Turning Temples into Courts: Judges should not dictate religious practices – David Frawley

Vamadeva Shastri / David Frawley“Judges should not dictate religious practises. Political activists should not be allowed to use temples for political agitation.” – Dr David Frawley

Visiting Hindu temples is an amazing experience, an inner journey through history, culture and cosmic dimensions. Each temple is profoundly unique with its own identity. Such temples represent one of the most important cultural heritages of all humanity.

As a Western Hindu visiting Hindu temples for several decades, each temple has been a transformative event in sacred time and space.

Unfortunately, there are a few temples where as a Westerner I have been unable to enter. Having an Arya Samaj certificate of conversion to Hinduism does help, but is not always enough. Yet there are many Hindu temples that let everyone in. Often we are taken to the front of long queues in respect of having come so far in our pilgrimage.

Some complain that there are not enough Hindu women priests, though that situation is improving, or that women cannot enter certain temples, though they can get into most. These are areas of genuine concern. Hindu dharma honours Shakti and this should extend into the society overall.

Yet my wife, who is an Indian and a Hindu religious teacher, always receives special respect at any temple she visits, often from the head pujari, even at temples that I am not able to enter. But she approaches temples with genuine heartfelt devotion, not as an angry activist.

I know something of history, how thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed by Islamic invaders, and how the British belittled Hinduism. I can sympathise with temples that do not want non-Hindus to enter as mere tourist sites. Temples, just as churches, have dress and codes of conduct that should be followed and security concerns in this age of terrorism.

Supreme Court of IndiaPolitics of temple going

It is sad to see temple entry in India being made into a political football. It is strange to see the Indian judiciary ruling on who can go into temples and how far, as if temples should be under court jurisdiction.

This is compounded by the fact that churches and mosques in India are exempt from such interference and regulation. In addition, temple revenues are taken by state governments for their own usage, while church and mosques receive state subsidies.

Clearly, there is a tremendous prejudice against the majority religion in India that is unparalleled in any country. In other countries majority religions are treated as well or better than minority religions. In Islamic states like Pakistan and Bangladesh, Islam is given precedence and prestige over all other religions.

In the secular USA, there is a strict separation of church and state, and the judiciary does not rule on church practises. On the contrary, the government grants extensive and equal tax benefits to all approved religious groups, with majority Christianity granted the most regard.

Devendra Fadnavis & Trupti DesaiThe sanctum sanctorum

Going into temples should be an act of devotion, not of political assertion. Allowing political activists into the sanctum sanctorum of temples can be a gross violation of religious respect. That is an area of the temple reserved for the priests, not for the general public.

There are Hindu temples and festivals for men or women only. There is nothing wrong with this, any more than gyms or clinics that cater to male or female only concerns. There is a strict separation of men and women in certain temples. That is also fine and creates a different type of energy than the free mingling of the sexes.

Hindu temples have a vast array of deity forms and worship at special times and in distinctive ways. There is no single standard church service or namaz. Such local variations of practise should be honoured and preserved. They reflect the richness of Indian civilisation.

Judges should not dictate religious practises. Political activists should not be allowed to use temples for political agitation.

At the same time, temple entry policy should be respectful of different types of devotees in terms of age, sex or ethnicity—but this can be done without destroying the sanctity of the temple or curtailing the myriad forms of temple worship. – Daily-O, 22 April 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) has a D. Litt. (Doctor of Letters), from SVYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana), the only deemed Yoga university recognized by the Government of India.

Hitopadesha Quote

Where are the women judges in India’s courts? – Sanjeev Nayyar

Justice Gyan Sudha Misra

Sanjeev Nayyar“A November 2015 India Today report shares some interesting facts, ‘There are just 62 (9.2 per cent) women judges compared to 611 male judges (in high courts) in the entire country. In 24 state high courts, nine HCs did not have a single woman judge. Three high courts had only one woman judge.’ Is this a case of gender discrimination or does it imply that only male judges possess the best legal brains and women are incompetent?” – Sanjeev Nayyar

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiThe Supreme Court on April 11 frowned upon the practice of barring women between the ages of 10 and 50 years from the Sabrimala shrine in Kerala, asserting that religious practice and tradition could not be allowed to dent constitutional principles and values.

Questioning the validity of tradition which has been under attack from feminists and others, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, V. Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph said temple was a public religious place and it must observe the constitutional values of gender equality.

The judges said that the issue involved the question whether tradition could override the Constitution which prohibited gender discrimination. “Why this kind of classification for devotees to visit the temple? We are on constitutional principles. Gender discrimination in such matters is untenable. You cannot create corrosion or erosion in constitutional values,” the bench said.

Such strong statements by the learned judges prompted the author to visit the websites of the Supreme and five key high courts to ascertain the extent of gender equality in the judiciary. Here is the status as on April 12, 2016.

Women judges in Indian courts

Of the select courts, the percentage of women judges in Delhi High Court is the highest. Could the collegium system of the Apex Court find one only competent woman to be a judge? Did you know that from “1950 to November 2015 only six women became Supreme Court judges out of a total 229 judges appointed?”

India has had a woman prime minister and president but never a woman chief justice.

A November 2015 India Today report shares some interesting facts, “There are just 62 (9.2 per cent) women judges compared to 611 male judges (in high courts) in the entire country. In 24 state high courts, nine HCs did not have a single woman judge. Three high courts had only one woman judge.” Is this a case of gender discrimination or does it imply that only male judges possess the best legal brains and women are incompetent?

Look at the number of women doctors in our country and compare them with the number of women judges. Some might argue that women have taken to education recently in larger numbers. This is not true. Women in this country began taking to modern education even before independence and the pace picked up thereafter in virtually all fields, for example, the author’s mother and mother-in-law became doctors in the mid-1950s in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh respectively.

It can be argued that in the medical discipline, women doctors succeeded because they ran their own clinics or worked in hospitals where they did not need to navigate organisational politics. Fair point. All the more reason why India needs more women judges. Since they are grossly under-represented in terms of numbers, there is a clear case for affirmative action (not reservation). Certainly, there are enough women lawyers in all high courts who can be elevated to the bench.

According to a November 2015 Mail Today report, when a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Khehar was in the process of inviting suggestions to improve the collegium system for the appointment of judges, a large number of female lawyers complained of “gender discrimination” in appointment of judges to higher judiciary.

When faced with such complaints, the respected Justice Khehar asked, “We would first like to know what the ratio of female advocates to male advocates is. That is very important. The ratio of female judges to male judges must be in the same ratio.”

I am inclined to respectfully disagree with this line of questioning. When under-representation of women in the judiciary is universally accepted, is it correct to compare the ratio of female to male advocates? Was the percentage reservation for schedules castes and tribes based on their population numbers or supposed backwardness?

Further, women lawyers told the court that would not be a fair criteria. “Please do not compare the number of women lawyers at bar and juxtapose it with the ratio of female and male judges. Women were allowed to practise in court only in 1922. Women face a lot of problems in practising in court. Despite that, they are coming out in large numbers to practice,” said senior lawyer Mahalakshmi Pavani representing the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA).

