Accept Sabarimala Order, No Woman Will Be Barred, says Kerala CM

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Sabarimala Temple Verdict: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has clarified that his government will not file any review petition


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Oct 3, 2018: After the Supreme Court allowed the entry of women of all ages into Kerala’s renowned Sabarimala Temple, some devotees welcomed the verdict, while others were disappointed. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the shrine, has accepted the verdict and won’t be filing for its review, it said today.

The Kerala government, too, has no such intentions. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has clarified that his government will not file any review petition. He said the authorities will ensure safety of devotees and women police personnel from Kerala and neighboring states will be deployed at the shrine to maintain law and order.

The Congress has slammed the government and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for hurting the sentiments of Ayyappa devotees by supporting the verdict. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the party stands its ground on not allowing women of menstruating age into Sabarimala.

The Congress’s central leadership had welcomed the “progressive” verdict and said there could be no discrimination to worship on the basis of gender.

“Devotees have been divided since the beginning. The Supreme Court considered all divergent views before announcing the final verdict. Our government accepts the decision. No woman who wants to go to Sabarimala can be stopped,” Mr. Vijayan said.

The state, which is on its way to recovery after the once-in-a-century floods ravaged God’s own country, will make all arrangements for women devotees. From constructing toilets in the temple complex and safety arrangements along the 5 km uphill trek through forests to installing CCTV cameras, streetlights etc, the government is working out a plan for a safe pilgrimage, he said.

“We have to make all required arrangements. As only men were allowed to enter the complex till now, the infrastructure needs to be upgraded and additions will be done to make it women-friendly,” the chief minister said.

But several women say that they will not visit the temple till they hit menopause.

In a massive show of strength, over 8,000 women took to the streets in Pathanamthitta district to protest against the verdict. The Pandalam royal family, which led the protests, observed Tuesday as ‘Ayyappa Dharma Samrakshana’ (Save Lord Ayyappa) day.

The protesters said the court was not bigger than Lord Ayyappa and demanded suitable legislation to maintain the age-old ban.

Last week, women cadres of Hindu outfits offered prayers in temples in Tamil Nadu with a promise that they would “wait” till they crossed 50 to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple.

“For us, the ancient customs are important irrespective of whether a court agrees with them or not,” a woman said on Saturday.

The Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala has traditionally barred all women of menstruating age.

The temple’s rule followed the still widely-held belief in India that menstruating women are “impure”. The custom in the temple was challenged by a clutch of petitioners who argued that women cannot be denied the constitutional right to worship.

In a four-one majority verdict, the top court revoked restrictions on women entering the temple following a 20-year legal battle, ruling that patriarchy cannot be allowed to trump faith.

“To treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the constitution itself,” said Justice DY Chandrachud said.

But not everybody agreed with the verdict. Activists such as Rahul Eashwar, who backed the ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50, have said they will approach the court.

“Our core argument is that presiding deity of Sabarimala shrine has some peculiarities. The deity is in the form of ‘Naishtika Brahmachari’ and has certain rights to uphold the privacy of the deity. And the deity’s private space is the temple, so we were expecting a much more balanced verdict,” Mr. Easwar, the grandson of Sabarimala priest Kandararu Maheswararu, who died in May this year, said.

Mr. Easwar, who is the president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, promised to continue the fight because it “affects the very core of temple belief and temple systems”. “Article 25 will be diluted… We still have the legal remedy with us. Until October 16 the temple is closed too, so we have time,” he added.

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