To assign it divinity, is to enshrine this kind of discrimination

In the name Of Durga Mary and Fatimah let us pray
Voices Faith Friday, April 01, 2016 - 22:10

It’s all about how we view our places of worship, are they representative of faith alone or are they platforms for interaction. One of the primary reasons for places of worship to exist, when God lies within us all, is to create a platform for believers to interact with each other and create a sense of community, belonging and shared values. In more “organised” religions, say like Christianity, the church you attend becomes a central point for your interactions, your outreach to the world at large - beyond your family, friends and work place. 

Sunday mass and Sunday school are weekly gatherings that introduce families and their children to each other. I lived in the Bible belt (certain southern states in the US are referred to as the Bible Belt) for four years and saw how churches play the role of “a glue” as the traditional family structure disintegrates, how they help bring people together and foster a sense of family beyond the immediate and those related by blood. It helps create a family of faith. That is why American Presidents speak of their church and their pastor unselfconsciously and the pastor's sermons come under cynosure and are considered a reflection on the man/woman who will stand for the highest office in the land, like it happened with President Obama most recently. This censure is a fallout of the fact that churches have been seamlessly integrated into the everyday lives of representatives of the public, it is acceptable and even recommended to be a man of faith, whatever be your political affiliation.

Now in India - when Prime Minister Modi held a Ganga arti soon after winning the election, it was considered a sign of majoritarianism. We are not as it turns out, comfortable with our religious identity. Furthermore we are uncomfortable about that religious identity being “trifled” with.

The Shani Shingnapur case is on the surface an instance of women demanding the right to places of worship. However, more importantly, it is also an exploration of all that makes us uncomfortable as a society. As someone who has written on this subject extensively since the protests and registered my support in television debates and in the pages of newspapers and magazines, I have encountered deep resistance to this idea of inclusion.

Often enough, from those who decry the conversion of Hindus but don’t think twice about how this may be perceived as alienation by many, if not all, Hindu women. I want to then, move this away from the realm of faith, constitution, law and rights, because on all those counts my argument is on steady ground. I want to, for the purpose of exchange move into an arena that I will be disagreed with, so as to open another dimension, an unspoken but essential one, that of social inclusion, and practices that exclude people by limiting their rights.

This exclusion has been a disastrous exercise in organising people within the faith. With restrictions on temple entry, there is an effort underway to define this segregation as something divine, it isn’t. It is about tradition, but not a very lofty one, that of keeping people out, for various reasons, borne not from scriptural sanction but from the machinations of human minds, even those hundreds of years old. To assign it divinity, is to enshrine this kind of discrimination, a disservice to Hinduism.

It is more honest to the faith and its adherents to say, “We don’t want you there” - as opposed to opening the door to charges of misogyny for a belief system which has upheld the status and rights of women since the Vedic age. The Vedas are a revelation not only from God but also of what human beings can be if they choose to be, because the one thing that will remain eternal about Hinduism unlike any other faith, is the freedom of choice and the ability and the sanction to change those choices with time.

It's time for all of us to choose and help build a community. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. Theinformation, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and TheNews Minute does not assume any liability for the same.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.