16th November 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II: SOCIAL-MALNUTRITION
Q1. The recent protests against the Supreme Court decision to allow women of all ages to enter the Sabrimala temple, has brought out the inherent patriarchal character of the society. Comment.
- While the Supreme Court does consider the culture of people, every practice of culture or faith must pass the test of the Constitution of India. It is a cultural document in the sense that within its intentions, principles, pronouncements and guidelines lies the fibre of the people who make up this land. Hence its limitations are also our own social, cultural and political wrinkles. But the makers of the Constitution wished and hoped that the fundamental rights would represent an ideal of India. They were, and we are, yearning for an India where all forms of discrimination and segregation cease to be practiced. The Constitution is not a heartless, emotionless document; it is a passionate seeking for human upliftment. Therefore, the court should respond with care, compassion and empathy for the citizens of India, especially those who are at the receiving end of a discriminative practice, disregarding society’s majoritarian impulses. Simply put, if the wishes of Ayyappa lead to an unjust limitation of access for women between the ages of 10 and 50 who want his blessing, then his wishes have to be set aside. The cornerstone of the Hindu tradition is bhakti. And there is nothing more sacred than the unconditional love of the devotee. Ayyappa has to surrender to its power. Philosophically, this is in alignment with the Supreme Court judgment of September 28, 2018. It was remarkable, reminding us of the profound vision of the architects of our Constitution.
- Many argue that we should leave Ayyappa and his world of male-purification, self-control, abstinence alone. Shockingly, they also make the case that barring Dalits from temples was the result of upper-caste hegemony, but the Sabarimala practice is founded on the legend of Ayyappa and is, therefore, acceptable. But isn’t it that very same ‘purity’ that forbid Dalits from entering temples being perpetrated here in the name of Naishtika Brahmachari-ism? Even today, women are advised not to enter places of worship when they are menstruating. Esoteric arguments of positive/negative energies and purity are expounded in order to cultivate fear and restrict women — a result of discriminative legends, stories, tales, social rituals, manuscripts and treatises.
- People of all castes do throng to Sabarimala but that does not mean it dissolves caste. By that argument, every temple is then casteless because today people from every section of society offer prayers and undertake pilgrimages. But we all know that this is entirely untrue. Most temples in their traditions, ritual practices, control and organisation are inherently casteist.
- The inherently casteist and patriarchal nature of Kerala society has been brought into focus. Social reformers Narayana Guru and Ayyankali fought this deeply entrenched caste discrimination and untouchability in Malayali society — the success of reservations and positive social indices suggest that they made a big dent in casteism. But it is obvious from the upper-caste noise being generated in Kerala today that much work remains to be done. Within every one of us hides casteism, and it reveals itself in such situations. Patriarchy and male hegemony are the foundations on which caste operates, and Kerala is no exception.
- Every sphere of activity, including the religious, needs to be questioned on feminist grounds, and practices that are restrictive must be reconsidered.