KER­ALA: SABARI­MALA STORM

Con­tra­dic­tory pulls in the Sangh pari­var bring re­lief to an em­bat­tled CM

India Today - - STATES - By Jeemon Ja­cob

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

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