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

Jallikattu on Hold: Supreme Court stays govt notification to allow bull taming – Bhadra Sinha

Supreme Court of India

BullsIn an apparent last-ditch effort to get the nod for conducting Jallikattu after the Supreme Court stayed a central notification, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promulgate an ordinance to allow the traditional Tamil sport to be held. — PTI

The Supreme Court stayed on Tuesday a central government notification that paved the way for a return of the banned bull taming sport Jallikattu, effectively scuttling plans of staging the event during Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu later this week.

The top court also issued notices to the Centre, Tamil Nadu and other states where the controversial sport is played, days after the environment ministry issued new guidelines that permitted the popular event to go ahead, overriding protests from animal rights activists and the law ministry.

The sport that has been an integral part of Pongal festivities was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014, following demands from rights groups who pointed to animal cruelty and human deaths during the event.

The new norms triggered howls of protests and animal welfare organisations—including the animal welfare board—filed a clutch of petitions in the court.

But the Centre objected to the pleas, saying no fundamental right of the petitioners were violated and questioned the maintainability of the petitions. The court also issued a notice on whether the petitions could be heard or not.

Both the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government assured the court that the new notification underlined safety measures and precautions to be taken during the festival.

Under the rules, permission has to be given by the district collector or magistrate and bullock cart races must be held on a proper track. Bulls, once they leave the enclosure, have to be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metres, the government order said.

The new norms came after a concerted political push by parties in the poll-bound Tamil Nadu, where the banned sport has a strong connection with thousands of people who view it as a part of their culture.

Chief minister J. Jayalalithaa had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, backing the sport, which wasn’t held last year for the first time in decades. – Hindustan Times, 12 January 2016

JayalalithaaAfter SC stay, Jaya asks Centre for ordinance to allow Jallikattu

In an apparent last-ditch effort to get the nod for conducting Jallikattu after the Supreme Court stayed a central notification, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promulgate an ordinance to allow the traditional Tamil sport to be held.

Recalling that she had requested Modi on December 22 last year to promulgate an ordinance allowing Jallikattu to be held, she said: “Considering the urgency of the issue, I strongly reiterate my earlier request to promulgate an Ordinance forthwith to enable the conduct of Jallikattu.”

“On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu I urge you to take immediate action in this regard,” she said in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Asserting that sentiments of the people should be respected, Jayalalithaa said arrangements have already been made by organisers all over the state for conducting the bull-taming ritual.

After she had requested an ordinance, the Centre issued a notification on January 7 enabling conduct of Jallikattu in different parts of Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal festivities, she said.

“On receipt of the notification, circulars were sent to the District Collectors regarding arrangements to be made for the conduct of Jallikattu, strictly in accordance with the conditions and safeguards indicated in the notification. On this basis, arrangements have been made by organisers all over the state for the conduct of Jallikattu,” she said.

As the Supreme Court has now granted an interim stay of the notification, Jallikattu cannot be conducted now, Jayalalithaa had added.

“With the Pongal festivities commencing from January 14, the public in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu have made all arrangements and preparations and are eagerly looking forward to the conduct of Jallikattu as part of the traditional festivities ingrained in the hoary cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu,” she said.

“It is very important that the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu, who have a deep attachment to the conduct of the traditional event of Jallikattu, are respected,” the chief minister said while requesting an ordinance to facilitate the conduct of the sport. – Hindustan Times , 12 January 2016

Animal Welfare Board of IndiaAWBI vice-chairman Chinny Krishna

Ram temple work to start this year-end: Dr Swamy – PTI

Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

Subramanian Swamy“Swamy claimed that efforts are being made at resolving the issue amicably between Hindus and Muslims so that the temple and the masjid come up on both sides of the Saryu river in Ayodhya. … The issue will be discussed at the two-day national conference in Delhi University on “Shree Ram Janambhoomi Temple: The Emerging Scenario” which would see the coming together of 300 scholars, academics and archaeologists who would discuss legal and other aspects of the Ram Temple.” – PTI

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy today claimed that work on the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya would start before this year-end and an action plan for that would be unveiled at a conference here on January 9.

He, however, made it clear that the temple would not come up through a movement but only after the court verdict, which he hoped would come by August-September and with the mutual consent of Muslim and Hindu communities.

