Sabarimala: Ashram of Swami Who Supported Women's Entry Attacked; Amit Shah Supports Protestors

Swami Sandeepananda Giri had previously welcomed the Supreme Court order permitting women in the 10-50 age group to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.

Thiruvananthapuram: Days after he supported the Supreme Court’s verdict on the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, Swami Sandeepananda Giri’s Salagramam ashram at nearby Kundamonkadavu was attacked early on Saturday, police said.

The attack took place at around 2 am and two cars and a scooter were burnt, they said, adding the attackers also left a wreath at the ashram.

Also Read: The Politics of Sabarimala in the Aftermath of the SC Verdict

Swami Sandeepananda Giri had welcomed the apex court order permitting women in the 10-50 age group to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.

Meanwhile, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who visited the ashram, told reporters that stringent action would be taken against the accused, whoever they may be. Their aim was not to destroy the ashram, but the swamiji, he said.

Reacting to the attack, Sandeepananda Giri alleged that the entire responsibility for the incident was on BJP state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, Thazhamon Madom, the family of traditional head priests of Sabarimala temple and Pandalam Royal family, also associated with the shrine.

DGP Loknath Behara said strong action would be taken to bring the accused to book. “We will not tolerate such incidents in the state,” he said.

However, BJP district leadership has denied any role in the attack and demanded an “unbiased” probe into the incident.

The state had witnessed massive protests from devotees at various places, including Sabarimala, Nilakkal and Pamba, against permitting women of all ages to enter the shrine, where the deity is ‘Naishtika Brahmachari‘ (perennial celibate), when the temple was opened for monthly pujas from October 17-22. At least 12 women in the ‘barred’ age group (10-50) had tried to trek the hills to offer prayers, but had to retreat following widespread protests and violence.

As The Wire had earlier reported, over 2,000 people were arrested by the police in Kerala in the past few days in a crackdown on demonstrators and conservative Hindu groups who protested against allowing women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala hill temple. Protestors clashed with police and damaged cars and buses, in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling.

Also Read: If It Were Men Who Bled, Would Sabarimala Still be An Issue?

BJP will stand like a mountain in support: Amit Shah

BJP president Amit Shah. Credit: Facebook/BJP

BJP president Amit Shah. Credit: Facebook/BJP

According to an NDTV report, BJP chief Amit Shah said that the Kerala government was misusing the issue to target BJP and RSS workers while alleging that the crackdown by the police was a part of “a communist plot against temples”. He also expressed support to those arrested and remarked that the BJP will, “stand like a mountain in support of your sentiment,” and would back “the people of Kerala and the devotees of Lord Ayyappa”. The BJP in Kerala had previously extended full support to the protestors preventing the entry of women into the temple.

“Today in Kerala a struggle is going on between religious beliefs and state government’s cruelty. The Left government in Kerala has misused the Sabarimala issue. They have used it to arrest workers and supporters of the BJP and other political parties. They have jailed thousands of party workers,” he said while addressing a rally at Kannur in Kerala after inaugurating a party office in the city.

Singling out Kerala’s chief minister Vijayan, Shah said, “I warn Kerala’s communist chief minister, don’t oppress devotees in the name of implementing the Supreme Court judgment.”

Also Read: Temple or Dargah, Restrictions on Women Are Nothing But Ways of Imposing Patriarchy

Shah offered a justification for the protestors’ stand, saying, “The deity at Sabarimala is a Brahmachari (celibate) and therefore women of a certain age aren’t allowed.” He also added, “There are many temples in India which are exclusively for women and men aren’t allowed. No man tries to enter.”

 The BJP president ended his speech by chanting “Swamiye Sharnam Ayyappa” in praise of the deity at Sabarimala.

(With inputs from PTI)