In September this year, the Supreme Court (SC) passed a judgment allowing the entry of women of menstruating age (roughly 13 to 50) into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, sparking off protests by worshippers of the resident deity — men and women — who believe their god is celibate.
The judgment was, in fact, overturning a Kerala High Court judgment from 1991 that made it illegal for women to enter the temple. The current judgment was opposed not only by the thousands of traditional worshippers at Sabarimala, but also those who felt that the judiciary and the state had no business interfering with matters of religion.
As the doors of the temple for the annual pilgrimage opened in November this year, several women’s rights activist tried to breach the siege by worshippers, escorted by the police, but all were unsuccessful.
As violence spread through Kerala, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led state government claimed its inability to enforce the Supreme Court’s verdict; the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre had not only said it was opposed to the verdict, but the party also supported the movement to disobey it. Some commentators claimed this was India’s Little Rock moment and the government should send in the army to enforce the verdict.
Whether or not the government does that when the temple reopens for worshippers in January remains to be seen.