‘We need to recognise that we have a right to pray, not desecrate’: Smriti Irani when asked about Sabarimala

Irani narrated her personal experience how she, as a practising Hindu, cannot enter the fire temple (Agiyari) with her children who practise Zoroastrianism, her husband's faith.

Union Minister Smriti Irani was caught in a controversy after she talked about the right to pray at the Sabarimala temple versus desecrating the place of worship. Irani was speaking at the event organised by the British High Commission and ORF organisation in Mumbai where she was asked her views on the Sabarimala verdict and controversy.

Michael Safi who is the South Asia correspondent of Guardian asserted that Smriti Irani, with respect to women’s entry into Sabarimala, said that if one wouldn’t enter a friends house with a blood-soaked sanitary napkin, so why would one take one to a house of God.

Safi is insinuating that Smriti’s comments were on the Sabarimala verdict pronounced by the Supreme Court which allowed entry of women of all age groups inside the shrine and that Smriti Irani was talking specifically of how menstruating women should have the right to enter temples.

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However, Irani’s statements appear to have been taken out of context. When one hears Smriti Irani’s response one understands that she categorically said that as a cabinet minister she would not like to comment on the verdict. She said that the right to pray does not include the right to desecrate. She said that while one would not take a blood-soaked sanitary napkin to a friend’s place, one shouldn’t take a blood-soaked sanitary napkin to a house of God.

This statement of Irani appears to be a metaphor that while the friend has given you the right to enter her house, she has certainly not given one the right to insult her home by bringing a blood-soaked sanitary napkin into it. Similarly, while one has the right to pray since it is a fundamental right of any individual, one does not have the right to desecrate another’s faith or place of worship. The right to pray stops when it amounts to desecrating someone else’s faith. This statement of Irani could also be a reaction to the rumours making rounds that one of the activists who tried to enter the temple, was carrying blood-soaked sanitary napkin with her. The rumour was subsequently denied by the said activist.

Hence, Irani’s statement was not in reaction to the judgement, but more of how the right to pray does not include desecrating the place to prove a point.

Calling the controversy around her statement as propaganda, Irani reiterated the fact that as a practicing Hindu married to a person of Zoroastrian faith, she respects the boundaries set by the Fire Temple, where a non-Parsi like herself is not allowed while her children and husband are.

While recounting her personal experience, she spoke about how she is not allowed in the Parsi Fire Temple (Agiyari) which prohibits entry of non-practising Parsis. She said that her children are brought up in the Zoroastrian faith, like her husband, and she is a practising Hindu. So when her children visit the Fire Temple across the country, she either waits for them on the road or in the car. That is out of respect for the faith.

In the name of “rights”, in the Sabarimala case, the only of several “activists” seem to be to desecrate the place of worship. One must recall how one woman allegedly wanted to have sex with her boyfriend at the Sabarimala in front of Lord Ayyappa.

This while one must observe “Vratham”, a 41 days austerity period, whereby devotees must follow a lacto-vegetarian diet, follow celibacy, teetotalism, not use any profanity and control the anger.

Hence, with this attitude, the obvious question that has cropped up is whether the aim of this crusade is to claim the right to pray, or right to desecrate considering it is evident that the “activists” who wanted entry into the temple were not devotees of Lord Ayyappa, to begin with.

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