“We expect the construction work on the Ram temple at Ayodhya to start within the next two-three months and certainly before the end of this year. We will wait for a court verdict and the temple would not come up through any ‘andolan‘ (movement),” he told reporters at the VHP office here.

Asked if the decision was linked to the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in early 2017, he said, “Rama should not be linked with elections. Rama is a matter of faith for Hindus and construction of the temple at Ayodhya is a commitment of every Hindu.”

Ram Seminar at DU 2016He said if the issue comes up later, it will then be linked to the next Lok Sabha polls.

Swamy claimed that efforts are being made at resolving the issue amicably between Hindus and Muslims so that the temple and the masjid come up on both sides of the Saryu river in Ayodhya.

The issue will be discussed at the 2-day national conference in Delhi University on “Shree Ram Janambhoomi Temple: The Emerging Scenario” which would see the coming together of 300 scholars, academics and archaeologists who would discuss legal and other aspects of the Ram Temple.

Among the speakers at the conference include legal experts, archaeologists and experts, besides historians and Swamy himself. It will be organised under the aegis of Arundhati Vashisht Anusandhan Peeth.

“An action plan will be presented at the conference and government urged to move the court and become a party in the case,” he said, adding, “If government supports us, we will start the construction work on the temple within two-three months”.

Talking about the case, he said, “it is in such a stage that the verdict is likely to come out by August or September this year.”

Swamy when asked about the controversy over the conference at Delhi varsity campus, said it is not a Delhi University sponsored event but an event for which a hall has been rented out and the same is being held on a weekend.

He also rubbished charges by Congress and Left that it was aimed at vitiating the campus atmosphere among students there.

“We will hold consultations with the Muslim community and help try to resolve the issue amicably,” he said, adding that the Narasimha Rao government had in 1994 told the constitution bench of Supreme court that it will allow a temple to be rebuilt if it is proved that the site belongs to a temple.

The conference will discuss the history, archaeological evidence and the legal issues relating to the Ayodhya temple. – Economic Times, 6 January 2016

Ram Seminar

NSUI protest at Delhi University

India needs a common civil code rooted in reason, not sentiment – Mohan Guruswamy

People of India

Mohan Guruswamy“If a common set of laws for inheritance, marriage, divorce, custody, adoption and guardianship were to be framed with a special emphasis on gender equality, which neither resembled any existing personal law nor sought to impose any one personal law on the rest, it would simply be a common and secular civil code. Such a common and secular civil code, while not interfering with any of the rituals and many practices of the various religious and caste groups, would seek to merely legitimise the larger precepts of law that are being made secular.” – Mohan Guruswamy

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiThe Supreme Court on [October 12th] gave the Union government three weeks to come up with a proposal to amend the Christian divorce act while asking it to take a quick decision on a uniform civil code to end the confusion over personal laws.

“If you want to have a uniform civil code, have it. If you want to follow the uniform civil code, follow it. But you must take a decision soon,” a bench headed by justice Vikramjit Sen told solicitor general Ranjit Kumar.

We have a National Democratic Alliance government, and with the Bharatiya Janata Party alone having a majority in the Lok Sabha with 282 seats, the excuse for shelving the discussion for a Common Civil Code has evaporated. The BJP manifesto had promised to deliver on this issue. It’s time for a debate once again. It’s time that we are no longer separated by law.

Relevant laws

The cornerstone of a democratic society is equality. Without equality, there can be no justice, just as without justice there can be no equality. True justice cannot be based on unjust laws, though it is possible to have a law-abiding society with the most unjust laws in place.

Just laws are a pre-requisite for a democratic society and, therefore, a just and orderly society. The concept of justice also changes with the dynamics of the times. Laws evolved and deemed sacred in more primitive times cannot continue to be considered so, if they do not satisfy the conditionalities of the doctrine of equality.

On this, the tallest philosopher of our times, John Rawls, wrote: “Laws and institutions on matter, however efficient and well arranged, must be reformed, or, abolished if they are unjust.”

In his celebrated work, A Theory of Justice, Rawls said that every person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. As such, justice denies that this loss of freedom for a few is made right by a greater good shared by others.

It does not allow that the sacrifice imposed on a few is outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore, it follows that in a just society, the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled. The rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interest.

