Days before a nine-judge Constitution bench of Supreme Court starts hearing the Sabarimala review petitions from January 13, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the hill shrine in Kerala, is likely to depart from its earlier stand favouring entry for women of all ages.
In February 2019, while the SC considered a batch of petitions seeking review of its earlier order favouring entry of women of menstruating age to Sabarimala, the Devaswom Board vehemently opposed petitions and supported the court’s verdict. The Board’s president, N Vasu, on Wednesday said that the governing body would decide within a few days the stand to be adopted in SC. “The Board would examine all aspects of the issue, including traditions at the temple, the legal aspects of the verdict and its practical sides,’’ he said.
More than “any dominating sentiments” on the issue, he said, “ground reality” at Sabarimala matters more for the Board. “We want a peaceful atmosphere at the shrine. During the last pilgrim season, many (women and activists) tried to spoil the atmosphere at the temple. That cannot be allowed. The Board’s decision would be for ensuring a peaceful pilgrim season,” he said.
State govt’s U-turn on issue
While Kerala’s LDF government had taken a firm stand to allow young women at Sabarimala after the September 2018 SC verdict, and Devaswom Board had backed the move, the government seems to have had a rethink after the Left’s rout in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In November, after SC kept review petitions on hold, the government pointed to “grey areas” in the judgment and indicated that it is “not going to take young women to the temple”.
G Baiju, president of Travancore Devaswom Employees Front, the only organisation of the Board’s staff which has impleaded in the issue, said, “The employees’ front is of the stand that age-related restrictions for women entry should be maintained. We hope the Board takes a decision to protect the traditions and rituals at Sabarimala.”
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