With Sabarimala verdict a day away, anxiety grips Kerala

By: |
November 13, 2019 6:43 PM

The portals of the hill shrine, located in a reserve forest in Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of the state, would be opened for the two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku season on November 16 evening. Vijayan had on Saturday taken stock of the preparations being carried out by various departments to ensure a hassle-free pilgrimage.

Sabarimala verdict, Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, LDF government, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Supreme Court, Lord Ayyappa temple, Ayyappa templeThe verdict was also crucial for the LDF government, led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, as the beginning of the annual pilgrimage season at Sabarimala is just three days away. (File photo:IE)

Political parties, right wing outfits and devotees in Kerala are keeping their fingers crossed as the Supreme Court is set to pronounce on Thursday its verdict on pleas seeking review of its decision to allow entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala Temple. The southern state had witnessed high drama and protests by devotees and right wing activists last year against the CPI(M)-led LDF government’s decision to implement the top court’s order. The verdict was also crucial for the LDF government, led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, as the beginning of the annual pilgrimage season at Sabarimala is just three days away.

The portals of the hill shrine, located in a reserve forest in Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of the state, would be opened for the two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku season on November 16 evening. Vijayan had on Saturday taken stock of the preparations being carried out by various departments to ensure a hassle-free pilgrimage. DGP Loknath Behara has said there will be tight security during the pilgrimage season. Over 10,000 police personnel will be deployed in phases in and around the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple during the two-month long pilgrimage season. While the state BJP, on Wednesday, expressed hope that the order on the review petitions, would be in favour of devotees, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), the autonomous temple body which manages the shrine, appealed to everyone to accept the judgment whatever it may.

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The apex court, on September 28, 2018, had lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the Ayyappa shrine and held that this centuries-old Hindu religious practice was illegal and unconstitutional. The opposition Congress party and the influential Nair Service Society (NSS),an outfit of the forward Nair community, had also vehemently objected to the Left government’s decision to go ahead and implement the verdict. BJP state general secretary M T Ramesh said if the verdict was against devotees, the party would seek constitutional means to address the concerns of devotees.

“We hope that the verdict on the review petitions will be in favour of devotees. The stand adopted by the state government was the reason for the earlier judgment that came out against the sentiments of devotees,” he told reporters. The stand taken by the apex court in the Ayodhya case that deity Ram Lalla could be viewed as a special personality, can be applicable in the Sabarimala case also, he said. A Padmakuamr, the outgoing president of TDB, said the verdict should be accepted with self-restraint and peace.

“The Board’s request to everyone is that we should accept the verdict whatever it may be. We hope that the state government will act in accordance with the verdict,” he told TV channels. Attempts by around a dozen women, including activists and journalists in the 10-50 age group, to climb the sacred hills had come to nought last year as frenzied devotees of Lord Ayyappa heckled and hassled them and forced them to retreat. However, defying protesters, two women, in their 40s, had entered the Ayyappa temple in January this year and offered prayers scripting history.

The apex court, on Thursday, will deliver its judgment on as many as 65 petitions — including 56 review petitions and four fresh writ petitions and five transfer pleas — which were filed after its verdict sparked violent protests in Kerala. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its decision on February 6 after hearing various parties including those seeking re-consideration of the September 28, 2018 judgment.

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