The political heat in Kerala over the Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala Temple intensified Thursday with the opposition Congress and BJP coming out against the CPI(M)-LDF government’s decision not to go for a review of the judgment. The Congress made it clear that they were with the faithful, while the BJP hit out at the government alleging that it wanted to destroy the beliefs of devotees of Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of the famous hill shrine. Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala told reporters after a meeting with former presidents and members of Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, that the party was with the Hindu faithful and would support their cause.
Chennithala also asked the RSS and BJP to approach the Centre to take necessary steps to formulate a law to overcome the apex court order if they were sincere in their stand on being with believers. The BJP should desist from “acting dishonestly” with devotees, he added. BJP president P Sreedharan Pillai said the party would fully support the agitations being launched by the faithful. Attacking the CPI-M, he said it had always tried to destroy and bring down the importance of the Sabrimala Temple.
The party’s feeder organisations– Yuva Morcha and Mahila Morcha– had already launched agitations and the party was supporting the protests. The government should shed its arrogance and be ready to file review petition in the apex court as early as possible, he added. With protests over the issue from various quarters intensifying, hundreds of Mahila Morcha workers took out a march here demanding that the state government file a review petition.
Chanting ‘Swamiyae Ayyappa’ and ‘Swami Saranam’, the women workers took out a march to the office of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) office here, urging that the tradition and faith of the Lord Ayyappa temple should be protected. They squatted on the road after being prevented by police from entering the TDB office complex.
The Kerala government had after a high level meeting of the board on Wednesday said it would implement the verdict in the coming pilgrimage season itself. The government has also decided to make necessary arrangements for women pilgrims visiting the hill shrine when it opens for the annual pilgrimage season on October 16.
Mahila Morcha state president and BJP’s firebrand leader, Shobha Surendran, addressing the workers, said the women in the state who are aware of tradition and rituals of the Ayyappa shrine would not support the government stand. She flayed the state government’s decision not to file a review plea and said it was a ‘conspiracy’ to ‘destroy’ the Sabarimala Temple where lakhs of devotees from India and abroad visit during the three-month long Mandala-Makaravillaku festival that falls during November-January.
Morcha leaders said government had failed to present before the court the centuries-old traditions and rituals of the holy shrine. The government should have consulted devotees before taking a decision to implement the court verdict, they said. Meanwhile, the Nair Service Society (NSS), a body of Kerala’s influential Nair community, termed as “unfortunate” the government and TDB decisions not to go in for a review plea.
The NSS is a petitioner in the Sabarimala case in the apex court. NSS president G Sukumaran Nair said in a statement that the state government could take a stand in accordance with their policy. However, he wondered how the TDB administration, which took office after taking a pledge to protect the traditions and faith of 1,200 temples in the state, could take such a decision.