This is to invite your attention to a very serious issue that has the potential to jeopardise the cherished social fabric of Kerala and render the life of millions into chaos and ruin.
As you are aware, the honourable Supreme Court of India passed a verdict on September 28, 2018 lifting all bans on women of any age entering the Sabarimala temple. The verdict was hailed and appreciated by a wide variety of people who espoused the values of human equality and gender justice. Not least among which was the All India Congress Committee under your prestigious leadership, which in a statement described the verdict as “a welcome and progressive move towards gender equality by Supreme Court” and welcomed it wholeheartedly.
Unfortunately, your party leadership in Kerala has miserably failed to stand up for these progressive values or the underlying ideological notions behind the verdict. Rather than choosing to take this as an opportunity to propagate gender justice and join the progressive forces in the state, it opted to align itself with Sangh Parivar elements who have openly embraced a highly misogynistic and retrogressive stand in the issue.
True to its long tradition of betrayal and hypocrisy, the Parivar had initially welcomed the verdict but later engineered one of the worst communal campaigns in the history of the state to sabotage the implementation of the verdict. The campaign has been marked by its feudal and patriarchal slogans and a horrendous magnitude of violence. Being Sangh Parivar, this is understandable and expected. But the stand taken by the Congress state leadership has been absolutely shocking, to say the least. Rather than supporting the efforts taken by the government in the implementation of the verdict and pointing out the shortcomings as a responsible opposition, its leaders have been fuelling the hate campaign led by the Parivar outfits. Instead of supporting the call for renaissance, it played second fiddle to the retrograde elements that targeted women in an inhuman way. When many women devotees and activists made courageous attempts for the implementation of the verdict, the Congress leadership en masse joined Parivar leaders in disparaging and insulting those brave women. All though there were some rational voices in the Congress like that of VD Satheesan, they remained an exception and were largely ignored by the party leadership.
What is even more bizarre is the explanation and rationale put forward by the leadership for this ridiculous stand. These leaders claim to be following the feelings and emotions of the devotees in the issue. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The results of the recently held bye-elections show that the ruling party has made significant gains and, along with the BJP, the Congress has lost ground. The spectacular success and record-breaking participation in the recently held ‘Women’s Wall’ further shows that the people on the ground, especially women and the new generation, are hugely against the vicious campaign carried out by Parivar groups, that has been largely supported by Congress leaders.
Kerala has always been at the forefront of carrying the torch of progressive values. The renaissance movements witnessed by the state in the past have been unparalleled and pioneering in their nature and scope. A hugely diverse set of leaders and social reformers have played a significant role in this. The need of the hour is to have coordinated efforts from everyone who believes in plurality and progressive values for renewal of this renaissance movement. When the country is going through one of the most challenging moments in its history, this is extremely significant. As you are very well aware, the pillars of our beloved country, such as the Constitution and Parliament, are at serious risk. Democratic and progressive values are under systematic attack. Heinous attempts are going on to disrupt communal harmony and polarise our society. Needless to say, the Sabarimala issue needs to be addressed in this backdrop. The context here is of utmost significance. It’s the same forces who are challenging the core values of our country who are behind this violence in the name of Sabarimala. And unfortunately, the state leadership of the Congress has fallen into this trap.
Since you, along with your party, are leading the fight against these evil elements across the county, your party in Kerala needs to be in the same boat. So, we, the people of Kerala who appreciate all your efforts in this regard tremendously, request you to take immediate action in this regard and get your party’s state committee and leaders aligned with the party’s stated values and principles. The state leaders should be urgently brought back from the agenda set by Sangh Parivar elements. We are scared that failing to do so would result in the erosion of your party’s credibility and integrity as a secular and progressive organisation. What is even more worrying is the huge repercussions such a failure can have beyond party lines.
The emergence and growth of the Congress party in the state has been the result of the renaissance. When attempts for renewal of the renaissance are ongoing, the Congress is expected to be in the forefront of it, not among those retrograde elements who are opposing it. The state is witnessing the emergence of a new generation of young people who are hypersensitive about gender justice and the concept of equality. As you are someone who have always been heedful to these new voices and thoughts, we expect your immediate intervention in this matter too.
Views expressed are the author's own.