Sabarimala entry issue: Protests intensify in Kerala as monthly pooja date approaches

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New Delhi | Published: October 14, 2018 11:48:09 AM

The apex court had recently lifted the ban on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala temple.

Protest against SC order in Kochi on October 7 (Reuters)

Kerala is currently witnessing mass protests against the implementation of the Supreme Court’s order which allowed women of all age groups to enter into the Sabarimala temple. On Saturday, thousands took to the streets holding placards bearing pictures of Lord Ayyappa and chanting his hymns, marched through the busy roads of Kochi. According to news agency PTI, the faithful, a large number of them women, urged both the Central and the state governments to intervene in the matter to protect the sanctity of the centuries-old rituals and traditions of the hill shrine.

Meanwhile, Kerala police had registered a case against actor Kollam Thulasi who said that women who dare to enter the shrine should be torn into two pieces. However, Thulasi had tendered an apology on the statement on Saturday. The case was registered on a complaint by a local leader of CPM’s youth wing. Thulasi, a BJP leader, has been booked under different sections of IPC which cover outraging religious feelings, uttering words with an intention to wound religious sentiments, making sexually coloured remarks. According to an Indian Express report, the Kerala State Women’s Commission registered a suo motu case against Thulasi.

The Shiv Sena unit of Kerala has threatened mass suicide over the issue. Party leader, Peringammala Aji, had said that women activists will gather near the Pamba river on October 17th and 18th and if any young woman tries to enter the temple, our activists will commit suicide. Later, he said they won’t commit suicide but protect the shrine’s ‘sanctity’.

Besides BJP, the Congress party is also against the government’s decision not to go for the review and extended support to the devotee’s stir. Even the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam, which owned the temple before Travancore Devaswom Board is opposed and had said that the faithful would block the entry of women to the hill shrine.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) led LDF government, which decided to implement the ruling, held a meeting to evaluate the preparations carried out for pilgrims arriving at the temple which will open for monthly poojas on October 17 evening.

Moreover, Bhumata Brigade leader, Trupti Desai, had announced plans to visit the hill shrine, invoking sharp reactions from the devotees and the BJP. On the other hand, activist Rahul Easwar, who announced a hunger strike at Sabarimala, said they would stop Desai if she attempts to visit the Lord Ayyappa Temple.

The apex court had recently lifted the ban on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years into the Sabarimala temple. The five-judge bench by 4:1 majority held that the custom of stopping women from entering the shrine is violative of Article 25(1). The lone woman member of the bench Justice Indu Malhotra had expressed dissenting opinion saying the court should not interfere in issues of deep religious sentiments. The Sabarimala temple is one of Kerala’s most famous and highly worshipped temples and it is dedicated to the Lord Ayyappa, also referred to as Dharmashasth or Lord of Dharma and is worshipped as a celibate for life.

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