At the same meeting SCWLA also represented, “It is submitted that keeping the Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15(3) (the power of the State to make special provisions for women and children) of the Constitution Of “India is a signatory to Conventions on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979, which envisaged removal of obstacles of women’s public participation in all spheres of public and private lives.”  The source of Article 14 lies in the American and Irish constitutions. Before we get into the question of gender equality, we have to answer some fundamental issues on the Justice system and fundamental flaws relating to its practice in India.

1. How adapted is a British system of justice to an Indian culture, ethos, identity and practice? Is the understanding of gender equality the same in Indian and Western societies? Let me elaborate. It is a long-term fundamental flaw in our system, which has not been addressed or has perhaps not even entered the consciousness of our western educated judicial practitioners. While all humans are created equal, it does not mean they are the same. Same and equal are two completely different concepts.

Equality in the Hindu system does not mean we have one toilet for men and women, one set of dresses for men and women.

Why India? It is the same worldwide. In Hindu philosophy, we say the soul of men and women does not have gender in its spiritual state. But for practical purposes, two sexes are created based on physical differences by the Gods. These differences at times have to be respected and catered to just like there are separate toilets for men and women. By doing so it does not mean we are disrespecting and abusing the notion of equality.

2. Now coming to the issue before the Apex Court on whether the current practice at the Sabrimala shrine, of barring women between the ages of 10 and 50 years, should be changed. Hindu Goddesses have a wider following than Hindu male gods in many parts of the country. In the same vein there are certain religious places that are men exclusive and in equal breath there are certain temples that are women exclusive.

There exists a women-only temple in Kerala.  While 95 per cent of the temples are common to both sexes please understand that Hinduism treats both equally, and that does not mean that each and every function on earth has to be the same. At times for reasons of tradition, certain things are male specific and equally certain things have to be reserved for women. This is a fundamental difference between Indian and western thought.

If courts want to still force the issue of gender equality despite the arguments above they should do so. But keep in mind that the courts have to apply the law equally to all religions. That then would be real justice. The suggestion is either create a level playing field, or if the argument is that every community has its uniqueness, then let them cherish their uniqueness. You cannot have different rules for different people in the eyes of the law. We are repeating the mistakes made earlier by using British concepts of secularism and minorityism!

Are we willing to look within and change? – Daily-O,  13 April 2016

» Sanjeev Nayyar is an independent columnist, travel photojournalist and chartered accountant, and founder of www.esamskriti.com.

Women yatris to Sabarimala

The Supreme Court has reduced polymorphic Hinduism to meaningless myths – Gayatri Jayaraman

Ganapati in Mumbai

Gayatri Jayaraman“The Supreme Court, in adjudicating on matters it has no religious punditry over, and in doing so under the protection of the law, and the Constitution of India reduces Hinduism to a bunch of meaningless myths. … Hinduism, under the protection of the Constitution of India, faces a fate worse than death.” – Gayatri Jayaraman

On the Sabarimala temple issue, the Supreme Court of India observed on April 13, 2016: “In Hindu dharma there is no denomination of a male or female. A Hindu is a Hindu.”

And just like that a constitutional body has, probably for the first time anywhere in the world, become the interpreter of religious texts. In this it is protected by Article 25 (2) that deals with the right to religious freedom but allows the courts to intervene on social welfare and reform, but only on Hinduism. This inability to separate faith and state is now the definition of Indian secularism.

What this becomes is not just a ruling on access to a temple, but a reorder of the entire Hindu faith itself. The source of Hinduism is its Vedas. The Vedas contain entire texts devoted to women. While much is made of that favourite of the book-burners—the Manusmriti, which is not even a Vedic text but a second century code now overwritten by 18 centuries of lawmaking that left much of it behind, much like amendments to the current Constitution leave regressive laws behind—this ruling impacts the core texts of Hinduism, the ones that its philosophies are actually composed of. To say Hindus have no gender and are but Hindus, makes a mockery of much great philosophy

The Hindu epics

The entire Ramayana revolves around Sita’s abduction. And who wages war on the purity or abduction of a man? The entire Mahabharata was wrought upon the Pandu clan because of Draupadi laughing at Duryodhana in the palace of illusions. Kunti, Shakuntala, Maitreyi, Sati, Sita, Parvati, Gargi, Savitri, Ahalya and of course Sabari occur with various catalytic roles throughout Hindu literature. Their roles may be questioned or derided as sexist, and debated, but many texts are metaphorical, contain sub texts that a competent guru could explain, and are subject to interpretation, and they may not be arbitrarily removed from the religion by a non-religious body, and that too one that gives its followers the right to question it.

For example, my guru explained the Ramayana, as a metaphor: Sita as the mind, the deer as material wealth, Rama as the self, and Ravana as the ten senses who must be conquered else will be ruled by ego, ahamkara, and the subjugation of Sita in the purity ritual as the return to one-minded focus.

Others have other versions. Some take it at face value. Are we to toss out our texts and their interpretations because a judge decides it is a sexist story?

The feminine principle

Within Hinduism, the issue of gender is complex and nuanced. Rites and rituals are defined in various parts of the Vedas. The principle of Shakti, the feminine principle of energy, is integral to understanding Vedic lore and, at once empowered with creation itself as well as destruction, is a very distinct energy from male avatars. Lord Ayyappa, at the centre of the Sabarimala debate, is born of Hara and Hari—Vishnu in the form of Mohini, both male principles.

So while the Supreme Court, if it so chose to reduce a spiritual union of male energies to physical form, may be well within its right here to ask why Hindus must be deprived of a law that decriminalises homosexuality, when it is in fact rich with religious precedent as evidenced here, sadly, the honorable court, unable to question the human rights’ curtailing provisions of its own personal laws, is unable to bring up the real progressive questions of India for debate. Instead, it reduces Hindu gender to binaries. The principle of Shakti is also not restricted to women, it is permeable in men. Hence entire sects of male yogis devoted to female energies.

So, as far as any Hindu knows, principles of male and female are not as distinct as the Honorable Judge would make them out to be. Neither is male or female a physical only form, nor is its energy restricted by the gender of the worshipper. Shiva lies in the sahasrara chakra and Shakti in the muladhara chakra, so all Hindus are in fact composites of both energies.These are nuanced positions most Hindus understand easily and are intrinsic to our religious ethos.

Supreme Court of IndiaThe legends of Sabarimala

The legends of Sabarimala, though there are many, one romantically portrays the ban on women as Ayappa’s loyalty for the penance of a beautiful woman released from her curse by his slaying her demon form of Mahishi, also have to do with harnessing the inner male energies.

Ayappa is the god of discipline. Mahishi symbolises the ego. It is in him that Hari and Hara, creation and destruction, come to harmony. The rigorous vows of celibacy, the 40 days penance, ironically, are a tribute to womanhood: they symbolise one day of penance for each week spent in a mother’s womb. Woman, the symbolic prakriti energy, or vehicle of creation is not available to man for these 40 days. Man must pull himself back from his function as procreator and the procreated. The black symbolises the nullifying of the colour spectrum, absorbing all differentiation into one.

