INVOKING the state’s history of reformation and decrying the “attempt to weaken” Kerala’s secular fabric, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appealed for calm Tuesday.
As tension mounted at Nilakkal a day before the Lord Ayappa temple in Sabarimala opens for the first time Wednesday after the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the shrine, Vijayan said that no one would be allowed to block devotees. While the temple governing body failed to win over the thantri and the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam agitating over the Supreme Court order, devotees checked vehicles on their way to the shrine in an attempt to stop women of “menstruating age” from reaching the last base camp before the temple.
This is despite Vijayan warning “stern action” against those who prevent devotees from going to Sabarimala. He also made it clear that the government had no intention to file a review petition on the matter and said it would implement the apex court order. He asserted that the government had taken a stand that there should not be any discrimination on the basis of gender.
At the same time, the LDF government clarified that it would not bring any law to put the policy into practice. “But, we will go by what the Supreme Court says,” Vijayan said.
Addressing a one-hour public meeting Tuesday, which was part of the LDF campaign on Sabarimala, Vijayan said that there has been a deliberate attempt to weaken the secular mindset of the state by marshalling the faithful to fight against the Supreme Court verdict. In an hour-long speech, Vijayan lauded the long history of state’s renaissance movement.
“There is an attempt to create misconception among the faithful. They are trying to convince the people that the LDF government has committed a great crime. The LDF and its government have always stood for the rights of the faithful to live according to their beliefs. The government has adopted the same stand on Sabarimala also,’’ he said.
He said that the issue at stake in Sabarimala was a chronic one. “The government is of the view that the women and men have equal rights to worship. The government is duty-bound to implement the SC verdict,’’ he said. Vijayan also delved deep into the state’s tradition of reformation. “All social reformation initiatives faced resistance from orthodox elements of those periods. When women fought for their right to cover breasts, they had faced opposition. Social reformers Sree Narayana Gura and Ayyankali taught that certain traditions are meant to be violated. This state has undergone changes when Left parties and peasant organisations took that spirit of social reformation forward.’’
Referring to the BJP-led protest over Sabarimala, Vijayan said the Sangh Parivar has been demanding right over several places of worship in the country. “If everything is based on faith what will happen tomorrow? The real target of those forces is to destroy the secular mind of the state. All should come forward to defeat the attempt to destroy this secular mindset,’’ he said.
The Sabarimala temple was once owned by the royal family of Pandalam, and its administration was handed over to the then princely state of Travancore in 1949. The Travancore Devaswom Board had convened a meeting of the thantri and royal family, who have the final say in the traditions and rituals at the temple.
After the meeting, Devaswom Board president A Padmakumar said, “The royal family and thantri wanted that a decision on (filing a) review petition should be taken today itself. Besides, they demanded that the status quo be maintained regarding the entry of women (between the ages of 10-50) when monthly ritual begins. It is not possible for the board to go against the Supreme Court verdict,” Padmakumar said.
He added that the board would meet on October 19 to decide the legal course of action, including moving a review petition in the apex court.
Kerala has been witnessing intense protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees, including women, and right-wing outfits against the implementation of the apex court verdict. The temple will be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly puja.