India is a country of billion people and has a potential to find billion solutions to its problem, but it looks like we have developed an art of inventing more problems than solutions. The recent developments after the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala issue is an example. The polity, activists and main stream media are doing everything possible to ensure the issues do not subside not to mention the social media which gave a platform to millions to raise their voice is just adding cacophony to the mix and as a result we managed to create unrest in god’s own country, Kerala which is otherwise peaceful. Needless to say everybody working based on their own agenda without addressing or understanding the core issue. Let’s look at this issue in details and where the common Indian got carried away with the narrative
Sabarimala is a classic example which unearthed the fault lines between the society, judiciary and executive, each holding on to fundamental rights, judicial procedures, women rights, politics vote bank, spirituality of devotees, the religious belief system etc., with mainstream and social media adding fuel to fire. To put the things in right context,
The Issue: The issue is about women, aged between 10 to 50, who are not allowed to enter into sabarimala temple and it is termed as an issue related to gender bias and patriarchy. But if this is the issue then the issue must be raised from the indigenous Hindu religious groups, we should have seen a clear divide in Hindu society locking horns involving male and female religious leaders with their army of follower groups and the battle would have been fought inside and outside court. We should have seen a mass agitation by Hindu women lead by the women activists from front. But we haven’t seen that, instead the issue was raised by Indian Young Lawyers Association headed by Mr. Naushad Ahmad Khan, the organization claims to be working for the welfare of lawyers and general public filing PILs on their behalf. The case ended up in Supreme Court and we managed to invent a solution to the problem which Hindu women who never thought so and never bothered to enter the temple respecting the age old traditions. Remember this is not a case like Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum And Ors which had a representation of the effected person, because Hindu women never thought that they are the victims of this tradition.
Issue Redressal: It is natural for a religious matter to end up in the lap of a (group of) religious head because they are the subject matter experts of the issue, just like we approach our elders at home in matters related to traditions and customs. It would have been done if such strong body existed which has the authority and constitutional backing in these matters. It is lack of such body in Hindus community which the Supreme Court has filled in this case in its own terms within civil jurisprudence. Courts pronounce judgment based on the arguments they leave aside the applicability, acceptability, implications of implementations as these are state subjects. But matters related to culture and traditions are emotional in nature and are very strongly attached to core belief system of people which they have been carrying over generations, the change can happened only with transformation, which may takes months, years and sometimes decades. The current unrest in Kerala is a standing example of the same.
Politics: Once judgment was announced we saw a battery of feminist who suddenly took the center stage in support of the judgment as though they were fighting for the cause for quite inside and outside the courts. The response of the political parties including RSS was very balanced and slow, soon people started to respond when the intent of the communist government to implement the judgment without wasting time was made clear, we saw the uprising of the Hindu community Kerala and across India and the political parties now knew which side they need to take and why. Arguments like gender equality, women right were looking hallow from day one, but after activists like Tripty Desai, Rehana Fatima and other women tried to enter into the temple, the whole issue got further sensitized and common Hindus started to feel the artificiality of the issue as they know that a real devotee would wait just the way they have been doing it for decades. We also saw large number of women coming out in support of the age old tradition with Diyas in their hand and doing Namajapa on roads.
Adding fire to fuel, while the review petition is pending in Supreme Court, Pinarayi Vijayan government which needs to implement 17 Supreme Court judgments never bother to do so and instead was seen in hurry to implement this one and they successfully ensured three women to sneak into the temple, which now created a law and order situation in Kerala. A perfect example of “Engineering Issues for Dummies”
The judgment of the review petition is key to resolve the issue, however it is important to note how we managed to manufacture a new issue, keeping aside the core issues of economic inequality, agriculture sector distress, inadequate healthcare facilities and the lack of quality education and skill development of our youth. These are the issues which should have captured the air time in mainstream, social media. A qualitative, analytical, political and intellectual debates on these issues should have been the mainstream discourse for people as that will give us the demographic dividends which will help the country march forward.
The emotional distress and the feeling of alienation which this issue created in society is going to remain in the minds of Indian people for days to come and will stand as an example of our ability to engineer issues which will leave deep scars on the socio-political fabric of our country. It is time we as responsible citizens need to learn that social problems cannot be solved using knee-jerk judgments like this one. What we need is a coherent approach involving right stakeholders with a focused mechanism and strategy to be successful, the need of the hour is Not Landmark Judgments Need Landmark Changes.