Sabarimala temple reopens amid tension


Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 5, 2018: Amid heightened security and a renewed verbal battle, the Sabarimala hill temple in Kerala opened on November 5.

However, the shrine in Pathanamthitta district remained inaccessible to women between 10 and 50 years of age despite the state government’s offer of protection.

Video footage of a purported speech by Kerala Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president PS Sreedharan Pillai sparked the latest round of verbal exchanges over the temple between the state’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), and groups affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

In the video, Pillai is apparently heard saying the BJP had planned and executed the agitation in Sabarimala against the temple being thrown open to women of all ages. He is also heard saying he was in touch with the tantri (supreme priest) when two women came close to the shrine in October.

Tantri Rajeevaru Kandarau eventually threatened to close the temple if the women entered the sanctum sanctorum.

Pillai later admitted: “He asked me whether shutting the doors of the temple will invite contempt of court. I told him if customs were violated, he was free to do it.”

His speech at a Bhartiya Yuva Morcha conference in Kozhikkode was deliberately leaked to create confusion among devotees, he added.

CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan sought action against the tantri “for conspiring with Pillai”. The tantri denied the report, saying he never sought legal opinion from anyone.

Several Hindu groups have opposed the Supreme Court’s September ruling ending a traditional ban on the entry of women to the shrine.

The reopening of the shrine from November 5 evening to the evening the next day came two weeks after the temple and surrounding areas witnessed violent protests by several Hindu activists opposing the SC verdict. No violent incident was reported from Nilakkal base camp on November 5.

But in Pamba, the situation turned tensed in the evening after a woman, Anju, 30, approached police expressing her wish to trek to the temple. As the news spread, devotees staged a sit-in near Pamba Ganapati temple.

She later told cops that her husband forced her to come to Pamba with her two children. Later, she informed police about her decision to return. She is 13th women who tried to enter the temple.

In Erumeli, pilgrims blocked roads in the morning, alleging that the state transport authority was deliberately delaying buses to the base camps. Security forces stopped private vehicles carrying pilgrims to check them for the presence of possible troublemakers, stranding many.

The temple turned into a fortress with the deployment of 2,000-odd policemen. Women officers were deployed for the first time at the hilltop shrine. Later, the police clarified that all of them were above 50 years of age.

Earlier in the day, the Kerala high court observed that devotees and media personnel should not be blocked from visiting the temple, and asked the government not to interfere with day-to-day activities at the shrine.

The Left government has announced it will implement the top court’s ruling, pitting it against the BJP, numerous Hindu groups, and the state unit of the Congress.

(The Hindustan Times)

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