A day after the Sabarimala temple opened to violent protests against the Supreme Court order to allow women of all ages to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine, the Travancore Devaswom Board on Thursday said it was ready for any compromise to bring peace to the hill shrine, including a review petition.
While another woman journalist tried in vain to enter the temple, sporadic violence was reported across the state, which largely remained shut on Thursday in the wake of a strike called by Hindu outfits against the SC verdict.
The Sabarimala temple is managed by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), whose president is ruling CPM party leader A Padmakumar. So far, TDB has toed the line of the CPM-led state government and had earlier said it would not move a review petition against the Supreme Court order. But, following the violent protests over the last two days, Padmakumar said: “We are ready for a climbdown if the protest ends with that. The board will on Friday decide on moving a review petition in the Supreme Court. We do not want to see Sabarimala as a battlefield. All stakeholders should stand together to find a solution for the crisis. The board will consider any proposal to end the present crisis.”
His remarks are at odds with the LDF government, which has staunchly opposed reviewing the SC verdict. Speaking to The Indian Express, Finance Minister Thomas Issac said the government will not file a review petition. “This government will not file a review petition, there is no scope for it. Instead, the ruling party will launch an intense counter-campaign to expose the RSS and BJP. The party has already begun preparing its district units and from October 23, there will be a state-wide campaign,” he said.
According to Issac, the state government and CPM are aware that the “present agitation cannot be handled only by police force and they will have to use an awareness campaign”. The Sabarimala temple closes on October 22 after opening for a five-day monthly ritual that began on Wednesday.
Pamba, the base camp of the temple, was peaceful on Thursday after the imposition of prohibitory orders. While special security arrangements were in place at various locations including Pamba, Nilakkal and Erumeli en route to the Sabarimala temple, stray incidents of brick-batting on Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses were reported, police said.
A 24-hour strike called by a little-known Hindu outfit, and backed by the NDA, affected pilgrims. Many of them, who were dependent on public transport to reach the hill shrine, had to postpone their journey by 24 hours or pay exorbitant rates for cabs.
Usually private vehicles are allowed to pass through Nilakkal to Pamba, a distance of 20 km, but due to the imposition of Section 144 and the possibility of violence, only state transport buses were shuttling between the two places.
The effects of the bandh called by the Sabarimala Samrakshana Samiti protesting the police action on devotees of Ayyappa at Nilakkal were felt throughout Kerala. The protests were supported by the BJP too. In several places, stones were thrown at state transport buses and demonstrations taken out on the streets. While private buses and auto rickshaws stayed off roads, state bus services were severely curtailed. In most districts, shops and establishments were shut.