Devotees do not even address each other by name during the pilgrimage. The physical state is forgotten, and the pilgrim must subsist on alms. The 18 steps symbolise 18 exercises to remind the student or the householder, of his need to transition to a state of detachment. Women may go up the hill all they want, Lord Ayyappa will survive the seduction of women pilgrims plenty. He is too advanced a master of the mind not to.

One may not be so sure of the men who make the climb though. The penance is for them. To remind themselves that they are one half of a whole, where they come from, who they depend on, and why balance is their function. That it is seen as rigorous penance, is indicative of why men need to probably do this more often, but once a year is enough.

No single Hindu philosophy

The Supreme Court also seems to be reducing Hindu philosophy to a single absolute certainty. Something Hindu sages, the progenitors of the philosophy themselves, never did. There is, contrary to popular opinion, no arbitration on who a brahmin should be. Ram was a kshatriya, Krishna was a Yadava, Shiva a tribal, a kirata, none of them brahmins. Rishi Aiterya, Vishwamitra, Veda Vyasa, Matanga, Nammalvar … Ravana. Many material states in Hinduism are mutable.

The sages even in their expositions mark nothing but the highest truths as certainty. In Chapter 2, Brahmana 4, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Rishi Yajnavalkya asks of his wife Maitreyi who asks him for knowledge instead of the settlement of property he was about to give her before he left for the forest:

Yatra tv asya sarvam ātmāivābhūt:

“Where everything is the Self of knowledge, what does that Self know, except its own Self?”

This conversation with the most woman-friendly of Vedic sages—there is a later conversation with Brahmavadini Gargi also in the same Upanishad—becomes the core of what is to be Advaita. Basically, that philosophy which says that, simply put, all soul, matter, energy, forms, are one.

It is pertinent that Yajnavalkya was himself disowned by his guru, who annoyed by his constant questioning, asked for the knowledge he gave him back, which he vomited out and which was consumed physically by birds (tittiri), now forming the Taittirya Upanishad (and that’s just one version of that story). Yajnavalkya then proceeded to seek the sun as his guru, and procured his own knowledge, which became the Shukla Yajur Veda.

All Hindus do not follow the Shukla Yajur Veda, and much of the caste distinctions are not merely whom you can choose to oppress, but is built on which school of Vedic study you traditionally follow. So when Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi propounded what was to be the base of Advaita philosophy, let’s be clear, they were not following convention. That they were free not to do so, is the beauty of the space the religion lent them even at that conservative period of time.

MonotheismWhy this monotheism?

No doubt, this entire body of knowledge and way of thinking is what the learned judge of the honorable Supreme Court was encapsulating and taking into account when he began to arbitrate what Hinduism says. He had clearly studied it, decoded all the caste links and structures, schools of knowledge, expounded it, and was only thus explaining it in open court. Which is an amazing feat, considering all commentaries and bhashyas on Hindu texts differ, even from sage to sage and commentator to commentator on the same line of Hindu text. Yajnavalkya warns Maitreyi: it is impossible to know the essence of finite beings.

Yet, the honorable judge, has defined all of Hindu Vedic dharma with the clear exposition of advaita, non-differentiation. Where do the Visishtadvaitins, and the Dvaitins, who believe in differentiation, and other things, from Yogins to Nastikas, which Hinduism allows them to, apart from several other schools of thought, go?

The judicial arbitration of Hinduism’s intrinsic principles reduces an entire religion to a monotheism and ignores the multiple layers of consciousness that form its spiritual temperament. The pantheon of Hindu gods exists so a devotee may adopt that which suits his form of bhakti, or adoration, which again is not the only path. Even wealth, duty, study take you there. One is not imposed on another. The myths and stories exist so Hindus lower down the plane of spiritual evolution may comprehend higher truths more easily, in the form of life lessons. The stories of avatars exist to exemplify ways of living and behaving. The Vedic texts exist for those who seek to question on higher planes. This ascent is not ordained by pundits but is open to each member of the faith as and when he or she finds himself seeking it. The multi-layered multi-faceted expansiveness of Hinduism is its fabric.

Meaningless myths

So, yes, the women may enter Shani Shingnapur and the women may enter Sabarimala. Just like Maitreyi may have her own Upanishad. But to do so for the sake of a court-ordained mandate, by which every woman in Yajnavalkya’s time may write their own upanishad, betrays a lack of understanding of the religion. Of all religions on earth, it is Hinduism that refuses to apply a blanket formula for all spiritual growth and understands that every person finds their own ways of spiritual growth, through devotion, through duty, through study, through learning, through meditation, through yoga, through rebirth, and allows multiple channels to do so.

To force ascension is against the inbuilt progression of the religion itself. The Supreme Court, in adjudicating on matters it has no religious punditry over, and in doing so under the protection of the law, and the Constitution of India reduces Hinduism to a bunch of meaningless myths.

Without this spiritual understanding to back them, our temples are just stone houses, and our texts just myths we will never be able to explain. Hinduism’s greatest temples have survived sieges, been shut, abandoned, looted, idols taken underground and protected against being misused, desecrated rather than their essence be lost. And Hinduism has survived it all. But these were mere physical attacks.

The current attack works against the essence of what constitutes the religion itself. By pandering to popular thought rather than any deep philosophical study of the religion or its tenets, it reduces it to its material facade.It is better, that rather than Hinduism suffer this fate, temples be shut down, rather than propagate this unthinking version of myths and stories that then hold no meaning intrinsic to the religion, and Hinduism recede to the space of private spiritual study.

Else Hinduism, under the protection of the Constitution of India, faces a fate worse than death.

It disintegrates into meaningless ritual.

Shut the temples down.

If what the court says today stands as law, Hinduism in India is dead anyway. – Daily-O, 13 April 2016

» Gayatri Jayaraman is an author, reporter and editor based in Mumbai.

Ganga Namaste

A Partisan Constitution: Why the law is loaded against the Sabarimala Temple authorities – R. Jagannathan

Supreme Court Justice Dipak Misra

R. Jagannathan“When did anything with a religious dimension have pure ‘rationalism’ as its core? In fact, our Constitution itself hardly passes the test of rationality in the way it framed provisions on religious rights.” – R. Jagannathan

Given the trend of questioning in the Supreme Court, where women activists are fighting a ban on the entry of menstruating women in Sabarimala, it is clear that the temple authorities are fighting a losing battle.

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiOn 11 April, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asked questions that cannot but indicate how the case is going. Among the questions asked: “What right does the temple have to forbid women from entering any part of the temple? Every argument has to meet the test of constitutionality.”

Then: “Can you deny a woman her right to climb Mount Everest? The reasons banning anything must be common for all.”

Or take these questions and observations: “Why this kind of classification for devotees to visit the temple? We are on constitutional principles. Gender discrimination in such matters is untenable. You cannot create corrosion or erosion in constitutional values.”

And, finally: “We will be guided by (a) rational dimension and that is the Constitution. I just believe in the Constitution.”

The last one takes the cake. When did anything with a religious dimension have pure “rationalism” as its core? In fact, our Constitution itself hardly passes the test of rationality in the way it framed provisions on religious rights.

