The last event on the first day of KLF saw Ramachandra Guha author of ‘India After Gandhi’, openly lashing out against the Sabarimala Issue, supporting the cause for entry to women. His voice reverberated across the venue as he expressed his stand on the issue, unfazed by popular or unpopular opinion, Guha said what he had to say, ‘All religions discriminate against women. We can say for argument’s sake that we have women gods or what not but the truth is different.’ He was also saying that this oppression of women is similar to the oppression of Dalits and the issue of untouchability.
He quoted Gopalakrishna Gokhale and his words on untouchablility, how we as human beings are able to touch a cat or a dog, but when we touch another human from a lower caste, we say that we have been soiled. These views were later taken up by Gokhale’s disciple Mahatma Gandhi. Guha reminded us that Kerala had led the way for Dalit Equality in Vaikom Temple and now it is time we did the same for women too in Sabarimala. When you say that women cannot enter a temple, because they make it impure, you are essentially supporting untouchability. He also expressed his hope that he would love to see a woman Bishop in Kerala very soon.
Guha stressed upon the three forms of equality – Equality before God, Equality before Law and Equality in society and community. All three forms feeds into and infuses each other. And all three should be practiced and pursued simultaneously. In order to achieve this there should be change from both ends of the spectrum, from the oppressed as well as the oppressors. It is here that Gandhi and Ambedkar comes into picture. Ambedkar fought for the rights of the Dalits and Gandhi was an upper caste reformer. But after the death of Gandhiji, the need for this reform and his wishes for equality were abandoned by the upper castes. He also repeatedly mentioned in our democracy it is – One person, One vote; One vote, one value, but still unequal. He was also saddened on the current state of our democratic nation and how it has shockingly fallen short of what Gandhi and Ambedkar envisioned seventy years ago.
In a similar fashion, for equality of women, and to achieve this, there must be a two pronged approach, one from women themselves, to fight for their needs, and at the same time men should also be able and willing to shed their patriarchal prejudice.