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.
14 thoughts on “Sabarimala”
I feel your pain, I remember how hopeful you were that Modi would bring about deregulation and freer markets during the lead up to the last LS elections.
Trouble is that there really is no alternative and the BJP are acting smug because of that. The Congress and regional parties are still stuck in the mire of even more hardcore socialist and redistributive policies, Rahul Gandhi remains a clown extraordinaire bankrupt of any new ideas beyond his grandmother’s meaningless ‘garibi hatao’ slogans. We are stuck between the devil and the deep sea.
Rex, thanks for your comment. Rahul baba is not alone in the garibi hatao business. Modi has become the Emperor of Garibi Hatao.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The temple is owned by the deity. Deity of a temple is a legal person like a corporation is. The deity acts through trustees and devotees of the temple.
So far as I know, government doesn’t own temple, but controls it.
This piece by Rajeev Dhavan is revealing of the attitude of government towards Hindu temples.
OK. Seems that the Travencore Devaswom Board owns it.
How do you differentiate between Control and Ownership ? How can you control something if you do not own it ? If you have some coercive power over the temple it can be seen as a part ownership. (Like people having a controlling stake in a corporation).
Not correct. Ownership of an entity is not a necessary condition for controlling the same entity by the government. Government may control the entity through legislative power without owning it.
Brilliant!!. Alas only if things can be viewed in such logical way. But when we have constitution that imposes so much restrictions, these things are bound to happen.
But Christian, Muslim (not atheist) activists are supporting the Sabarimala devotees because they do not want court or governmental interference either! The IUML local unit in Kerala even had a procession supporting the devotees. PC George, the Christian MLA from a Christian constituency said women should be blocked en route.
Also, Rehana Fathima, a Muslim activist, was expelled from the Muslim community for carrying blood soaked pad as an offering to deity at Sabrimala.
A temple is not a property of the private sphere, though it might be a private property. (In fact, it should be private property in a secular state.) Therefore, even if the ownership of the temple is fully established, isn’t there some space to contest that very ownership which results in an allegedly ‘discriminatory’ practice? Afterall policing these cultural domes historically has been one of the ways in which social stigma got popular.
A thought experiment: a prosperous devotee in the countryside once decided to build a temple on his private property, to offer prayers as well as to express to the gods-that-be his faithfulness. Initially, he used the temple for his private use, summarily barring any outsider from entering it. But later on, he went on to allow the caste Hindus have access to it while evicting a Dalit family who once wanted to pray for the wellbeing of their child who was being treated at a hospital for a terrible disease.
In the above experiment, even when the temple is in the private premises of the man, because what he is practicing is discriminatory – a historical discrimination, just like discrimination against women – the state would be just, I believe, in intervening and ensuring that the temple becomes accessible to all. It is so because his conduct endows an unjust legitimacy to a stigma which frankly we would be more humane having done away with.
Whether prohibiting the entry of fecund women is just or not – and whether it is akin to caste discrimination – is a valid question, and it’s not as simple as the libtards of our country would have us believe. But justice would always trump legality, at least at the level of intellect.
While it is true that only Hindus have a stake in a Hindu temple, I find the logical succession – that therefore people from other religions should butt out – problematic. Just because I am a Hindu doesn’t mean that I don’t have any stake in seeing the Muslim women unveiled. As a fellow being who shares space with Muslim women, even when I am from a different religion, I can understand their pain and empathize with them. By your argument, the lives of people such as Hitchens, Harris et. al. would all be a lie.
I understand the sentiment and I know there are many anti-Hindu ‘activists’ who wish to destroy Hinduism by inflicting a thousand cuts, and often they conceal their agenda by declaring an allegiance to secular and humanist sentiments. But we know better.
That is to say, practically I agree with you – in a Machiavellian sense. But from a theoretical perspective, I am curious what you would say to above queries of mine.
They way you view the world differs radically from the way that I do. You appear to think that it is OK to take someone’s property without his permission and by force; I think that a person’s property must not be taken by anyone by force.
If a person builds a swimming pool on his property, it is for him to decide who gets to use it. How does the case change if he builds a temple instead?
You write, “Just because I am a Hindu doesn’t mean that I don’t have any stake in seeing the Muslim women unveiled.” I suppose you’d be OK if your neighbors say “Just because I am not a Hindu doesn’t mean that I don’t have any stake in seeing Hindu women veiled,” and force your wife to go about in a black tent.
Here’s what I would recommend. Think about when it is OK to use force against other people who have not initiated force against anyone. When is initiating force against a person justified?
Thanks for the reply. 🙂
blockquote>You appear to think that it is OK to take someone’s property without his permission and by force; I think that a person’s property must not be taken by anyone by force.</blockquote
Though I do believe that there are very rare occasions when the state can requisition private property (e.g. for land redistribution, or for national security purposes etc.), but I am making a much-diluted argument here. I am not asking here to “take” someone’s property, rather only to prohibit the use of that property to perpetuate any social injustices (a negative restriction).
The issue of access to swimming pool (SP) on the one hand and temple on the other are dissimilar because access to SP is not related to our social identity. Won’t you agree that though money discriminates, this discrimination is not as socially stigmatizing as those of caste, gender, religion, ethnicity etc.?
If the person makes the SP public allowing any caste Hindu in it, and only caste Hindu, the state is then again justified, in my view, to intervene and have the owner decide that afterward either he should use it himself alone, or allow all Hindus to enter.
The same hypothesis extended a little further: If on my ancestral land, I decide to build a library for my private use, I think I am justified. But if I build a college instead and allow admissions to only caste Hindu students, the govt will be justified in trying to open it up to a wider populace.
In the pre-independence days, in many states, the temples were owned by Kings who didn’t allow entry of Dalits. In protest of that, many temple entry movements emerged – critiquing, defying and in many cases winning over that discriminatory tradition. Would you say that just because the temples in those times happened to be king’s property, he was justified in his conduct?
I don’t have a wife yet to suffer the possibility of her being veiled by others’ dogmas. (millennial here :P) But to take up your question, yes they might argue that, and unlike relativists, I do believe one can reach a concrete conclusion here as to what’s just in this case. However, they can only argue; forcing veil on my woman would be criminal.
That brings me to the last question: when is force justified against a person who themselves have not initiated force against anyone? I can conjure some instances when it might be justified. Let’s take again the issue of caste. Even if we differ in the ways of dismantling caste system, nonetheless most of us agree to the urgency of dismantling it. Therefore, if a tea seller decides to give tea to Dalits in different cups than others, and if he is recalcitrant in doing that, I believe legitimate force can be applied against him to have him mend his ways. Here too, even though his shop is on his own land, also he is not forcefully inflicting discrimination, nonetheless, he must be reigned in.
Injustices are propagated not only through physical slights but also psychologically. And at times physical violence is indeed justified to end a continuing psychological damage.
I don’t know how much of a sense all this makes. But that’s where in a nutshell my thoughts hover.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I had tried posting this comment yesterday too, but now I see that some network glitch came in the way.
Comments are closed.