Union Minister Smriti Irani Monday said that while everyone has “the right to pray, but not to desecrate.” Her comments came in the backdrop of ongoing protests over women’s entry in Sabarimala Temple.
Talking at the Young Thinkers’ Conference organised by the British Deputy High Commission and the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai on Tuesday, the Union Minister said: “It is plain common sense. Would you take sanitary napkins soaked in menstrual blood into a friend’s home? You will not. And do you think it is respectful to do the same thing when you walk into the house of God? So that is the difference. That is my personal opinion.”
She also added that as cabinet minister she cannot openly comment on the Supreme Court’s verdict that allowed women of all ages inside the Sabarimala premises.
Responding to a question from a participant about the protests at the base camps of the temple, Irani drew parallels with the example of her own multi-faith family.
“I am a Hindu married to a Parsi. I have ensured that my two children practice Zoroastrianism. Both of them have done their Navjote. When I took my new-born son to a fire temple in Andheri, I had to give him at the temple gate to my husband because I was shooed away and told ‘yaha mat khade raho‘,” she said.
Irani added that as she is not allowed to accompany her husband and children inside fire temples, she either stands on the road or waits in the car.
The shrine that opened on October 17 – first time after the Supreme Court lifted age restrictions on entry of women — closed on October 22 amid massive protests without a single woman of the previously banned age entering the premises. More than a dozen women in the 10-50 age groups were stopped by protesters whenever they attempted to visit the temple.
Before the apex court’s judgment on Sabarimala, the women in the menstruating age were allowed till the base camp near Pamba river, while others continued the 5-km trek upwards.
Considering menstruating women as “impure,” many opposing the judgment argue that the ban is essential to the rites for Lord Ayyappa, considered eternally celibate. They also argue that the journey to the shrine is tough for women to undertake. The verdict evoked a mixed political reaction as well.
While the BJP and Kerala Congress unit opposed women’s entry in the shrine, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government said it would follow the apex court’s order. The review petitions will be heard on November 13.