Mumbai: Amid protests against the Supreme Court order opening the Sabarimala temple in Kerala to women of all ages, Union Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday said the right to pray did not mean the right to desecrate.
On September 28, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.
But women have been stopped by Ayyappa devotees from climbing up to the Sabarimala temple as protests against the Supreme Court order opening the hilltop shrine to women of all ages continued across Kerala.
“I am nobody to speak against the Supreme Court verdict as I am a serving cabinet minister. But just plain common sense is that would you carry a napkin seeped with menstrual blood and walk into a friend’s house. You would not. And would you think it is respectful to do the same when you walk into the house of god? That is the difference. I have the right to pray, but no right to desecrate. That is the difference that we need to recognise and respect,” Irani said speaking at the “Young Thinkers” conference organised by the British High Commission and the Observer Research Foundation.
“I am a practising Hindu married to a Zoroastrian. I have ensured that both my kids are practising Zoroastrians, who can go to the fire temple and pray,” she said.
Irani recalled an incident when her children were inside the fire temple, but she had to stand outside. “What does that mean irrespective of whether I am a politician or a minister, because I have two Zoroastrian children and a Zoroastrian husband. I am made to stand outside. I will stand either on the road or sit in my car… When I took my newborn son (to a fire temple), I had to give him at the temple, gave him to my husband, because I was shooed away and told don’t stand here,” she said.
However, the Union Minister took to Twitter and called this fake news, and said that she would post her video soon.
Smriti’s comments come in the context of reports that an activist who was trying to enter the Sabarimala temple last week was carrying sanitary pads, but she emphatically denied the allegation.
Women devotees of Lord Ayyappa in the Sabarimala temple, in the menstruating age were allowed till the base camp near Pamba river, while men continued the 5km trek upwards.
Considering menstruating women “impure,” many opposing the Supreme Court’s judgment argue that the ban is essential to the rites for Lord Ayyappa, who is considered eternally celibate. They also argue that the journey to the shrine is tough for women to undertake.
The verdict given on September 28 evoked a mixed political reaction — while the BJP and Congress in the state unit opposed to women’s entry in the shrine, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government said it would follow the apex court’s order.
Smriti Irani later posted a series of tweets clearing her stand on the issue. She wrote, “Since many people are talking about my comments — let me comment on my comment. As a practising Hindu married to a practising Zoroastrian I am not allowed to enter a fire temple to pray.”
“As far as those who jump the gun regarding women visiting friend’s place with a sanitary napkin dipped in menstrual blood — I am yet to find a person who ‘takes’ a blood soaked napkin to ‘offer’ to any one let alone a friend (sic),” she wrote further.
“But what fascinates me though does not surprise me is that as a woman I am not free to have my own point of view. As long as I conform to the ‘liberal’ point of view I’m acceptable. How Liberal is that ??” questioned Irani in her final tweet.
(With inputs from Agencies)