Kerala Opposition Parties Want Sabarimala Temple to Continue Bar on Women From Entering

Even as the Kerala government is taking steps to ensure smooth passage for women pilgrims, BJP and Congress are urging the state government to pass an ordinance to reinstate the ban that was overturned by the Supreme Court last week.

New Delhi: While the Kerala government pushes forward with the Supreme Court’s verdict to lift the ban on entry of menstruating women into the Sabarimala temple, the state’s BJP unit has urged that an ordinance be passed to continue the ban, similar to what Tamil Nadu did to continue the Jallikattu sport.

According to the Hindustan Times, the BJP and the Sangh parivar have called for a meeting on October 8 in Kochi to discuss their strategy. Apart from asking the government to issue an ordinance, the parties are also considering the possibility of filing a review petition.

Last week, the Supreme Court had lifted the ban on entry of women into the temple, saying, “The dualistic approach against women degrades the status of women.”

State BJP president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai told Hindustan Times, “We really respect the Supreme Court verdict but at the same time, we can’t ignore feelings of crores of devotees. They are really upset. We want the government to promulgate an ordinance on the lines of Jallikattu in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.”

Last January, protests by Tamil Nadu students, youth and other sections demanding immediate staging of the traditional sport in Alanganallur, epicentre of jallikattu, and other places, had brought the state to a grinding halt.

The Supreme Court had banned the sport in 2014. However, the state government in January last year passed an ordinance to remove bulls from the list of “performing animals”. This ensured that provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act did not apply to the bull.

Pillai said the party would stand with the “Hindu faithful”. “There is no division with the Sangh Parivar over the issue. RSS at the national level has favoured the entry of women of all ages to the temple considering the North Indian scenario. In Kerala, the situation is different,” he is quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

“The CPM government is trying to destroy the temple, which is a centre of Hindu reformation. There is a Communist conspiracy against Sabarimala,” he added.

The Congress has also expressed support in favour of filing a review petition. Leader of the opposition in Kerala’s assembly Ramesh Chennithala suggested that the Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, file a review petition against the verdict. “Social and religious repercussions of implementing the order should be considered seriously. All places of worship function on the basis of traditions and their violation would hurt the faithful,” he added.

Former CM Oommen Chandy also suggested that the government should not “hastily implement the order”, adding, that while the court order is binding, it has also “created grave concern among the faithful”. The statements of the Congress’s state leaders are in stark contrast to the welcoming the judgment received from national leaders. The party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the decision “progressive and far-reaching”.

The Travancore Devaswom Board itself has opposed the entry of women into the temple. Its president A. Padmakumar on Sunday said “real women devotees” of Lord Ayyappa are unlikely to visit the Sabarimala temple and only “women activists” will undertake the pilgrimage.

Meanwhile, the members of the Pandalam Royal family, which has rights over rituals conducted in Sabarimala, have said they would file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s verdict. One of the members, R.R. Varma, said, “Sabarimala was the family temple of Pandalam royal family and we handed it over to the government. The court has not fully analysed the situation in Sabarimala. The verdict has insulted the faithful.’’

Government pushes forward

The Left Democratic Front government, however, said it was prepared to take all necessary steps to ensure the verdict is implemented. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday reviewed arrangements at the shrine during a meeting.

Devasom minister Kadakampally Surendran said a number of steps were being taken to ensure smooth pilgrimage of women. “Though there is no separate queue for women, seats will be reserved in buses and separate bathing ghats will be made. Women police will be deployed in large numbers at the hilltop and trekking sites.”

However, the possibility of a separate queue for women was ruled out by the minister, who said only “those who can brave winding queues” should undertake the pilgrimage. Devotees will also not be allowed to stay on temple premises after darshan.