The contrast with the US Constitution is stark. The US Constitution has just 16 words to describe its approach to religious freedom, while we have multiple articles in our tome. The first amendment to the US Constitution, which deals with religious and other freedoms, has this to say:Our constitution has an imbalanced approach to religious issues. In fact, it ties itself in knots by professing one high principle in one place, and then allowing exceptions to this principle in other places when it involves another community.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

This simple sentence allows religious groups to practice what they preach: this could include the right to discriminate against homosexuals, oppose abortion, or practice polygamy (Mormons) or whatever, as long as an individual claims it is part of his or her religious faith or practice.

India, on the other hand, has elements in the constitution that say contradictory things. One part will say such laws will apply only to Hindus (including Sikhs, etc), and another says some laws will not apply to others. Our constitution is egalitarian in spirit, but discriminatory in many of its provisions.

Thus, civil laws will apply to Hindus, but not minorities.

Thus, you can make laws that discriminate against beef-eating, and still claim you don’t’ discriminate against minorities who want to eat beef.

Thus, you can make laws (like the Right to Education) that are supposed to be applicable to all, but not minority-unaided institutions.

Thus, you can profess the right to religious freedom, but states can also put in laws to hinder it.

This is why the Supreme Court can claim it is following the constitution, even while defeating the spirit of it.

Haji Ali Dargah MumbaiThe real villains are Articles 25, 29 and 30. Article 25 gives the state the right to interfere in how Hindu temples are run, but articles 29 and 30 give minorities the right to run their own institutions according to their own traditions and culture. This is why Sabarimala is a losing battle, but Haji Ali may not be.

Article 25 is about “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.”

It says: “(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.”

This should have given Sabarimala the space to argue that its practices are part of its religious belief, but there is an important “but” in Article 25.

It says: “(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the state from making any law (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice; (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.”

Article 25(2)(b) would thus allow the Supreme Court, if not the government, to claim that Sabarimala is an institution of public character and should be “open to all classes and sections of Hindus.”

Given the recent tendency of the Supreme Court to make the law rather than just interpret it, the fact that the Kerala government is on the Sabarimala temple’s side may not matter much.

On the other hand, Article 29 gives minorities the right to protect their culture and institutions. It says, inter alia, that “(1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”

If Sabarimala had not been covered under Article 25(2)(b) which gives the state the right to enforce its own idea of egalitarianism, it could have claimed protection under Article 29. Article 29 negates a part of the ideas in Article 25. Giving minorities a right not enjoyed by a majority is essentially iniquitous, but the Supreme Court may not spend much time discussing this anomaly.

Clearly, the Indian Constitution is a mish-mash of contradictory provisions. It needs to be seriously rewritten.

This is not to say that Sabarimala is right to keep out menstruating women, but we can’t deny that our laws are wonky. – Firstpost, 12 April 2016

» R. Jagannathan is the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine in Mumbai.

Women yatris returning from Sabarimala

See also

Ram temple will become a reality: Subramanian Swamy – Debobrat Ghose

Subramanian Swamy

Ram Lalla VirajmanSenior BJP leader and former Union minister Subramanian Swamy is confident of a positive verdict from the Supreme Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi case and is hopeful that the construction of Ram Mandir would begin in Ayodhya by year-end.

In a conversation with Firstpost after his address at Deendayal Research Institute at Jhandewalan on Saturday evening, the maverick politician and one of the most vocal proponents of Hindu nationalism, Swamy shared how he plans to go about the issue and why it is important for the country. Excerpts:

• How do you see the Ram Mandir becoming a reality?

• We’ll wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict. I’m confident that the apex court will give a favourable judgment. And if it happens, by the end of the year, construction of a Ram Temple will begin with mutual consent. I’ve filed a writ petition seeking day-to-day hearing of petitions in the Supreme Court. Our case is very strong and even the Allahabad High Court had supported out stand based on the evidence presented by us. The historical, archaeological and epigraphy-based evidences have shown that there existed a temple beneath the Babri mosque.

According to Hindu scripture and the present law, a praan-pratisthit vigraha (deity) is a living entity and a deity (Ram Lala) can hold the property, so all the property vests with the presiding deity and Ram is the owner. Nobody can have adverse possession over it. The Muslim scriptures and law lay down that no wakf can be created on another’s property. The Sunni Waqf Board was in adverse possession of this property. The emperor Babur owned no land on this soil.

• Do you think the Muslim leaders will agree to it?

• The Muslim leaders have said that they would accept the Supreme Court’s verdict. I don’t want to do it forcibly. I had discussions with AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Syed Shahabuddin and other Muslim leaders. They also want day-to-day hearing. Earlier, I had taken up the issue for negotiation with Shahabuddin who was heading the other side. But the government fell, and so I could not complete the process.

During Narsimha Rao’s government in 1994, the Supreme Court had asked the government to take a stand on Ram Janmabhoomi issue. The government gave an affidavit in the court, which stated that if a pre-existing temple was found beneath the mosque, the Hindus would keep this land for temple construction. And, across Saryu river Muslims would build a mosque. No mosque will be allowed to be built in Ram Janmabhoomi.

• Is it practically possible to shift/construct mosque across the Saryu river?

• Even in Islamic countries like in Saudi Arabia, an important heritage mosque was demolished to give way for the construction of a project. An alternative plot was given and it was built at some other site. According to Islam, a mosque is a facilitating centre for offering namaz, where people gather and read. It’s a kind of prayer hall, unlike the way a temple is. If Muslims agree to it, Hindus will join in the construction of the mosque.

• Considering the present turmoil in the country, don’t you think construction of Ram Mandir and shifting of mosque would escalate it?

• As I’ve mentioned, all Muslim leaders have said that they would accept Supreme Court’s verdict on this issue. As far as extremist elements are concerned, they can be dealt with.

• Is the issue only restricted to the Ram Mandir, or does it extend beyond it?

• During the 800 years of Muslim rule, some 40,000-odd temples were demolished in the country. We’ve asked for three—Sri Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Krishna Temple in Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. If Muslims agree to give us these three temples, they can keep the rest 39,997 mosques.

As per news reports, the arrival of stones to Ayodhya from other states has triggered panic among the locals. Is there any tension brewing there?

No, there’s no tension and it (arrival of stones) has been taking place for quite some time. People know well that without the Supreme Court’s ruling, construction won’t begin.

• Finally, do you think people are still interested in the construction of Ram Mandir?

• There is a public demand for building the Ram Temple. This is not the only project that I’ve been pursuing. Earlier I’ve taken up several projects, including religious ones. On the issue of Ram Temple, people are very much concerned. They came and told me to pursue it in the manner I did on Ram Sethu, which was a big success. The Ram temple will become a reality. – Firstpost, 21 February 2016

» Debobrat Ghose is a correspondent for Firstpost.

