By Sushil Kutty
In the ‘app’ world that we live in, we’ve to part with personal info. In Ayyappa country, the police control the very thoughts and behaviour of the Ayyappa devotee. And, if the Ayyappa bhakta, who is used to chanting the Ayyappa name, is within earshot of a policeman, he is liable to either arrest or told to head back home without completing his pilgrimage.
The ‘grim’ in the ‘pilgrimage’ is the operative part. The policing of the Ayyappan’s thoughts is the grim reality in Ayyappan country – Erumeli, Nillackel, Pamba and Sabarimala. Right up to the 18 Sacred Steps. So much so, it wouldn’t be a wonder if some of the Ayyappa devotees do not stumble and let slip the name of the Kerala Police DGP Lokanath Behera to Swami Ayyappa’s face!
Loknath Behera is deaf (Behera) to everyone other than Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to whom he reports. And there’s a kind of untouchability being practiced in Ayyappan country this Mandala season. Anybody uttering ‘Ayyappan’ aloud is barred from entering Sabarimala.
Come to think of it, ‘untouchability’ has been at the core of the Sabarimala discourse in recent years. The Supreme Court took note of the untouchability practiced against the 10-50 age female Ayyappa devotee and rights activist Trupti Desai felt the weight of that untouchability the other day at the Kochi international airport.
And, now, the untouchability against the Ayyappa devotee trudging the last few kilometers to the Ayyappa temple with thoughts only of Ayyappa in his head. Barred from saying aloud Swami Ayyappa’s name because only a ‘terrorist’ does so involuntarily! And there’s credible intelligence inputs that terrorists in the garb of Ayyappan devotee – irumudikkettu, bead-mala; black mundu, potbellied, stubble and moustache – are climbing the hill to attack Sabarimala!
The ‘password’ they carry in their head: ‘Ayyappa!’ Anyone saying ‘Ayyappa’ aloud could be a ‘terrorist’. So, haul him up by his irumudikkettu’ and throw him into the slammer in Ranni, not very far from the temple. Among the terrorists so far bundled into the police lock-up include haindava leader Shashikala Teacher, who hides in her bony-frame energy to the square of thousand, maybe more! In DGP Behera’s scale of terrorism, ‘Shashikala Teacher’ out-scales Kasab in potential terrorism!
Congress leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala spoke for the millions of Ayyappa devotees. “Today, the Ayyappa devotee trudges up the hill with doubt in his head; doubt in his own devotion to the Lord. There’s a kind of hartal in the devotee’s mind,” he noted, “Policing has different definitions, this is one of them. Everything that the devotee does… drink, eat and say is controlled by the police. The police control of the Ayyappan mind is complete and total.”
Saturday, haindava organizations, spearheading the anti-Supreme Court verdict agitation, “shut down” Kerala to protest the “police raj” in Sabarimala which, they said, was a form of untouchability let loose in Kerala. The word ‘untouchability’ is uttered more in India than in any other part of the world and Kerala has found special mention for keeping it alive through its many ups and downs. In fact, for a spell, the word ‘Pariah’ – a corruption of the word ‘Paraya’ for the untouchable in Malayalam – found entry into the Oxford English dictionary.
Not surprising. For there should be a lunatic asylum for somebody to fly over the Cuckoo’s nest and Swami Vivekananda had called Kerala a “lunatic asylum.” Thiruvananthapuram Congress MP Shashi Tharoor likes to give the impression he’s the McMurphy who flew over the Cuckoo’s nest. Mr Tharoor, who coined the term ‘Cattle-class’ for the economy traveller, spoke the other day of how Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru shot to ribbons the untouchability that kept the ‘Chaiwala’ from the office of the Prime Minister. In the absence of trumpet Mani Shankar Aiyar, Tharoor is the bugle in a class of his own.
But by pointing to an untouchability that Nehru shattered for Modi to ascend, Tharoor opened the gates to the untouchability practiced in the Congress – keeping alive the tradition of dynasty, that everybody else other than a Gandhi/Nehru in the Congress is an untouchable when it comes to the party president’s post and that of the prime minister’s chair, Manmohan Singh being only ‘accidental’ to that core principle.
In Sabarimala there has never been any form of untouchability practiced except that against the 10-50 age group of female, a restriction taken with grace by the women of Kerala willing to sacrifice their chance at salvation for that of her brother, husband, father and son. Long before the Constitution inserted ‘secular’ into its text, Sabarimala took hold of its essence. Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Jew, everybody is welcome to the shrine, the Sikh and the Jain and the Buddhist.
No one is an untouchable except an age restriction, which too would have gone but for the eternal celibate status of the Sabarimala Ayyappa. What’s the whole hoo-ha about, let him keep it, it is his identity, his Aadhaar? And, BTW, Trupti Desai talking of “Guerilla warfare”, the lady has once again betrayed her total incomprehension of Ayyappa traditions or willingness to learn. Long before the Apache and the Commancho, Swami Ayyappan was engaged in Guerilla Warfare along with Muslim Gen Vavar.
Temple-trope Trupti Desai is a nincompoop. And regardless of untouchability, Trupti should be kept away from Sabarimala if only because she injects into the discourse the notion of ‘conquest’, best avoided in matters gender-equality. Departing Nedumbaserry Friday, she spoke of being thwarted from making a “historical entry” into male-dominated Sabarimala, proving that she’s mere activist, not ardent devotee. (IPA Service)