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Why Amit Shah Would Actually Celebrate Sabarimala Activism
'Liberals' are the real force multipliers of Hindutva and only the naive believe that Sangh Parivar would not exploit peculiar fault lines of Indian democracy
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There has been a spate of liberal activism related to some regressive and outdated Hindu traditions in recent times. Aggressive and activist intervention by Indian courts have made matters more interesting. There seems to be an organization called Bhumata Brigade in Maharashtra that has been fighting for the rights of women to be allowed to pray in some temples like Shani Shignapur. The Maharashtra government and temple authorities were compelled by a High Court judgment to allow entry to women. All liberals welcomed this move. Then there is the issue of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala not allowing entry to women between the age of 12 and 50. The Supreme Court of late has been lambasting the temple authorities for this clear case of gender bias. This "custom" too might go very soon. Again, all liberals have welcomed this move.
A third judicial intervention is even more welcome. Within days of the horrific death of more than 100 devotees during a predawn fireworks display at a temple in the Kerala town Kollam, the High Court has passed orders that no fireworks would be permitted between sunset and sunrise. Then again, there has been the famous Supreme Court intervention in the "jallikattu" festival in Tamil Nadu where bulls are tortured in the name of sport and tradition. All liberals have welcomed the Supreme Court order banning this festival.
It is perfectly understandable why liberals have supported this activism and celebrated these well fought victories. But why would someone like BJP president Amit Shah secretly celebrate these "liberal" victories? After all, wouldn't an RSS pracharak type like him go apoplectic and protest this "assault on Hinduism"? Maybe Amit Shah would be outraged at all this at a personal level. But his job is to mobilize and motivate larger swathes of Indians to vote for the BJP. And ironical as it sounds, these well-meaning liberal victories would actually help Amit Shah draw even more voters to the BJP fold.
The reason is the peculiarly Janus faced beast called Liberalism and Secularism in India. In this blessed and benighted land, liberals have succeeded, often with judicial intervention, to challenge and change many regressive traditions and practices of Hinduism. But their passion for gender justice, equality, fair play and respect for the Constitution suddenly seems to fade when confronted by regressive traditions and practices of Islam and Christianity. For a genuine liberal, any victory over regressive practices, even if it is confined to Hinduism alone should be welcome, irrespective of what is happening in other faiths. But that is Utopian and real life politics and social discourse doesn't work that way.
Two examples will show why. Muslim women in Maharashtra have been battling to be given the right to enter and pray and the Haji Ali shrine. They have even knocked on the doors of the High Court. But the same court that allowed women unfettered rights to Shani Shignapur temple was of the opinion that it would be unwise to interfere in the Haji Ali case. Then there is the Supreme Court. It demanded from Sabarimala temple authorities if they held religious tradition to be above the Constitution. In the same Supreme Court, while arguing over egregious cases of misuse of the triple talaq, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board told the apex court in as many words that it considers the Constitution less important than religious practices. This author hasn't seen any media reports of the apex court hectoring the Muslim Law Board as stridently as it has been doing with Sabarimala authorities.
Only the naive will think that the likes of Amit Shah would not exploit these peculiar fault lines of Indian democracy. And the blunt truth is: liberals would have no legs to stand on if they criticize the Sangh Parivar for mobilizing "hurt" Hindu sentiments at this persistent display of "pseudo-secularism". Year after year, "liberals" bemoan and lament the rise of aggressive Hindutva in India. Isn't it time they realized they too have played a vital role in this by being so selectively liberal that it has become an embarrassment in the age of social media?