It may seem odd to begin a piece regarding the on-going struggle surrounding the centuries-old Sabarimala temple in Kerala with the first lines of a book, published relatively recently in 1974 by an American, which deals primarily with the rights of people and what the state can do. But it is actually quite relevant.
The preface in Robert Nozick’s book Anarchy, State and Utopia begins with the simple declaration that —
“Individuals have rights and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do. How much room do individual rights leave for the state?
Individuals have rights. Not all societies recognize that fact but every rational individual would insist that he or she has rights, and in the final analysis, if the individual is to exercise those rights, it leaves very little room for the state. The state in a free society cannot, and should not, trample on the rights of the individual. Conversely, if the state does act to invalidate the rights of the individual, it can only be so in a dictatorial state which must be resisted by those who value freedom.
One of the components of individual freedom is the right to private property. In a properly constituted state, property rights are clearly defined (meaning is it clear who owns what) and are enforced (meaning property disputes are adjudicated, and policed.) The owner of a property has the right to deny others its use. That’s the right to discriminate. It’s what you do when you prevent others from using your car or entering your home.
The principle of property rights is the lens through which I look at the Sabarimala temple issue. Who owns the temple? Whoever owns it gets to make the rules.
If it is some private entity (a person or an association) owns the temple, then that entity has the right to decide who gets entry and who does not. If the government owns it, then it gets to decide. If there is a dispute as to who owns it, then the courts get to resolve the dispute regarding ownership. But here’s an important point — the court does not own any property. Therefore the court should not, and must not, make the rules about who gets to enter the temple and who does not.
This point is entirely missed in the discussion. So let me reassert it. The courts need to resolve the property dispute, if there is any. Having done that (hopefully competently but frankly I have little faith in that bunch of bozos), courts should butt out. Just decide who owns what, and it is up to the owners do decide who gets to do what on the property.
Save Sabarimala? Yes, from the courts and the cops. The right to private property does not leave much room for the courts — supreme or not, competent or not. The court should resolve property disputes, not arrogate private property rights.
Sabarimala temple traditionally bars women of menstruating age (10 through 50 years old) from entry. That ban is theirs to lift or maintain, not the job of any court. The court must only address the issue of who owns the temple.
I don’t know who owns the temple. My web searches did not yield any clear answer. My friend Karthik, whom I respect deeply, says that the Kerala state does. In that case, the state gets to decide whether to maintain the tradition or not. And the devotees of the deity Ayyappa can do what they wish — stay away, build another temple, stop worshiping at the temple, whatever. The devotees can choose to boycott the state, take political action, and so on.
Which brings me to these questions: why is the state in the business of owning and running temples? Does the state only own Hindu temples or does it also own churches, mosques, etc.?
And with respect to the lords of the Supreme Court: do they make rules for Hindu temples alone or are they as eager to reform Christianity and Islam? Will the lordships rule to lift the ban on women being ordained priests that the Catholic church has, or lift the segregation of men and women in mosques?
I think the Sabarimala temple issue reveals a few things. First, that there is a bunch of bigoted, ignorant, arrogant, anti-Hindu, over-reaching retards. That is a good description of the BJP leadership but in this case I am referring to an un-elected bunch. I refer to them without naming them because the law does not allow the proletariat to declare that the emperors are naked.
Second, it reveals that some people don’t know what property rights mean and imply. Sabarimala temple is a Hindu temple. Hindus get to decide who enters and who doesn’t. Idiot Christian, Muslim, atheist activists (the “idiot” is redundant) have no standing on this matter. They should butt out.
Third, it underlines the cluelessness of the Modi government, and the fact that it has definitively lost the plot. It should have taken a principled stance. But “principled” does not belong in the same sentence as the Modi government. I think it has given a wake-up call to a significant number of Hindus to the true nature of the BJP. They will not vote for the BJP in 2019. The BJP needs to be brought down a few notches. I think the reign of the two petty dictators is nearing an end.
Remember, individuals have rights. And there are people who violate those rights. Those people must be punished.