RSS Welcomes SC Judgment on Sabarimala, Says Issue is About Faith, Not Discrimination
File photo of protesters opposing the entry of women to the Sabarimala Temple. (Photo: PTI)
New Delhi: Welcoming the Supreme Court's decision to refer Sabarimala case to a larger bench, the RSS on Thursday said the restrictions on women's entry in the famous Kerala shrine have nothing to do with gender discrimination.
Hearing over 60 petitions seeking review of its 2018 judgment where it allowed entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple, the Supreme Court referred them to a seven-judge bench.
Arun Kumar, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of the RSS, said, “Matters related to traditions and customs are issues of faith and belief. Restriction of women belonging to a particular age group to the Sabarimala shrine has nothing to do with gender inequality or discrimination, and that is based on the specialty of the deity.”
He added, “We are of the firm view that the judicial review under whatever pretext in the matter will be violative of the spirit of the freedom of worship guaranteed by our constitution. And the opinion of concerned authorities should be given paramount consideration in such matters. We welcome the SC decision to accept the review petition on file and refer the matter to a larger constitutional bench.”
The bench will re-examine various religious issues, including the entry of women into mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
While the five-judge bench unanimously agreed to refer the religious issues to a larger bench, it gave a 3:2 split decision on petitions seeking review of the apex court's September 2018 decision.
Changing positions on Sabarimala
In 2018, the RSS took a break from its 2016 stance on allowing women into Sabarimala temples. Last year, the Sangh criticised the Kerala government for immediately taking steps to facilitate women’s entry into Sabarimala temple “without taking the sentiments of the devotees into consideration”.
Bhaiyyaji Joshi, the RSS general secretary, termed it “forceful breaking of the tradition.” He added that while the Sangh respects the court’s judgment, the sentiments of millions of devotees, including women, cannot be ignored.
In a 2016 statement, Joshi had said in a TV interview that barring women from Sabarimala made no sense even if it was in the name of a thousand-year-old custom. “The RSS wants to allow all women up to the limits set for men,” he had said.
It has been reported that the RSS’ stand at the time had contradicted the Sangh and BJP’s Kerala unit. They had positioned themselves as the defenders of the custom that has been ruled unconstitutional by the top court.