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The fire that spread in the ashram

The fire that spread in the ashram

It is quite natural that in our society, with deep-rooted casteist thoughts and religious traditions in its culture, court verdicts such as the one on women's entry into Sabarimala cause communal stir.

When such emotional explosions and the agitations engendered by them happen, however reactionary or progressive they are, and in the absence of vigilance not to allow them being made tools for civil rights violations and social divisions, Kerala will be heading for a quagmire of communal polarization of a kind from which we cannot easily save ourselves. However, unfortunately the recent direction of agitation against women's entry into Sabarimala is evolving into clearly planned and implemented programmes of communal polarization. The latest example of that is the fire that was set on Swami Sandeepaananda Giri's ashram at Salagram in Kundamankadavu, near Thiruvananthapuram, to turn it into ashes. The despicable attack, estimted to have caused a loss of a crore rupees, represents a more chilling warning through the wreath that was placed there. The clarion message delivered in the dark night air of Salagramam by the arsonists is of a determination that differences of opinion - even if it is from saints - will be effaced with fire.

The heinous hit at the ashram unmistakably marks the brink of danger that Kerala has reached through the Sabarimala agitation. Swami Sandeepananda has pubicly stated that there is a big conspiracy behind the arson. He has also alleged that the BJP state president, Thazhman Tantri family and the Pandalam royal family along with others are party to the conspiracy. He is convinced that the motivation for the act is revenge on his utterances against the Sangh Parivar. Such suspicions are validated by the targeting of the saint in social media and the pro-Sangh school's posts justifying the attack. With the chief minister himself having stated after a visit to the ashram that there is a mean plot behind the crime, it is an urgent task for Pinarayi's government to bring out the facts through an independent enquiry. For, if the Sangh Parivar has made plans to liquidate voices of dissent, they have to be eradicated through legal means. An effective probe and bringing the conspirators before law are essential steps necessary to see that the linchpins of democratic Kerala are not lost.

Although the Supreme Court judgement is legally sacred, it can be questioned through democratic means and agitations can be organized against it. That courts are fallible is borne out by the very history of court judgements. And the path of correcting them is also through constitutional procedures as laid down in law. In order to mobilize public opinion required for this, there should be enough room in democracy for street protests as well as debates. That should be available for those who advocate protection of traditions as much as for those who treat the court verdict as an instrument of renaissance. Only then will democracy will be realized in its true meaning. The question of the dissenting judge Indu Malhotra of the Sabarimala case bench, as to how far courts can legislate over maters of faith, is one which devotees can expand into a serious debate. But equal opportunity should be available also to propage the conviction about the verdict as pro-renaissance, for those who support the majority judgement view - that the ban on women's entry into Sabarimala is against the concept of equality in the Constitution. But if the stir against the court's judgement is assuming the nature of violence, and if that becomes a tool in the hands of the seditious segment to take law into their hands, then it becomes incumbent on every devotee and non-devotee to prevent that at any cost. For, such a move is not for protecting the sanctity of Sabarimala, but to destroy the amity existing in Kerala. Therefore, every Malayali has to promptly come forward with the progressive spirit he is heir to, to douse the fire that spread in Salagramam ashram.

The targeting of the ahsram also necessitates ponderances about how the protests against the Supreme Court judgement will mould a future Kerala. Leaders seem to be regardless about how this agitation will be marked in history, aside from its temporary political gain. Otherwise they would not venture to shamelessly raise reactionary and purely emotional postulates. The fire that spread in Salagramam impels one to rethink in depth in what name the agitations around the protection of Sabarimala traditions will go down in history. For the fire that spread there is not the holy fire mentioned in Bhagavad Gita but a fire of hatred and enmity.

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