Sabari­mala tem­ple woes con­tinue

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SUC­CES­SIVE gov­ern­ments in Ker­ala, In­dia, have been press­ing var­i­ous Union gov­ern­ments to de­mand the famed Sabari­mala tem­ple be el­e­vated to a na­tional pil­grim cen­tre. But, in­stead, the is­sue is now the fo­cus of in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion af­ter a Supreme Court di­rec­tive that women be al­lowed into the shrine that at­tracts the world’s largest pil­grim­age.

The tem­ple town has wit­nessed protests by Hindu groups since the Septem­ber 28 ver­dict that al­lowed women of all ages to en­ter the tem­ple, in­clud­ing those from the hith­erto banned age group of 10 to 50.

The Left Demo­cratic Front gov­ern­ment led by the Com­mu­nist Party of In­dia (CPI-M) has been try­ing to im­ple­ment the ver­dict even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and sev­eral Hindu groups are up in arms against it.

The tem­ple usu­ally opens for five days at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery Malay­alam month and from Novem­ber 15 to Jan­uary 20 is home to the fes­ti­val sea­son com­pris­ing the Man­dala puja ses­sion and the Makar­avi­laku ses­sion.

Since the ver­dict, around three dozen women have tried and failed to go up the path­way lead­ing to the tem­ple af­ter protests from the be­liev­ers.

On Jan­uary 2, two women man­aged to pay obei­sance, with chief min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan con­firm­ing this.

There­after, the Sabari­mala tantri (head priest) closed the tem­ple for an hour and con­ducted “pu­rifi­ca­tion’ rit­u­als”, some­thing that has never hap­pened be­fore dur­ing the two-month-long fes­ti­val sea­son.

Deeply hurt by the man­ner in which the Ker­ala po­lice en­abled the two women to en­ter the tem­ple, an an­gry Sabari­mala Karma Samithi, an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion of Hindu groups that has the back­ing of the BJP and Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh, called for a shut­down the next day that led to wide­spread vi­o­lence across the state.

Po­lice chief Lok­nath Behra said on Mon­day close to 40 000 peo­ple had been booked for cre­at­ing vi­o­lence in the past few days and 1869 cases reg­is­tered.

Up un­til Mon­day, 5 769 peo­ple have been ar­rested, of which 789 have been re­manded while 4980 have been let out on bail.

In the vi­o­lence, the homes of BJP Ra­jya Sabha mem­ber V Mu­raleed­ha­ran and sev­eral other BJP lead­ers were at­tacked, as were the res­i­dences of top CPI-M lead­ers in­clud­ing, party leg­is­la­tor AM Shamsheer.

The ap­prox­i­mate dam­ages caused by the vi­o­lence has been es­ti­mated at around R19 mil­lion, with close to 100 state-owned­buses also be­ing dam­aged.

What has come as a shock to the state gov­ern­ment is the strong po­si­tion taken by the pow­er­ful Nair Ser­vice So­ci­ety, the so­cio-cul­tural body of the Hindu Nair com­mu­nity, which con­demned Vi­jayan’s role in stag­ing a pre-scripted dis­play of break­ing the cus­toms and tra­di­tions of the Sabari­mala tem­ple.

But Vi­jayan, ever since the ver­dict, has stood rooted to the stand that there is no other go but to abide by it. – IANS

PIC­TURE: IANS

Sabari­mala tem­ple be­ing shut down for “pu­rifi­ca­tion rit­u­als” af­ter two women from the hith­erto banned age group prayed at the tem­ple in Ker­ala’s Pathanamthitta, on Jan­uary 2.

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