Protests over Sabari­mala ver­dict

Ten­sion builds as shrine is set to open on Wed­nes­day

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Nation - HTC & Agen­cies let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com ▪

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With days left for the Sabari­mala tem­ple to open for monthly poo­jas, thou­sands of Ayyappa devo­tees took to the streets in Kochi on Satur­day against the Supreme Court ver­dict al­low­ing women of all age groups into Sabari­mala tem­ple, even as ac­tivist Trupti De­sai an­nounced plans to visit the hill shrine soon.

The Com­mu­nist Party of In­dia (Marx­ist)-led Left Demo­cratic Front (LDF) govern­ment, which de­cided to im­ple­ment the rul­ing, held a meet­ing to eval­u­ate prepa­ra­tions car­ried out for pil­grims ar­riv­ing at the tem­ple which will open for monthly poo­jas on Wed­nes­day. Though the govern­ment has not re­acted to De­sai’s planned trip to the tem­ple, it has evoked sharp re­ac­tions from devo­tees and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is cam­paign­ing against the en­try of women into the shrine.

Sasiku­mar Varma, mem­ber of Padalam’s ex-royal crit­i­cised De­sai and urged the so­cial ac­tivist to re­frain from mak­ing any ‘provoca­tive’ move. He urged the Left govern­ment to take steps to pre­vent any law and or­der sit­u­a­tion. De­sai, the ‘Bhu­mata Bri­gade’ leader, said in Mum­bai that she along with a group of women will visit the tem­ple “shortly” to of­fer prayers. “We will visit Sabari­mala shortly. The on­go­ing ag­i­ta­tion by devo­tees is the vi­o­la­tion of the Supreme Court ver­dict. I ap­peal agi­tat­ing devo­tees to wel­come those women who come for wor­ship at the hill shrine. I want to ask the Congress and the BJP whether they are against the fun­da­men­tal rights of women. The par­ties should also ex­plain their stand on this,” De­sai said.

Hold­ing plac­ards bear­ing pic­tures of Lord Ayyappa and chant­ing hymns, pro­test­ers marched through the busy roads of Kochi, the state’s com­mer­cial hub, af­ter launch­ing the stir from a Shiva tem­ple there. The faith­ful, a large num­ber of them women, urged the Cen­tral and state gov­ern­ments to in­ter­vene in the mat­ter to pro­tect the sanc­tity of the cen­turies-old rit­u­als and tra­di­tions of the shrine.

Mean­while, the march led by BJP-headed Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance reached Kol­lam dis­trict on Satur­day. BJP state pres­i­dent, P S Sreed­ha­ran Pil­lai, who lead the rally, said De­sai was vis­it­ing Sabari­mala as she per­ceived it to be a chal­lenge rather than a pil­grim­age. “It is a dan­ger­ous ap­proach. She should de­sist from vis­it­ing the shrine and should not make Sabari­mala a ten­sion zone. I do not know if she is a devo­tee or not. But she is com­ing to add fuel to the fire,” Pil­lai said. Claim­ing that the NDA rally was get­ting tremen­dous sup­port from all sec­tions of peo­ple, the leader said the march would reach Thiruvananthapuram on Oc­to­ber 15.

Mean­while, Shiv Sena’s Thiruvananthapuram dis­trict sec­re­tary Peringa­mala Aji threat­ened mass im­mo­la­tion if women try to break the age-old tra­di­tion of the tem­ple. “Our women work­ers are ready to die. We can’t di­gest such an in­sult. The Ker­ala govern­ment and Tra­van­core Deva­som Board are play­ing with fire,” he said. Though Shiv Sena has lit­tle fol­low­ing in the state the party has been tak­ing a bel­liger­ent stand on Sabaria­mala is­sue since the ver­dict.

Ac­tivist Rahul Easwar, who an­nounced a hunger strike at Sabari­mala dur­ing the five-day monthly pooja pe­riod, said they will stop Trupti De­sai if she at­tempts to visit the Tem­ple.

PTI

▪ Women hold plac­ards as they par­tic­i­pate in Kochi a protest on Satur­day against the Supreme Court ver­dict that al­lowed en­try of women of all ages to the Sabari­mala tem­ple.

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