Malayalam Newspaper Janmabhumi has reported that the Government refused to let the people of the Kani tribe make their customary poojas at their holy hill of Agastya Mala in Kerala, on Tuesday, January 15.
Earlier, the Press Trust of India had reported that a trekking team containing a woman, Dhanya Sanal, had started scaling the hill, in contravention of the tribal belief that bars women from ascending the hill entering what they consider the “parnashala” of sage Agastya. According to the Janmabhumi report, Dhanya set foot at the peak point of the hill around 11:30 AM on Tuesday, January 15.
The tribals worship sage Agastya, to whom a murti is dedicated atop the hill. It is ostensibly to facilitate security arrangements for women trekkers that the Government blocked the pujas by fencing away the platform on which the murti was installed and refusing to let the priest and the pilgrims near it.
On November 30, 2018, the Kerala High Court had removed the extant proscription on female trekkers, in the form of a notification by forest officials in deference to the tribal customs, while delivering its verdict on a petition from three organizations. One of these organizations was Pennoruma (“female unity”) headed by an M Sulfath, who was associated with the “Kiss of Love” festival, the other two being Anweshi, headed by an ex-Naxalite leader K Ajitha, and “Women Integration and Growth through Sports”.
Most non-tribal Hindus being insufficiently aware of the situation, the tribals do not seem to have received much support, and their peaceful Nama Japam protests fell on deaf ears, as all peaceful Nama Japam protests do.
Perhaps one should be careful before a knee-jerk judgement of the belief on banning women: as this excellent post argues, bans on women in religious settings take many flavors, and we should not naively conflate different situations.
However, this begs the question of whether the relevant nuances in the present setting have been studied; no justification of the sort has been attempted at in any of the reports.
Moreover, it is striking that none of the courts, or the liberals, have actually called for a rather uniform criterion to apply to all religions; after all, a good number of mosques continue to not permit women (recently the same Kerala Government that has been sparing no effort in getting women into Sabarimala, arrested two women for trying to enter the Vavar mosque).
Instead, the Left, which claims to support the marginalized and to speak truth to power, has chosen to make a point by selectively subjecting a small tribal community to standards that more powerful “mainstream” groups in the country are exempt from – to give more options to a small handful of elite trekkers who enjoy a far more privileged existence than the tribals. Of course, it does serve other purposes – for narrative-building, and for using this example to support such actions against Hindus in future.
The comments from the woman trekker, Dhanya Sanal, feature routine progressive-style dishonesty: “This is about strength and fitness and not about gender, so … I would like to complete the trek without hurting the tribals’ belief” – indeed, if it were only about strength and fitness, and not about gender, there were several other locations she could trek at. And claiming to want to complete the trek without hurting the tribals’ belief, when she is exactly hurting tribals’ belief, reeks of the entitlement that their “cheap talk” should count over “revealed preferences”, even when the latter unambiguously contradicts the former.
The episode also raises difficult questions on property rights; one perhaps needs a classification of property into more categories than just “public” and “private” – are those hills really public places or a common property of the community that has been living there since centuries, and whose habitat we are now invading? Traditionally in Bharat, non-tribals coexisted with the tribals respecting such more nuanced forms of property rights, respecting each others’ autonomy. Unfortunately, that has changed, following power grab by the very leftists who claim to speak for the the marginalized.
At this point, progressivism has become a dangerous, fanatical religion. They seem to have forgotten that “human rights” ultimately exist to serve humans, and instead have theologized it into dogma of a kind that seeks signalling at the expense of human well-being.
Congratulations, leftists, you have successfully signalled your virtue by trampling on the rights as well as sentiments of poor defenceless tribals, while making no practical difference to womens’ rights.
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