The Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has planned to urge the state government to bring in an ordinance to ensure that women devotees are not allowed inside the Sabarimala temple, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday.
This follows the the Supreme Court’s decision, last month, to allow the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the temple. The top court said the dualistic approach against women degrades their status and patriarchy of religion cannot be permitted to trump over faith.
Sabarimala, the hill shrine located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Pathanamthitta district, is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during the 41-day Mandala Kalam, which begins on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam (which corresponds to the second half of November and the first half of December).
“We really respect the Supreme Court verdict but at the same time, we can’t ignore feelings of crores of devotees,” state BJP President PS Sreedharan Pillai. “They are really upset. We want the government to promulgate an ordinance on the lines of jallikattu in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.” In 2017, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a bill to replace the ordinance on jallikattu, which revoked the Supreme Court ban on the bull-taming sport, after widespread protests.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindutva parties, or the Sangh Parivar, will meet on October 8 in Kochi to discuss strategy, and are likely to move a review petition in the Supreme Court.
Pillai added that the state government was in a hurry to implement the verdict, without consulting all the stakeholders. “In Kerala, a majority of women have made it clear they have no plan to gatecrash the temple,” he said. “Communists are known atheists and in the name of court, they are stifling popular sentiments. The government will face stiff resistance if it moves unilaterally.”
The Congress, which initially supported the move, has reportedly asked the Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the Sabarimala temple, to file a review petition in the top court. “We have to go by the apex court verdict,” said Leader of Opposition and Congressman Ramesh Chennithala. “But at the same time, we have to see practical difficulties and social impact. The state government is playing a double game.”
Travancore Dewaswom Board President A Padmakumar said on Sunday that only “women activists” and not real devotees will visit the Sabarimala temple. He also told Scroll.in that they do not expect a rush of women devotees in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court judgement.
The ruling Left Democratic Front government, however, has said that it will take all necessary steps to ensure the verdict is implemented. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chaired a meeting on Monday to review arrangements for the shrine.
“We have taken a number of steps to ensure smooth pilgrimage of women,” said Devasom Minister Kadakampally Surendran. “Though there is no separate queue for women, seats will be reserved in buses and separate bathing ghats will be made for them. Women police will be deployed in large numbers at the hilltop and trekking sites.”
“Separate queue [for women] is not practical because it needs more space,” he added. “Only those who can brave winding queues should undertake the pilgrimage. And devotees will not be allowed to stay on temple premises after darshan.”