Hindu Temples: What Happened To Them, Vol 1

Hindu Temples: What Happened To Them: The Islamic Evidence

Queer community looking for a better tomorrow – Vaishna Roy

Gay rights march in New Delhi

Oscar WildeOn February 2nd the Supreme Court in New Delhi agreed to set up a five-judge Constitution bench to reconsider its 2013 ruling that only Parliament can change the 1861 law banning gay sex. Tuesday’s decision is the latest chapter in a long-running legal battle between India’s social and religious conservatives and the gay community over the law passed by British colonial rulers in the 1860s. – Editor

At the Jaipur Literature Festival last month, Stephen Fry spoke about Oscar Wilde. He did not mince words when he spoke of his own, and Mr. Wilde’s, sexuality; about growing up ‘different’ and about dealing with ridicule and harassment. Mr. Fry received a standing ovation, a reaction that sits somewhat oddly with the deep prejudices we as a people often display, but one that also indicates the kind of acceptance we are capable of.

Stephen Fry is an English writer and Oscar Wilde was an Irish playwright. Their countries decriminalised private same-sex intimacy in 1967 and 1993, respectively. In 2015, Ireland also became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by a nation-wide referendum. But India, a country with an ancient and healthy history of celebrating alternative sexualities, ironically continues to criminalise what it calls “unnatural sex against the order of nature”. And it does so because the Indian Penal Code was drawn up in 1860 as a faithful mirror of colonial [Christian] beliefs, thus trapping India in a prudery that is far removed from its real and rich history of sexual liberty that regarded very little as “unnatural”. Even more important, Indian philosophy, unlike the Western construct of a rigid male-female binary, has always recognised that gender is socially grafted on to what is essentially a sexually dimorphic body. Without even delving too deep, just a cursory understanding of the ardhanareeswara concept amply demonstrates this.

Delhi High CourtCriminalising a community

In its inspired 2009 judgment, the Delhi High Court seemed to finally acknowledge this history when it read down Section 377, thus allowing consensual sex between same-sex individuals. It was received with jubilation by not just the LGBT community but by every Indian who believes that in a progressive, liberal democracy, the government cannot be allowed into your bedroom. Unfortunately, the ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. On [February 2nd], a [three]-judge bench of the apex court heard a curative petition to decide once again on the constitutionality of Section 377.

It [was] a day fraught with tension. A day on which hinges the small, private happiness of countless ordinary people. Just how anxiously they [waited for] the verdict you can see from posts on social media that talk of being “full of hope and prayers”, of “keeping fingers crossed”, of being “filled with unease”. There [was] anxiety but there [was] hope too. As lawyer and activist Vivek Divan [said], the community finds it hard to believe that the country or its courts can brand them as ‘criminal’ any longer. “As a lawyer, as a law-abiding citizen, I find it hard to be told that I am less than equal,” he says.

It is hard to believe that in 2016 we are still debating the legality of an individual’s sexuality, when in 2014 the Supreme Court’s historic NALSA judgment affirmed the fundamental rights and freedoms of the third gender. This surely is an unequivocal assertion of the right to equality of all persons. This right then logically extends first, to every individual whether heterosexual, homosexual or transsexual, and second, to every sphere of their lives, including how they choose to be intimate in the privacy of their homes. As writer Lesley Esteves says, “You cannot recognise their right to life and liberty and simultaneously criminalise their sexual life.”

The 2013 judgment sought to defend Section 377 by claiming that it does not criminalise a community or a sexual orientation but merely identifies certain acts as offences. But how does one separate the act from the person? And there lies its biggest catch. In its implementation, Section 377 does not usually enter the heteronormative bedroom. Instead, it is regularly used to harass sexual minorities. As Esteves points out, hijras, trans men, and gay men constantly face physical violence, sexual abuse, and financial extortion by the police. Last year, the gay student in Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science could be openly blackmailed by his classmate because of the threat of prosecution under Section 377.

The second aspect of the 2013 judgment was that the Supreme Court left it to the legislature to amend the law if it is indeed discriminatory. This is unusual reticence from a judiciary that has been both hailed and reproached for its extraordinarily activist stance in most other issues. If the personal liberties of heteronormative Indians are threatened, would the courts see it as a constitutional infringement or ask for Parliament to amend the Constitution?

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiThe meaning of democracy

And finally, when the court dismissed the LGBT community as “a minuscule fraction of the country’s population”, it failed to recognise that a democracy has to protect the liberties even of somebody who is in the minority of one.

In the years between 2009 and 2013, when the LGBT community had the sword of illegality removed from over its head, there is anecdotal evidence, says Mr. Divan, which shows a flowering of liberty in families, schools and workplaces. More gay and lesbian people came out without fear of persecution. It is always easier to fight social prejudice when the law is firmly on your side. This has often motivated the judiciary’s proactive approach to recognise and grant legal rights to, say, women from social custom or to protect the environment from corporate aggression.

On [February 2nd], when the Bench heard the curative petition, there [was] compelling reason to anticipate that the court will not allow even a fraction of Indians to live under a forced veil of secrecy or under the constant threat of violence anymore. – The Hindu, 1 February 2016

Oscar Wilde Quote

Jallikattu: How the Modi Sarkar spread disinformation and insulted the courts – Radha Rajan

Jallikattu

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“The large, gaping holes in the PCA Act (1960) contain the answers to all uninformed and wild allegations against animal activists about why are they not doing anything about beef, cow slaughter, Bakrid and halal. BJP leaders who levelled these accusations against the AWBI and animal activists must now return to Parliament and amend the PCA Act effectively to plug all holes and loopholes. When BJP ministers and party leaders say they will bring back jallikattu, … they are saying they will make another big hole in the PCA Act or make a new law which is repugnant to and contrary to the letter and spirit of the PCA Act (1960)” – Radha Rajan

Prakash JavadekarPrime Minister Modi is facing severe criticism for what is widely perceived to be his personal failure to bring back jallikattu as promised in time for this year’s Pongal festivities. After Modi tweeted his Pongal greetings to the people of Tamil Nadu, he was mercilessly pilloried on social media. The buck stops with the prime minister and he is paying the price for the ill-considered statements of assurance issued by two cabinet members (environment minister Prakash Javadekar and the junior minister for road transport, highways and shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan), senior BJP leader H. Raja, and the BJP’s state president Tamilisai Soundararajan to the effect that jallikattu will make a comeback during Pongal.

Maneka GandhiModi is to blame for not stopping Javadekar from rushing through with a notification which tweaked the July 2011 environment ministry list of animals banned from being exhibited as performing animals. The January 8, 2016, notification was an absurdity which obviously had not been vetted by Modi’s cabinet which includes distinguished lawyers like Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Maneka Gandhi, an animal activist who, with Ozair Hussein and Raj Panjwani, authored the authoritative Animal Laws of India. How did this notification get past Jaitley and Maneka unless this was Javadekar’s unilateral decision? Is the country to believe that Modi and Jaitley gave their assent to a notification intended to overturn a Supreme Court order and which was so bad in law that it was bound to stumble and fall at the first challenge?

As the news about his ministry considering various options to conduct jallikattu during Pongal began to gather momentum, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)—the statutory body constituted by an act of Parliament—wrote to Javadekar saying the board collectively and unanimously stood by the July 2011 notification, and that in view of the May 2014 Supreme Court order which banned jallikattu and all other sport using bulls, the sport should not be permitted. Within two days of the AWBI writing to Javadekar, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi wrote to the government advising it not do anything that may be construed to be disrespecting or overturning the Supreme Court order.

