A five judge Review Bench of the Supreme Court, by a majority of three- two, on 14th November 2019, has not only reopened the earlier 4-1 verdict of the Supreme Court allowing entry of women of reproductive age into the Temple. Rather, it has drowned the limited question of allowing entry of women in reproductive years into Sabarimala Temple into the larger questions of gender discriminatory practices, including in various other religions. It has indicated that courts should be willing to consider that gender discrimination can be part of ‘core practice’ of a religion. This has been done without the majority judgement even uttering a sentence against the fact that political parties, including that ruling at the Centre, openly mobilized cadre and masses to threaten, physically block and later socially prosecute women in reproductive years who dared to try enter the Temple, openly defying the Supreme Court Verdict. That was a 4-1 judgement on the restricted question of a fairly recently installed provision against women in reproductive age group. The review petitions were limited to this judgement. The BJP-RSS openly mobilized against that judgement, the Congress followed suit and the CPM led state Govt. dithered in the initial phase. All this the majority judgement has simply overlooked, establishing that might and mob is right in the eyes of the majority of the Bench. It means the strengthening of those who will block women. It will weaken those who wanted implementation of the Court order and those who were trying to ensure its implementation despite the reactionary powerful opposition and its state backing. It means the earlier Judgement is actually done to dust.
The minority Judgement has pointed out just this, that a limited question of review of the earlier Judgement has been taken into a totally new arena. It has also spoken sternly against the impunity with which that judgement was violated.
A downright patriarchal practice, that too one which the God concerned ordained only about seventy or so years ago, was being questioned by women including believers in that God. The question rises starkly, that without strong social movements for democratic values, strong movements against patriarchal values, are Courts going to strike down gender discrimination? That too when an ideology openly espousing patriarchy has acquired open dominance? The question of entry of Dalits into various temples too needed massive mobilizations of Dalits. Without women’s strong movements against Patriarchy, without their organized assertion on the streets against such practices, no right can even be defended. There are no shortcuts.
November 15, 2019