KERALA: SABARIMALA STORM
Contradictory pulls in the Sangh parivar bring relief to an embattled CM
It has been three weeks since the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict, and protests over the entry of women to the Sabarimala shrine appear to be winding down in the flood-ravaged state. Tensions had risen following the announcement of a huge public procession from Pandalam to Thiruvananthapuram on October 14, opposing execution of the court’s directions.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan would have heaved a sigh of relief when the protesters, led by Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad chief Praveen Togadia, stopped just 100 metres short of his official residence. The much-hyped ‘yatra’, claiming the participation of 500,000 devotees, drew just a few hundred, after leaders of both the BJP and RSS distanced themselves from Togadia and his brand of Hindutva.
Earlier, the state intelligence wing had alerted the government regarding the possibility of violence. Togadia’s fiery diatribe against the state and central governments, however, failed to impress even the most hardcore Hindu devotees in Kerala.
Kerala Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran was the first to denounce the event. “We will not allow attempts to turn Sabarimala into an Ayodhya,” he said, applauding the Pandalam royal family’s appeal to political parties to stay away from the protests by devotees. Interestingly, though, Congress working president K. Sudhakaran had earlier called for Jallikattu style protests against the apex court verdict. Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala, too, had offered his support to both the Pandalam royals and the Sabarimala chief priest’s family. But Mullappally evidently feared that the Congress could lose its ‘secular’ tag by joining the protests. Notably, both Congress and BJP leaders were earlier competing to appease the electorally significant Nair community, which views the court verdict as contrary to its traditions.
The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) had accused the saffron party leadership and the Congress of “trying to communalise Kerala over the Sabarimala verdict”. LDF coordination committee convenor A. Vijayaraghavan had said that the Left parties would expose the opposition’s dubious game plan.
In a bid to contain the storm over the verdict, the LDF launched a two-month-long campaign, wherein starting October 16, Vijayan is addressing a series of rallies. To prevent the emergence of a Hindu unity platform, CPI(M) workers have also initiated a door-to-door drive to create awareness and check misinformation about the verdict. CPI(M) state
GOD’S SOLDIERS? Protesters in Thiruvananthapuram on October 15