The only humane response to a ghastly tragedy like Kerala’s flood would be for the entire community of people, across diverse lines, to come together to help those afflicted, to recover and recuperate from their unimaginable loss, and to help them rebuild their lives and their community. But today in India, our response to one of the biggest tragedy is political, religious, and patriarchally fuelled polarization. The harrowing response to what is going on in Kerala by a few has been alarming, disturbing, but most of all, it forces us to confront how we are so involved in our ideas of what should be; that we are beginning to forget we are people above all, above our religious beliefs, political leanings, and patriarchal notions.
Kerala’s floods have taken hundreds of lives and destroyed the homes and lives of thousands of people. It brought destruction of an unprecedented scale with it. While ideally, we should all stand by Kerala and her people by aiding them and helping them in any way possible, even if it is only in the form of empathy and concern; here we are, being met with the opposition of certain fractions that are staunchly standing in opposition to the aide Kerala is receiving from the masses.
The mobilization of people, the influx of volunteers, the donations in money and kind, and the far-spread support that Kerala has received has been largely helpful, but even amidst the heartwarming examples of solidarity and support, we cannot turn a blind to the vicious hate being spread.
we cannot turn a blind to the vicious hate being spread.
These hate-mongering fractions, that largely make their hateful and troubling views known on social media are using Kerala’s largely anti-BJP and politically left-leaning status, their pro-beef stance, and most of all the ongoing hearing of the issue of women entering the male-only temple of Sabarimala, as reasons to justify how the people of Kerala ‘deserve what they are being handed’.
Politically Fueled Polarization
Most politically right-leaning people on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are urging people to withdraw aid and support towards Kerala because of their largely politically leftist ideologies. Kerala has long been a state with little or no BJP presence because BJP’s political ideas rarely ever can integrate into Kerala’s religiously diverse and slightly progressive society.
GOD'S OWN COUNTRY TASTES GOD'S OWN MEDICINE AS FLOODS,KERALA HAVE THE MOST BEEF EATERS AS THEY NEVER RESPECTED COWS.
— JAI (@JaiMannath) August 20, 2018
To say that people deserve to die and have their lives dismantled and ruined just because they do not hold similar political beliefs or don’t favour a certain ideology is truly sickening and brings to the forefront the extent and intensity of the current political divide in the nation. For a political divide to exist is normal and rather common, but for it to manifest in such an ugly form is unacceptable and absolutely intolerable.
Apart from the political divide, the religious questions concerning the consumption of beef are playing a large role in fueling the hate Kerala is being subjected to. Beef is consumed in Kerala and when the current central government pushed to ban it all across India, the ban never materialized in Kerala. Being a subject that comes under the State List, the ban can only be enforced by individual state governments and Kerala’s state government refrained from issuing any such ban, making it still legal to consume beef throughout the state. Though this might seem like an inconsequential matter at first, and not something that can give birth to hate of this intensity, the subject of consumption of beef has always been a rather sensitive subject across the country.
With people being killed for consuming it and even being killed based off the assumption that they were consuming it, the hate this subject is fueling is outrageous but rather unsurprising, especially considering 28 people have been killed for the consumption of beef and even for the rumors of it, since 2014.
Patriarchally Inspired Hostility
Lastly, it is being argued that the floods in Kerala are a manifestation of the wrath of the deity presiding at Sabarimala. The Sabarimala temple in Kerala doesn’t allow the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50, due to their menstruating status, this sexist practice was recently taken up and challenged in the Supreme Court, with hearings going on regarding the entry of all women and the legality of this practice.
In 100 years Kerala has not witnessed such a flood. Why now. My feeling is the same. Lord Ayyappa resides in far of mountain jungle so that only the most pious and after 40 days of strict following of rituals can have his Darshan. Recent activities have angered him.
— 🇮🇳 Tweetnational 🇮🇳 (@thinknational) August 17, 2018
Those who are against the entry of women into Sabarimala have argued that this is the wrath of the deity, due to the refusal of people to respect his wishes, which legend says was to keep women out of the temple to maintain his celibate status. The Hindu Makkal Katchi has urged the state government to pass a resolution in the State Legislative Assembly, banning the entry of women into the temple to put an end to the floods in Kerala.
Though nothing more than an attempt to keep women out of the temple and to continue to violate their rights and to maintain this decades-long sexist practice, the fact that people are actually buying into this idea and are blaming women and the Supreme Court for this is ridiculous. Those arguing that this is the wrath of the deity are only ultimately using the intersection of our religious and patriarchal ideas as a tool to keep women where they belong and outside of spaces men don’t want them in.
Blaming a calamity on women and their desire to have their legal rights respected and not violated is a new realm of absurdity that we are beginning to reach. Stripping them of their rights will not reduce the intensity of what Kerala is going through; but on the other hand, our solidarity and support can. Although, we have yet again made a horrible tragedy a background against which to promote our political, religious, and patriarchal ideas and to shun, humiliate, hate, and threaten anyone who doesn’t agree.
Kerala and her people need all the support we can muster, no matter in what form it comes, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. Instead of trying to push our trivial and hate-fueled agendas in the wake of a disaster we should be the glowing example of solidarity and oneness. We always take pride in being one in spite of our diversity, but diversity isn’t only of language, religion, creed, and region. Diversity is also based on beliefs and opinions. Unless we completely eradicate the hate borne out of these polarizing views and beliefs, no amount of solidarity can change the fact that there actually exists no oneness in our diversity.
Featured image source: News18