the poor devotees your sanctimonious lectures.

Also read: Kerala’s 'progressive secular' CM knew Sabarimala crisis was brewing. Why didn’t he do more to avert it?

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