Sabarimala foot off pedal

Sabarimala not making additional special arrangements for women who might visit the temple

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 11.10.18, 2:17 AM
  • Updated 11.10.18, 2:17 AM
  • 2 mins read
The Sabarimala temple File picture

The outfit that governs the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday decided against making additional special arrangements for women who might visit the Sabarimala temple in the November-January pilgrimage season and the temple affairs minister backed the stand.

Padmakumar, the president of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) that governs all temples in south Kerala, told reporters that no new women-specific facilities would be created at Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa.

The Supreme Court has lifted the bar on the entry of women in the menstrual age of 10 to 50 years to the Sabarimala temple.

“The Devaswom board has not taken any decision to deploy more police personnel at Sabarimala. If someone has said anything, don’t put those words in our mouths,” Padmakumar said.

With the Kerala government and the TDB agreeing to implement the Supreme Court verdict, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on October 3 said that additional amenities would be created for women at Sabarimala by November 17, when the pilgrimage season starts.

“Whatever facilities existed during the tenures of my predecessors would continue to be there. Nothing more will be created,” Padmakumar said on Wednesday.

Kerala temple affairs Kadakampally Surendran endorsed Padmakumar’s views. “We are going to do whatever he said,” the minister told a Malayalam channel when asked about the change in Padmakumar’s stand.

Sources said there had been plans to increase the number of ladies’ toilets, resting places and accommodations, and also to enhance the number of policewomen who are posted 5km from the hill shrine.

Padmakumar’s comments coincided with thousands of Ayyappa devotees under various banners, include that of the Sangh parivar, blocking roads at around 200 places across the state. Since the Supreme Court verdict, protesters, including an overwhelming number of women, have hit the streets against it. The Congress and the BJP have supported the agitation.

Padmakumar said the existing facilities would be sufficient. “Women (not in the menstruating age and before such a ban was imposed) have always entered the temple. Women will continue to come. Did we force any particular (group of) women to come to the temple?” he asked.

Padmakumar had been the first to promise to file a review petition in the Supreme Court, but made a turnaround after the chief minister reportedly chided him for taking a decision without consulting the government, which was against making such a plea.

Vijayan had earlier promised additional facilities and said his government would be compelled to bring in policewomen from other southern states if personnel in Kerala had any reservations about entering the temple. He had also said that all the additional facilities for women would be ready before the Mandala puja, the pilgrimage season that starts on November 17 and continues till January 20.

Vellapally Natesan, the general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam that represents the politically influential Ezhava community, had on Tuesday supported the state government’s bid to facilitate the court order and accused the protesters, including the Congress and the BJP, of utilising the opportunity to criticise the Left government.

But his son Tushar Vellapally, the state president of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena party, participated in a protest on Wednesday.

Tushar, who has had a love-hate relationship with the NDA, called for a central legislation to get around the apex court order.

“There is no point in passing an ordinance, which can be struck down through another court order. What is needed is a legislation,” he told reporters in Pandalam, a small town that was once the kingdom that governed the Sabarimala temple.

Addressing the event BJP state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said: “We are fighting the CPM government’s hurriedly taken decision.” He was referring to the government’s refusal to file a review petition and instead implement the court order.