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Temple Entry for Harijans in 1936 in Kerala and Temple Entry for Women in 2018

By S N Sahu | PUBLISHED: 19, Oct 2018, 11:45 am IST | UPDATED: 20, Oct 2018, 18:28 pm IST

Temple Entry for Harijans in 1936 in Kerala and Temple Entry for Women in 2018 New Delhi: In October 1936 the Queen of Travancore issued a proclamation allowing entry of all Hindus including Harijans to enter temples which were prohibited to many on account of caste identity. The issuance of such proclamation was a result of the persistent efforts of social reformers like Narayan Guru to put an end to caste system and accord equal rights to all irrespective of their caste status. The proclamation owed its origin to  the arduous effort of the Harijan Sevak Sangh of Mahatma Gandhi which submitted numerous petitions to the Queen to throw open the temples to Harijans and sensitize the caste Hindus to allow the temples to be accessed by all Hindus.

The proclamation of the Queen allowing Harijans is worth studying. It said that they should be allowed to enter temples because  of "the the truth and validity of our religion", its " Divine guidance and on all-comprehending toleration" and above all because of the "need of the changing times." It is interesting to note that temple entry for all Hindus was ensured by the Queen because of, among other things, "need of the changing times." And based on that proclamation temples were thrown open and there was hardly any resistance to the entry of Harijans.

Mahatma Gandhi welcomed the proclamation and wrote an article in the Harijan "AN EXAMPLE FOR HINDU PRINCES AND THEIR ADVISERS and described it as  a "deliberate act of piety and justice". Sounding a cautionary note he wrote "let us realize that the working of the proclamation will be narrowly watched and criticized.... It, therefore, behoves the State authorities as well as the caste Hindus to give full effect to the letter and the spirit of the proclamation."

In fact the proclamation of the Queen was indeed implemented in letter and spirit. However, 82 years later another temple entry issue based on Supreme Court judgement permitting women to enter Sabarimala temple is facing severe resistance for its implementation. While the proclamation of the Queen in 1936 was implemented in letter and spirit in a princely State, the Supreme Court judgement in Republic of India is yet to be implemented. The temple entry proclamation of 1936 and Supreme Court judgement of 2018 for temple entry of women provide two contrasting pictures. In the majority judgement of on Sabarimala issue the Supreme Court observed "Any relationship with the Creator is a transcendental one crossing all socially created artificial barriers and not a negotiated relationship bound by terms and conditions. Such a relationship and expression of devotion cannot be circumscribed by dogmatic notions of biological or physiological factors arising out of rigid socio-cultural attitudes which do not meet the constitutionally prescribed tests. Patriarchy in religion cannot be permitted to trump over the element of pure devotion borne out of faith and the freedom to practise and profess one‟s religion. The subversion and repression of women under the garb of biological or physiological factors cannot be given the seal of legitimacy. Any rule based on discrimination or segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics is not only unfounded, indefensible and implausible but can also never pass the muster of constitutionality."
Is the Supreme Court judgement which is the law of land not implementable in Republic of India in twenty first century.  If a princely a ruler in 1936 could implement a proclamation when Britishers were ruling India why could not an elected Government with people's mandate dither  in implementing the law of the land so eloquently manifested in the Supreme Court judgement?

# Mr SN Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to late President of India late Shri K.R.Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat.
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