By Aditya Aamir


            Your flaws are what make you perfect. You can say that of most everything, too. Like review petitions in the Supreme Court, which point to flaws in otherwise thought to be ‘perfect judgments’. But that’s okay because in many cases, dissenting justices underline the ‘flaw’ in the majority judgment. But dissents such as those, however brilliant, don’t matter, till a review petition is filed.


            The Sabarimala verdict has been up for scrutiny from word go. While it was landmark, it’s been criticized for going out of bounds of the earmarked. There’s also the ‘Right to Practice Religion’, say detractors of the four justices who gave the majority judgment. The Left Front government of Kerala refused to go for a review but that’s more politics than prayer.


            Now, an outfit called the National Ayyappa Devotees’ Association (NADA) has filed a review petition asking the Supreme Court to undo the wrong done to the Ayyappa devotees, stressing that the top court should not have violated the Constitution and the rights of the devotees.


            The opposition to the SC ruling is that the dispute is not about gender and ‘women’s entry’ because “women under 10 and over 50” have always been visiting Sabarimala. The court thought otherwise and ruled that devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination and patriarchal notions cannot be allowed to trump equality in devotion.


            That was on September 28 and much water has flown down the Pamba since then. A Jallikattu-like movement has started and fiery debates on television have spurred people to spontaneously come out on to the streets. Led by women devotees of Ayyappa, the protests seek to impress that the #ReadyToWait outnumber #RightToPray by miles!


            NADA in its petition claims the top court’s verdict “shocked millions of devotees” and the decision should be overturned. “The petitioners believe that no legal luminary, not even the greatest of jurists or a judge, can be a match to the commonsense and wisdom of the masses. No judicial pronouncement, even of the highest judicial tribunal in this country… can be a match for the voice of the people,” says NADA head Shylaja Vijayan.


            NADA was not party to the original case. “The judgement on Sabarimala is “absolutely untenable and irrational if not perverse,” says NADA. Lakhs of people in Kerala second the opinion. Thousands of Ayyappa devotees have been taking to the streets across Kerala and are led by a fiery and irreverent character going by the name of Rahul Easwar, a maverick who’s probably a bigger threat to the CPM-led state government on this particular issue than the Congress and the BJP/RSS combine.


            Last week an anchor of a television news channel told a Doubting Thomas CPM spokesperson to be wise and not take Rahul Easwar lightly just because he shouts and rants. “You’re making a mistake and you’ll regret, but by then things will have got out of hand,” the anchor told the CPM representative minutes after Easwar left the show after giving more than an inkling of where he was heading, which was only to another TV studio!


            One word Easwar never fails to inject into his “rants” is “humbly”. He is always “humbly” requesting “sisters like Trupti Desai” to reconsider because otherwise with “all due respect” she will be made to “step over our chests” to get anywhere near the Sabarimala shrine. Claiming that the Ayyappa Dharma Sena he heads is strapped of funds, he says he will be in Delhi “this week” to hold a protest event at Jantar Mantar.


            But the Pinarayi Vijayan government doesn’t need anchor-advice. Unconfirmed reports say there are plans to scupper Rahul Easwar including his “house arrest”, the ‘Urban Ayyappas’ are a clear threat to left plans which go beyond respect for women’s rights. Apart from corralling Easwar, there is also a plan to chopper-lift 40 Kerala Police women constables and a “group of 12 Ayyappa women devotees – Hindu, Christian and Muslim” to the Sabarimala shrine on October 16 and “enter” them, come what may.


            This move, if it is part of the state government’s plan to defeat the “Constitution-breakers”, lends credence to the protestors’ accusation that the state government is “cheating devotees”, something which has become the lexicon of the opposition – the Congress and the BJP, both of which want the Pinarayi Vijayan regime to wait for the review petition to be heard.


            Vijayan is not moved. “Filing a review petition is against the stand,” he said Monday. “It is the responsibility of the government to implement the court verdict. It is not the policy of the government to fight with believers, their interest will be protected. The government is ready for discussions.” The last probably signals a shift, a softening of the stand, a serious shift, may be.


            The “commonsense of the masses” NADA speaks about in the review petition must be striking a chord in the politicians and humour has injected into the debate, a down to earth chuckle shift. Asked at a presser at the Trivandrum Press Club to make a stand on the issue with a clear and unequivocal “Yes or No”, a Congress politician quipped with a straight face, “Or!” (IPA Service)

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