Mansiya VP told TNM that a temple committee member offered to reconsider the decision if she has converted to Hinduism.

Mansiya FB photoMansiya VP, Facebook page
news Controversy Monday, March 28, 2022 - 20:44

As a Bharatanatyam classical dancer born into a Muslim family, ostracism is hardly a novel experience for Mansiya VP. Hence, she was not troubled when she was informed on Sunday, March 27, by a member of the Irinjalakuda Koodalmanikyam Temple committee, that she has been barred from performing at the temple because she is non-Hindu. The authorities of the temple, located in Kerala’s Thrissur district, had already confirmed and charted her performance for April 21 around a month ago. “The committee member asked me if I have converted to Hinduism because my husband belongs to the community. He even offered to reconsider the decision if that was the case. But how will a person like me, who has no religion, get converted,” she asks.

When they contacted her a month ago, they had already looked at her biodata, Mansiya tells TNM. “The person who called me said he knew my husband. So, obviously, they knew my background. Yet, they informed me of their decision to cancel my performance after a month,” she points out. She says that the organisers had even printed a notice with her name on it after scheduling her programme.

Mansiya, who is an atheist now, says as a woman born and brought up in the Muslim faith, she has had to face similar experiences before as well. “I was not allowed to perform at the Guruvayoor Temple once. However, they had the decency to inform me that they had to cancel the performance because a group had some issues. They told me they would not be able to handle it if there is an escalation. The way I was informed of the Koodalmanikyam temple’s decision, however, was not decent,” she adds.

But decency aside, people cannot just neglect such objections by calling it “present day politics”, Mansiya says. “Rather than placing blame on the political atmosphere, somebody should fight and start to take firm decisions in the wake of such non-secular objections,” she says.

After she wrote a post about the Koodalmanikyam incident on her Facebook account, many people messaged Mansiya to share similar experiences they have faced from the temple authorities. “One person told me that he had to submit a caste certificate at the temple before his performance,” she says.

Ironically, Mansiya’s arangettam (first performance) was held at the Guruvayoor Melpathur auditorium. “A majority of my dance performances have been at temples. One temple even built a stage just for me outside its premises, because non-Hindus were not allowed inside. The others, however, performed inside. But they at least took that effort,” she recalls.

A PhD scholar in Bharatanatyam, Mansiya has had to face severe ostracisation from her own community from a young age. When her mother Amina died in 2007, she was denied a burial at the mosque just because Mansiya and her sister Rubiya were dancers. “We begged and pleaded in front of everyone at the mosque to conduct the burial. But they did not allow it, just because my sister and I danced. We eventually had to bury my mother at her native place” Mansiya told TNM in 2015. “Even if we (Mansiya and Rubiya) were simply walking down the road, people would abuse and swear at us. Some even tried to attack us. My relatives and friends used to tell me that I would go to hell because I danced on stage,” she had said.

Having gone through a struggle worth a lifetime already, Mansiya says the Koodalmanikyam incident has not affected her much. “When I was younger, I was not very strong and struggled to deal with the ostracism I had to face. But I have gathered the strength to face everything now, so I was not very troubled when the temple committee member called me. I am, however, worried that things are getting worse with time,” she says.

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