That sense of déjà vu. Tuck it in the front pocket. What else? Ask, is there a streak of sadism in the Supreme Court? Can it explain “hearing of 49 review petitions in open court on January 22, 2019” while making it “clear there is no stay on the judgment of September 28, 2018”? Why, in the face of the oncoming invading horde, insist that the fort gates remain open?
The Supreme Court has willy-nilly set the stage for a confrontation at Sabarimala. Rights activist Trupti Desai wrote to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan Wednesday that she’s on her way, with her band, the 41-day fast and irumudikettu be damned! Nothing and nobody can stop us, she told media November 14. To which Ayyappa activist Rahul Easwar retorted, “The Supreme Court has refused stay, but we will stay at Sabarimala for 66 days.”
Back to the Supreme Court. Why this fetish with New Year, 2019, the month of January, specifically. Whether it be the Ayodhya Ram Mandir or the Swami Ayyappa Sabarimala shrine, the top court pushed both to the pale of January 2019, and beyond. The uncertainty in the two directives jumps and bites. That’s the déjà vu tucked in the pocket.
Now, to the “stay” embedded. November 14, CJI Gogoi doubled down on the “stay”, asking a review counsel to stay put till January 22, when counsel reiterated that the apex court stay the September 28 order. That settled, if the hoi polloi cannot make sense of the logic behind the order, there is reason. Who is the apex court testing, the state government or the Ayyappa devotees? The answer to that is the top court is directly indicting the Pinarayi Vijayan government for its failure to implement the September 28 order, to make sure women in the age group 10-50 were allowed a glimpse of the celibate god. There were opportunities plenty, but the state government failed. The January 22 deadline is the last chance to Pinarayi to deliver on his boast. Justices Chandrachud, Khanvilkar and Nariman, who wrote the 4-1 majority judgment along with ex-CJI Dipak Misra, must have been keeping an eye on happenings in Sabarimala.
Now, there are 64 days of Mandala Puja starting November 16, and the chessboard is back on the table with all the pieces arranged for a replay. This time, it better be check and mate!
It will be a crush, but the Supreme Court has given a helping hand to Pinarayi and Trupti. The devotees and sundry others have been lulled into inaction till January 22, the Queen’s gambit to be helped by the King’s gambit because the Queen’s gambit is not considered a true gambit. Rahul Easwar, his brain constricted by his ‘Save Sabarimala’ headband, will have to resort to some aggressive Sicilian defence!
The point is – with January 22, open court and no stay – the Supreme Court has erected a smokescreen around the chess table, challenging the players to play blindfolded. The apex court’s math simply does not add up.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is the closest to an authoritarian Kerala has seen. In an interview to actor/filmmaker Sreenivasan in 2016, Pinarayi says that growing up he was “terrified” of ghosts but overcame the fear with stiff doses of atheism. Simply put, Pinarayi doesn’t believe in god, temple, traditions, customs and rituals.
The Supreme Court, of course, wouldn’t bother about the nitty-gritty as long as the law prevails. It’s a given, the justices must not have read all the 49 review petitions and the “interventions”, there just wasn’t time enough. But “interventions” contain knowledge. For example, the one by a senior editor in which he lays out 10 points to throw light on the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple and why it’s a standalone, unique.
The one point that will strike even simple minds is about Devi Malikappuram. “The doctrine of Sabarimala is such that every male devotee is seen as incarnate of Lord Ayyappa and women as incarnate of Devi Malikappuram (who is banished, never to enter the temple). As such a right that is not available to Malikappuram cannot be expected to be granted to ordinary women (Trupti Desai) pilgrims. That is why women, who are counterparts of Malikappuram, are not allowed entry. It is not out of discrimination against women because women out of marriageable age are already allowed,” says the editor’s intervention.
True women devotees respect Ayyappa traditions and empathise with Malikappuram’s plight, but activists like Rehana Fatima and Trupti Desai are not devotees, they want to come only to enforce their right to equality. “The all-important question is why create a right for which there are no takers, when the enforcement of such right as mere symbolism entails huge cost to both the State exchequer as well as (to) the multitudes of genuine Ayyappa devotees,” says the editor with Ayyappa logic. Chopper-lifting Trupti Desai to Swami Ayyappa’s circle is like landing in the tiger’s lair! Beware.
Aditya Aamir is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.