Disregarding the advice from AWBI and the written warning issued by the AG, Javadekar issued a new notification on January 8 which said that his government, while not removing bulls from the list was however exempting jallikattu bulls from the list of animals which may not be trained, exhibited or used for sport and entertainment. The regressive, half-clever notification drove the local BJP into a frenzy of self-congratulatory celebrations. In a flight of fancy laced with sycophancy, state BJP leaders not only went to town with “victory” posters in different parts of the state, they also asked the people of Tamil Nadu to celebrate this year’s Pongal as “Modi Pongal”.

Animal Welfare Board of IndiaThe AWBI, animal welfare organisations like CUPA, FIAPO, PETA and PFA and animal welfare activists rushed to the Supreme Court on January 11 to file their petitions seeking a stay on the notification. Supreme Court stalwarts K. K. Venugopal, Aryama Sundaram, R. Venkataramani, Dushyant Dave and Siddharth Luthra appeared for the petitioners. The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Mishra, which heard the petitions on January 12, was not amused and the notification was stayed promptly. Unwilling to see reason even then, sections within the government and a powerful jallikattu lobby outside the party and government wielding considerable influence over the BJP began frenzied attempts to bypass the January 12 Supreme Court order. Loose talk, wild allegations and lies tantamount to slander about animal activists and the five reputed senior advocates who argued the case against jallikattu in the Supreme Court began doing the rounds and Tamil news channels added fuel to the jallikattu fire which the BJP had lit with such cynicism simply as an election gimmick. Some Chennai-based petitioners began to receive menacing and threatening calls.

Nirmala SitharamanIt was at this time that Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state for commerce and industry and who was in Chennai, came up with an equally ill-considered suggestion which only fanned the frenzy. Knowing well that by taking up the cause of jallikattu so close to Pongal and inviting the wrath of the Supreme Court, BJP ministers and party functionaries had caused incalculable damage to the image of the prime minister, the party and the government, Sitharaman, in a last minute desperate effort to save face, tried passing a camel through the eye of a needle. She passed the buck to the Tamil Nadu government and with great ingenuity invoked an obscure and little known provision in law which empowered state governments to promulgate an ordinance. “State government has power under the Constitution, as entry 28 of the state list empowers states to promulgate ordinance on fairs and markets. As jallikattu can be categorised as a ‘fair,’ the state can issue an ordinance, the minister said.” Nirmala Sitharaman’s memorable contribution to the drama entering its last and final phase was renaming jallikattu from “sport” to “fair;” all this just to diddle the Supreme Court!

Four questions for Modi and his ministers

  1. If the BJP which calls itself a “party with a difference” can overturn a Supreme Court order with an executive order, how is it different from the Congress which too had earlier overturned the Supreme Court order in the Shah Bano case?
  2. Why have a judicial system and courts and why make a pretence of rule of law if Supreme Court orders can be treated with scant respect by the executive and overturned by whims and caprice?
  3. Why constitute the AWBI as a statutory body if the government will not allow it to fulfil its constitutional mandate to act as the government’s advisory body on animal welfare and animal welfare laws?
  4. Why appoint an attorney general if the government will not heed the advice of the highest legal officer of the bar in the highest court of the country?

In the last fortnight, the BJP undermined and humiliated three important institutions; and all in the name of jallikattu. Narendra Modi must ask himself if the cause was worth the cost that he personally, his government and his party paid in the end.

In the last fortnight alone jallikattu has been described variously as an article of Tamil pride; integral to Tamil nationalism; protector of native breeds in cattle; sport of Tamil valour; victim of international conspiracy; evidence of the Supreme Court’s continuing hostility towards Tamil people; a market and fair; finally, jallikattu supporters are now claiming that jallikattu is endorsed by the Rio Convention on Biodiversity as an important link in the chain which protects the nation’s biodiversity. The jallikattu chimera is only getting bigger, more imaginative and more colourful by each passing day.

Not to be left behind, former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju has come out openly in support of jallikattu. Unmindful that his advice to the state government constituted contempt of court, he told the Tamil Nadu chief minister that since the Supreme Court had banned “jallikattu”, she should give jallikattu a new name and pass an ordinance. Katju best exemplified how public discourse on the “sport” had descended from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960After the fall, BJP hides behind classic Tamil saying, no mud on my beard

The Supreme Court pronounced its order banning jallikattu in May 2014. In Tamil Nadu, the January 2015 Pongal, which came seven months after the judgement, was celebrated with traditional fervour and without the frenzied demands for jallikattu that had fouled this year’s festive mood. The faction-ridden, directionless Tamil Nadu BJP, fishing for a cause to espouse and simultaneously hoping to ride the Modi crest in the assembly elections scheduled to take place in 2016, began to make jallikattu noises from around September 2015; this was immediately after Amit Shah visited Madurai in August 2015. The Hindu Spiritual Fair, an offshoot of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and a Chennai-based annual initiative of recent origin to showcase the social, religious and spiritual activities of Hindu organisations, in December 2015 had a stall showcasing jallikattu—although it is debatable how jallikattu, which is synonymous with animal abuse, can be showcased as Hindu spirituality simply because it is associated with Pongal and temple festivals. Organisers of the fair accompanied Amit Shah to Madurai ostensibly to participate in another function; it cannot be mere coincidence that this function was organised in Madurai, a district which hosts three of the state’s largest jallikattu events: Alanganallur, Palamedu and Avaniyapuram.

Senior BJP leader H. Raja, in a television debate on jallikattu, admitted that party President Amit Shah had received several petitions from jallikattu organisers and supporters requesting Shah to restore jallikattu by Pongal in January 2016. Perhaps herein is the answer to the earlier question if the MoEF&CC notification had bypassed Modi, Jaitley and the cabinet before it was issued as an Executive Order. Notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court had stayed their January 8 notification not once but twice, the BJP continues to make brave noises about having done everything they possibly could before Pongal and will now do everything they possibly can after Pongal to legalise jallikattu, including making new laws if need be or amending existing laws like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960).

Studiously ignoring the well documented physical, emotional and psychological abuse of bulls trained and used in jallikattu, rekla and other “sports”, the former is being justified with these arguments:

  • Jallikattu is an ancient Tamil sport which is depicted even in Indus seals and is described in Tamil Sangam literature;
  • It is a matter of Tamil pride and Tamil identity;
  • Jallikattu and manju virattu must be seen in the context of the Convention on Biodiversity because jallikattu is the only means to preserve native breed in cattle; and banning jallikattu is an international conspiracy to destroy India’s native breeds.

Each of these fanciful claims will be deconstructed and exposed for what they are: gobbledygook.