Favouring personal laws

Much of the legal argument by those still in favour of the existing system of separate personal laws on the basis of religion and custom derive from the premise that personal laws are part and parcel of the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India. This is despite the fact that Clause 2 of the same article specifically saves secular activities associated with religious practices from the guarantee of religious freedom.

Even so, personal laws are not laws under Article 13, and, therefore, do not have to conform to fundamental rights and the doctrine of equality enshrined in Article 14.

But if personal laws were tested against the doctrine of equality under law, it will be found that a large number of them are unjust, arbitrary, and unconstitutional. It is this issue the Supreme Court addressed in the matter of Father John Vallamattom, when the Chief Justice ruled: “we find section 118 of the Act being unreasonable, is arbitrary and discriminatory, and therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.”

Choosing reason

Most of those who oppose a common civil code do so on the grounds that this is not the time as the minorities, especially the Muslim community, spoken for by its self-declared leadership, are not ready for it.

A “theological” argument has also been advanced, that these existing laws are God-given and, therefore, cannot be tampered with. The rationality of such an argument, and of the persons who advance them, do not deserve any serious attention in this day and age. This is the same logic that wants us to suspend reason and believe that a particular God was born at a particular spot just because it is commonly believed to be so.

All laws, even the eternal ones, are man-made and reflect the level of thinking and advancement of human knowledge and civilisation at that moment of time. If we have to accept what lawgivers such as Manu evolved in the period before the Gupta Empire or in medieval Arabia as sacrosanct, then we will forever be condemned to be governed by archaic, unequal and unjust laws. In the age of reason, the demand that people obey laws must be rooted in reason and not sentiment.

Destabilise to modernise

The task of modernisation entails the destabilisation of many institutions. Our founding fathers, Hindus and Muslims alike, in the process of seeking to modernise India, had destabilised and uprooted many traditional institutions. They destabilised the manner in which much of Hindu society was organised. They destabilised the hierarchy of castes. They also outlawed many discriminatory practices, apparently ordained by Hindu religion and custom.

The traditional objections of a uniform civil code hark back to the argument posed when the matter was debated in the Constituent Assembly. The two main objections then were that it would infringe on the fundamental right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25, and that it would constitute tyranny of the majority.

The first objection is misconceived because the directive in Article 44 does not infringe the religious practices as stated under Article 25. As stated earlier, secular activities associated with religious practices are specifically saved from the guarantee of religious freedom.

Finding common ground

The second objection would be valid, if the laws of one community were made incumbent on the rest. However, if a common set of laws for inheritance, marriage, divorce, custody, adoption and guardianship were to be framed with a special emphasis on gender equality, which neither resembled any existing personal law nor sought to impose any one personal law on the rest, it would simply be a common and secular civil code.

Such a common and secular civil code, while not interfering with any of the rituals and many practices of the various religious and caste groups, would seek to merely legitimise the larger precepts of law that are being made secular.

For instance, a Hindu from Kerala may marry his niece under the Marumakkathyam Law, whereas it would be decreed as a voidable marriage for a Mitakshara Hindu. Under a common and secular civil code, the validity of a marriage would begin with the age of consent and end with a legitimate registration or certification by any authorised person or body such as a priest or locally elected officials or even traditional village elders.

By applying the doctrine of equality, all grounds of divorce, like adultery, desertion and cruelty, will be equally available to husband and wife. Thus, if a concealed pregnancy by another man before marriage is a ground, so will the concealed pregnancy of another woman by the man. If bigamy is to be a ground for divorce, so will polyandry. Naturally, divorce by mutual consent will be allowed to the husband and the wife jointly.

Doctrine of equality

A common and secular civil code will also then address the issues that make marriages void or voidable in a uniform manner. A void marriage is one that in law does not exist. A voidable marriage is one that exists legally, and can only be annulled by a court of law.

When the equality doctrine prevails, it will entail that in matters of maintenance and alimony, it will become the duty of the spouse with the greater or only income to maintain the other. A similar application of the doctrine on the questions of inheritance, maintenance of children, custody and guardianship and adoption will result in a dramatically different and more egalitarian social scenario.

It is this more equal society that all religious conservatives fear most. Unfortunately, the political parties that profess to be secular and those who profess to oppose pseudo-secularism pander equally to conservatives the most. That seems to be the real problem. – Scroll.in, 17 October 2015

» Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman, Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

Indian army signpost in the Himalayas

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