Kerala CM: Sabarimala stir a deliberate attempt to destroy state’s unity, secular fabric

CM Pinarayi Vijayan declared that the Kerala government won’t file a review petition against a Supreme Court ruling that women in the age group of 10-50 can also enter the famed Sabarimala temple

Photo by Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images
Photo by Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday, October 8, criticised those agitating against his government's move to implement the Supreme Court verdict on entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, saying "deliberate" efforts were being made to destroy the state's unity and secular fabric.

Asserting that his government was committed to protecting the religious beliefs and customs of different religions and places of worship, he said there was no question of succumbing to "politically motivated" efforts to create tension in the state.

"The people of Kerala faced the recent unprecedented floods unitedly but deliberate efforts are now being made to destroy that unity, to destroy the secular fabric," he told reporters.

Vijayan pointed out a few instances where women in the banned age group had entered the temple in the past and how some traditions at the temple had undergone changes.

Holding out an olive branch, Vijayan also made it clear that the government was prepared for talks with all concerned if they had any misunderstandings over the state's stand on the issue.

Meanwhile, joining the issue for the first time, Travancore Royal family member Gowri Lakshmi Bayi said it was "very painful" to hear about the recent developments relating to the Sabarimala temple.

"It is sad to note that centuries-old traditions are being violated," she said in a statement.

Reaffirming the government's stand not to seek a review of the SC verdict, Vijayan said the government in its earlier affidavit had made it clear that it would implement the court's order.

"It is not possible to file a review petition by the Kerala government against the verdict as we had told the apex court in our affidavit that we will abide by whatever the court rules. Hence it's not now possible to file a review petition," said Vijayan, amid widespread protests against the September 28 verdict.

The government will go ahead with all the "democratic and progressive steps" needed for enriching and empowering women in society. He said his government's policy was to ensure equality and justice to all.

Vijayan said the Left Democratic Front government had taken a number of women-friendly initiatives, including raising a women-only battalion, and increasing their presence in the state police and fire services

He credited various social reform movements initiated by Narayana Guru, Swami Vivekananda, Chattambi Swamigal and others for the state's progress.

Attacking the main opposition Congress and the BJP for the agitations against the Supreme Court order, he said the Congress will "destroy" itself by joining hands with communal elements, and accused the saffron party of having "double standards" on the issue.

The chief minister described as "ridiculous" the U- turn by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who welcomed the Supreme Court verdict before demanding that the government file a review petition against it.

In BJP-ruled Maharashtra, the government had implemented the Bombay High Court orders on entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali dargah and Shani Shinganapur temple, he said, adding it showed the "double standards" of the saffron party.

Vijayan said the Left Democratic Front government had taken a number of women-friendly initiatives, including raising a women-only battalion, and increasing their presence in the state police and fire services.

Meanwhile, Chennithala blamed the LDF government for the "crisis". "The UDF is with the believers. We will not lend any support to anybody to hurt the sentiments of believers," the Congress leader told reporters.

The previous Congress-led UDF government headed by Oommen Chandy had filed an affidavit in the apex court noting that the rituals and beliefs of Sabarimala temple and its devotees should be protected.

Chennithala said the LDF government, however, took a different stand.

"The UDF will not allow converting Sabarimala into a war zone. We are against violent protests and hartals. Our stand is that the faith of believers will be protected," he said.

The Congress leader said it was the Centre's responsibility to protect all religions and accused the BJP and RSS of misleading people on the issue.

"The RSS-BJP combine is trying to mislead the people and is launching violent agitations. We are with the believers and want to protect their faith," he said.

Ayyappa devotees are holding prayer meetings and marches across the state over the past few days demanding that the government seek a review of the SC verdict.

The Pandalam royal family that has been associated with the Lord Ayyappa temple and that of the tantri (head priest) have opposed the government's decision to implement the apex court's order.

In a majority 4:1 judgment, the Supreme Court said the ban on women in the menstruating age group, whose presence in the Lord Ayyappa temple was considered to be "impure", violated their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantee of equality.

Until now, girls below 10 years and women over 50 years were allowed to visit the hilltop shrine, located in the Western Ghats and about 170 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The temple is hugely popular in southern India.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said that both the state and the Centre can file review petitions. In a related development, state BJP President PS Sreedharan Pillai said they had decided to join the devotees protesting against the verdict.

The Nair Service Society, the social and cultural organisation of the Hindu Nair community, on Monday, October 8, filed a review petition against the apex court verdict.

(with inputs from agencies)

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