What's behind the show of strength around Sabarimala

What's behind the show of strength around Sabarimala
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The CPM policies are shaped by the documents approved by the party state committee. A 2002 decision on caste and religious associations in Kerala is key to the party’s approach to communal associations. A section of the document assumes significance in contemporary scenario: “The party’s ideal is a casteless and secular society. Communal organisations have no progressive social role to play in Kerala. The efforts to expose the wayward actions of the SNDP Union in the Thiru-Kochi areas have to be encouraged.”

The document that criticises the functioning of the associations such as the SNDP Yogam and calls for keeping these associations at a distance is still in effect, yet the CPM has joined about 100 such associations to form a “women’s wall” on January 1. The document lacks the word “renaissance”, the current slogan of the party. The document terms the associations as “social reformist movements”. It said that the associations had failed to perform their role with the influence of vested interests and rich people.

The CPM is faced with an extraordinary situation that has prompted it to move away from its earlier stand against communal organisations. The party explains its new policy by saying that the communal associations need not be kept at arm’s length because of their current stands if they are prepared to return to their renaissance values. But what could be the political motive for aligning with the associations that “do not play any progressive social role in Kerala”?

The CPM-led Left Democratic Front has two reasons for this. The first is the prayer-protests against the permission for all women to enter the Sabarimala shrine. The party was less bothered by the failed attempts by some women to go to the hill shrine than the unprecedented participation of women in the protest meets organised by associations such as the Nair Service Society. The party had to grudgingly admit that even its fellow travellers were seen attending such meetings. The party wanted to form a “women’s wall” to counter claims that it was drawing flak from the women of the state.

The second objective is to counter the Sangh Parivar attempts to consolidate Hindu interests. This explains the chief minister’s welcome gesture towards hitherto undesirable associations. If the left camp did not assimilate them, the Sangh Parivar will, the CPM fears.

CPM leaders have no qualms admitting that the party’s base is still formed by the majority communities. The party courted controversy by ignoring the renaissance-value associations among minorities in its eagerness to embrace Hindu associations. Even the funding of the show of strength became controversial. The government created an extraordinary situation after the chief minister’s explanation in the legislative assembly differed from the government affidavit submitted before the court.

Yet the Left Democratic Front has no reasons to worry about the success of the “women’s wall”. Kerala’s previous mass mobilisations has never witnessed the participation of more than 30 lakh people, both men and women. An exclusive campaign of 30 lakh women would be historic, the ruling front believes. The CPM is proud of the ideals put forward by the collective.

The lineup of women across the length of Kerala in support of the Supreme Court upholding gender equality in the Sabarimala shrine could be used as an argument by the government in the court. The Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an alliance of conservatives resisting the entry of women in Sabarimala, had to resort to a similar show of strength to counter any such claims.

The alliance is the only association in Kerala to have its base in temple-based entities. The alliance had 48 associations when it was formed. Now the membership hovers around 120 associations.

The Sabarimala Karma Samithi is led by its convener S J R Kumar, the president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad who took to the streets as soon as the Supreme Court gave its verdict in the Sabarimala case. The other Sangh Parivar outfits were confused initially. VHP affiliates such as ‘Mathrushakthi’ and ‘Durgavahini’ were also used effectively in the campaign.

The Sabarimala Karma Samithi is based on the four pillars of Ayyappa Seva Samajam, Hindu Aikya Vedi, Kshetra Samrakshana Samithi and the VHP, all RSS affiliates. Kummanam Rajasekharan, now the Mizoram governor, could play a connecting role given his associations with both the Hindu AIkya Vedi and the BJP, some leaders said.

Kerala is about to greet the new year as a divided house. There are also some elements who sit on the fence. While the SNDP is strongly in support of the “women’s wall”, its political avatar, the BDJS, has thrown its weight behind the conservative camp.

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