Dr. S. KalyanaramanDeconstructing fanciful claims

1. Jallikattu is at least 4,000 years old because it is depicted on an Indus valley stone seal dated 2,000 B.C: Much like the unsustainable argument that jallikattu is the only way to protect native breeds of cattle, Iravatham Mahadevan, the internationally renowned epigraphist and scholar, in 2008 submitted that the seal in question depicted jallikattu or the bull-baiting/bull-taming sport. The Hindu wrote then: “The seal has used the frieze technique to portray the charged atmosphere. There were two interpretations to what was engraved on the seal, Mr. Mahadevan said. One school is of the opinion that the seal shows several men, who tried to control the bull, thrown up in the air by the animal. A couple of men are shown flying in the air with their legs and hands spread out, a third man is seen jumping to grab the bull, another is somersaulting and yet another has pathetically come to rest on his haunch. Mr. Mahadevan, however, is of the opinion that the seal shows only one man, who is flung into the air by the bull, his flying, his plunging, his somersaulting and finally sitting on his haunch.” If it is Iravatham Mahadevan, it must be true—at least this is the consensus among Tamil scholars.

But Dr. S. Kalyanaraman has a different view. Author of the Indus script trilogy, he says emphatically,

Iravatham Mahadevan is wrong. It is incorrect to conclude that Indus-Saraswati civilisation is proto-dravidian and that this seal is celebrating jallikattu. The figures on the seal are not man or men but women. It is a magnificent leap of faith to see jallikattu on the Indus seals which show women tumblers/acrobats with scarves on their pigtails and bangles and bracelets on their arms, leaping over the bull sometimes accompanied by a drummer. Saraswati/Indus seals are hieroglyphs read in the context of documenting metalwork by metal-caster folk or Bharatam Janam, as Sage Viswamitra called the people of this land. It will be far-fetched and a free flow of fertile imagination to see jallikattu or bull taming in the images. The reality of Indian sprachbund (language union) is ignored when faith-based Dravida maayaa drives the search for ancient Tamil in Indus script inscriptions, a flawed exercise which excludes Prakritam. Ancient Tamil literature of Sangam age is replete with references to Vedic culture, thus reinforcing the reality of the Indian sprachbund. To label this civilisation as proto-dravidian and to interpret this seal as jallikattu is stretching political ideology into the domain of scholarship.

As for jallikattu finding mention in Tamil Sangam literature, jallikattu supporters who are not “poor rural farmers” but rich landlords, affluent businessmen who own stud bulls as status symbols, and well-heeled urban intellectuals conveniently fail to mention that after the Sangam period, there is no mention of jallikattu in Tamil literature until 1893. Nostalgia may have spun a vivid story about jallikattu in the Indus Valley civilisation but it needn’t be true. Deciphering the Saraswati-Indus script is a work in progress and to make erroneous statements and unsustainable claims about the ancientness of jallikattu and proto-dravidianism simply to find favour with Dravidian political parties undermines scholarship and raises questions about intellectual integrity. It is also deliberate disinformation.

2. Jallikattu is a matter of Tamil pride and Tamil culture: Political parties in Tamil Nadu, including the BJP, are touting jallikattu as a symbol of Tamil culture, Tamil valour and Tamil pride. But Krishnaswamy, an important Tamil Dalit leader and founder of the Puthiya Tamizhagam party, rejects the claim. In the course of a discussion on television on the Supreme Court ban on jallikattu, Krishnaswamy—a physician by profession—was forthright in his refusal to give jallikattu the status of high culture or tradition. “Why give jallikattu the status of pan-Tamil culture? Jallikattu is confined to only four or five districts in Tamil Nadu—Madurai, Sivagangai, Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai and Dindukkal. Jallikattu is also casteist and the rich caste–Hindu landlords and zamindars do not allow Dalits to participate in this sport. Rich caste–Hindu landlords take pride in owning stud bulls much like the urban rich own race horses. Jallikattu is not a pan-Tamil culture and it is not for all Tamil people.” Animal activists will conclude this observation with the pregnant question: jallikattu may be high culture for some men but what’s in it for the bulls?

3. Jallikattu is the only way to preserve native breeds of cattle: This argument has to be firmly rejected because native breeds of cattle began to dwindle in numbers and disappear from the rural landscape several decades ago when tractors and chemical fertilisers replaced bulls and traditional organic farming practices. When successive Five Year Plans privileged industry over agriculture and meat production and leather industry over grain production, the country began to import foreign/alien breeds of cattle like Friesian, Jersey and Holstein because these are large animals and their cows yield more milk than native breed cows and their large bulls were ideal for meat production. Jallikattu intellectuals who are waging war against animal activists on social media are being dishonest by laying the blame for disappearing native breeds of cattle at the door of animal activists and the jallikattu ban.

Native breeds were disappearing from Tamil Nadu even when jallikattu was not banned. The argument that man versus animal or animal versus animal fights or contact sport is the best or the only means to protect native breeds of cattle, dogs, birds and reptiles flies in the face of proven native genius of our people who have historically invented and discovered new instruments, methods and social structures in keeping with new demands and changing times. Angry young and old men who are alleging international conspiracies in the jallikattu ban to extinguish native breeds in cattle must realise that their conspiracy theories fail to withstand rigorous and sustained scrutiny.

Like the jallikattu chimera which with every telling grew horns, other theories also acquired interesting features. First, jallikattu supporters declared that the ban on jallikattu was an international conspiracy to kill all our native breeds because if there was no jallikattu, the bulls would all be sent to slaughter and the conspirators wanted India to be the world’s largest supplier of beef. Next, they said the conspiracy behind killing our native breed bulls was to make native breeds extinct in India while simultaneously the conspirators were stealing the semen and sperm of jallikattu bulls and carting them away to foreign lands because the milk of India’s native breed cows is the superior A2 variety with immense therapeutic properties.

Thus far, no jallikattu supporter has answered the question why, if these bulls are raised like children in their homes and treated like a king, their destiny was reduced to jallikattu or slaughter. There are also no answers to the question why is not possible to preserve and protect jallikattu bulls for purposes of breeding even if there is no jallikattu. After all, jallikattu is only a man-versus-animal contact sport whereas preserving native breeds of cattle is a noble objective and an urgent necessity. It’s always suspicious when people say there is only one way to do something and the “jallikattu is the only way to preserve native breeds” argument is no exception.

Responding to wild allegations

From ministers in the Modi government, their national spokesperson and state BJP leaders to Hindu activists and Tamil chauvinists, animal activists have been vilified, abused, taunted and questioned with identical accusations. These allegations must be listed before they are answered.

  1. Animal activists opposing jallikattu have a colonial mindset and are far removed from Indian culture and tradition.
  2. Animal activists who are crying against cruelty to jallikattu bulls have never touched an animal in their lives.
  3. Animal activists, animal welfare organisations and even judges in the Supreme Court are city slickers who know nothing about rural Tamil Nadu and poor innocent farmers who have no other form of entertainment except jallikattu.
  4. Animal activists who talk of animal well-being and animal rights use products made from the hide of cows and cattle and they wear silk.
  5. Animal activists who are alleging cruelty to jallikattu bulls—what are they doing about India being the world’s largest exporter of beef, about cattle trafficking to Kerala, about halal killing of animals during Bakrid (Eid al-Adha), about the brutal methods employed in Kerala to subjugate newly acquired elephant calves and adult elephants for use in temple rituals and about horse racing?
  6. PETA and other foreign agencies paid Rs 2 crore collectively to all senior advocates who appeared for the petitioners in the Supreme Court seeking an immediate stay on the January 8 notification.

Jallikattu supporters have made these accusations without proof and without caring to educate themselves. BJP ministers and their national spokesperson also don’t know the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) in its entirety. Jallikattu supporters accusing animal activists of various sins of omission and commission have also failed to first investigate and ascertain the facts.

I have not seen any animal activist using leather. There is something called ahimsa silk which, as its name suggests, does not kill the silkworm but waits for it to abandon the cocoon. All big and famous silk shops now stock sarees woven from ahimsa silk. Allegations that animal activists have never touched any animal in their lives, that they do not know the difference between a cow and a buffalo or between a bull and a bullock are childish and indicative of anger clouding even their common sense. But angry questions from BJP ministers, the party’s national spokesperson and jallikattu supporters (including rich landlords, affluent businessmen who are proud owners of jallikattu stud bulls and urban intellectuals) about what animal activists have done about beef export, cattle trafficking and halal and the frequently asked question from Tamil chauvinist jallikattu supporters about the plight of captive elephants (they actually mean captive elephants in temples) without exception are ignorant of the law and impervious to the fact that animal activists can work only within the legal framework and within lawful boundaries.

While PETA is not generic for animal activism, “pashu” is certainly generic for all animals. For animal rights activists, cats, cows, camels, cockroaches and caterpillars are all sacred and equally deserving of protection if and when abused. Animal rights activists do not privilege native cows over imported breeds when both end up in slaughter houses—for them the right to life and the right to die with dignity for street dogs and elephants is the same. But what jallikattu supporters do not know is that the PCA Act (1960) is ridden with holes and does not apply to all kinds of cruelty. 

Cattle trafficking to KeralaPCA Act (1960) does not protect all animals, does not prevent all cruelty

There is very little animal activists can do to stop cattle trafficking to Kerala via Tamil Nadu and to Bangladesh via West Bengal because while the PCA Act is a central Act and is applicable in all states and union territories (except Jammu and Kashmir), cow slaughter is a state subject and different states have different laws governing it. So while animal rights activists can seize trucks transporting cows and cattle to Kerala for slaughter, for violating transportation laws and rules, they cannot stop the trucks because they are transporting cows and cattle to Kerala for slaughter; at least not until Tamil Nadu, under pressure from jallikattu supporters, makes a law which prohibits transport of all cattle outside state borders similar to the law in Rajasthan, which bans all movement of camels outside Rajasthan’s state borders.

Horrific cruelty perpetrated against animals under three categories, even when the most terrible form of pain and suffering is inflicted on them, is kept out of the purview of the PCA Act:

  • Animals we use as lab animals for experiments;
  • Animals we kill for meat, and
  • Animals we kill in the name of religion.

Section 11 of the PCA Act deals with all kinds of cruelty, all kinds of pain and suffering and specifies those areas which fall outside the jurisdiction of the Act. Thus, Section 11 (3) (a) says:

Nothing in this section shall apply to the dehorning of cattle, or the castration or branding or nose-roping of any animal in the prescribed manner.

While all three procedures inflict immense pain on the cattle, which humans with typical insouciance justify as being necessities of domestication, there are non-painful methods of roping and castration which are neither implemented nor enforced. Jallikattu supporters will best serve the cause of native cattle by returning to their villages to restore and restart traditional agricultural practices. Jallikattu is not the priority now.

Section 11 (3) (e) of the PCA Act says:

Nothing in this section shall apply to the commission or omission of any act in the course of the destruction or the preparation for destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless such destruction or preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.

Humans coined phrases like “useless animals” that may be slaughtered because they are unproductive and their continued upkeep is uneconomical. Humans coined the phrase “unnecessary pain or suffering”, which implies there is something in the form of “necessary pain and suffering”, and that necessary pain and suffering is legal, lawful and legitimate.

Section 14 of the PCA Act, which deals with “Experiments on Animals”, says:

Nothing contained in this Act shall render unlawful the performance of experiments (including experiments involving operations) on animals for the purpose of advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge or of knowledge which will be useful for saving or for prolonging the life or alleviating suffering or for combating any disease, whether of human beings, animals or plants.

Notwithstanding all the noble objectives listed under this section, the bottomline is that we use animals in experiments and we inflict unimaginable pain and suffering on them—all in human interest only.

Section 28 of the PCA Act legitimises stunning the animal with a sledge-hammer or stun gun before its head is cut off for food or for religion in temples, or slit its throat to die a slow and painful death for halal meat, or as sacrifice during Bakrid:

Saving as respects manner of killing prescribed by religion: Nothing contained in this Act shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.

The large, gaping holes in the PCA Act (1960) contain the answers to all uninformed and wild allegations against animal activists about why are they not doing anything about beef, cow slaughter, Bakrid and halal. BJP leaders who levelled these accusations against the AWBI and animal activists must now return to Parliament and amend the PCA Act effectively to plug all holes and loopholes. When BJP ministers and party leaders say they will bring back jallikattu, but this time they will amend the law to do it, they are saying they will make another big hole in the PCA Act or make a new law which is repugnant to and contrary to the letter and spirit of the PCA Act (1960)—inadequacies, warts and all.

The Modi Sarkar must know that the Supreme Court order banning jallikattu in May 2015 has taken this possibility, too, under consideration—that governments may be tempted to tweak, amend or make laws to overturn the judgement. Paragraph 26 of the May 7 order reads thus:

PCA Act is a welfare legislation which has to be construed bearing in mind the purpose and object of the Act and the Directive Principles of State Policy. It is trite law that, in the matters of welfare legislation, the provisions of law should be liberally construed in favour of the weak and infirm. Court also should be vigilant to see that benefits conferred by such remedial and welfare legislation are not defeated by subtle devices. Court has got the duty that, in every case, where ingenuity is expanded to avoid welfare legislations, to get behind the smoke-screen and discover the true state of affairs. Court can go behind the form and see the substance of the devise for which it has to pierce the veil and examine whether the guidelines or the regulations are framed so as to achieve some other purpose than the welfare of the animals. Regulations or guidelines, whether statutory or otherwise, if they purport to dilute or defeat the welfare legislation and the constitutional principles, Court should not hesitate to strike them down so as to achieve the ultimate object and purpose of the welfare legislation. Court has also a duty under the doctrine of parents patriae to take care of the rights of animals, since they are unable to take care of themselves as against human beings.

Amending the PCA Act to keep cruelty to bulls outside of the purview of the Act, making a new law which is contrary to the intent of the PCA Act or weakening the PCA Act in any other manner, besides defeating the very purpose of the PCA Act and the Supreme Court order of May 7, 2014, will ultimately only cause more avoidable and unnecessary physical, emotional and psychological pain on the bulls. It is wholly incomprehensible how we can worship the mother and abuse her son. – The Wire, 20 January 2016

» Radha Rajan is a political analyst and animal rights activist in Chennai. She also edits the website Vigil Online.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960

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