Several Kerala ministers on Friday said the Sabarimala temple should not be a place for “activism” even as three women attempted to trek to the hill shrine.
Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampayy Surendran said women activists will not be allowed to prove their strength inside the Sabarimala shrine, Mathrubhumi reported. While the state government will protect devotees, it will not provide protection to women activists trying to enter the temple, he said.
“The government is obliged to protect the Ayyappa devotees who arrive at the shrine,” said Surendran. “But some women activists are arriving here seeking entry with the Supreme Court verdict. The government has no responsibility to protect such activists.”
Surendran’s remarks came as protestors continued to agitate against the Supreme Court’s order allowing the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the Sabarimala temple. The Left government in the state has decided to implement the court ruling and not file a review, while the Opposition Congress and the BJP have accused the state of showing “undue haste” in implementing the order. The National Ayyappa Devotees Association and the Nair Service Society have filed review petitions in the top court.
Several women attempted to trek up to the hill shrine on Friday, including activist Rehana Fatima, journalist Kavitha Jakkal, and a devotee Mary Sweety. Jakkal and Fatima abandoned the trek amid protests, and Sweety said there was no option but to return. Two unidentified people on motorbikes even hurled stones at her house, reported the Hindustan Times. The police reportedly took Sweety back to the Pamba control room and told her that they would be unable to provide security for her trek.
“People of all ages will be allowed to go there,” said Surendran. “But at the same time we won’t allow it to be a place where activists can come and showcase their power.”
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja agreed with Surendran, reported News18. “Sabarimala should not be used as a place for activism,” she said. “No activist, entering the premises, will be given any kind of support.”
But Shailaja said that the state government will follow the Supreme Court’s order. “The government is not interested in violating rights of devotees, and it will not force its way through,” News 18 quoted her as saying.
Kerala Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ramesh Chennithala claimed that Sabarimala “is not a tourist spot”, ANI reported. “Had there been our government, we would have handled the situation better,” he said. “We would have talked to devotees, there would have been no violence.”
Sabarimala chief priest Kandararu Rajeevaru said the temple will be closed if women reach the ‘pathinettam padi’ (18 sacred steps) and the keys will be handed over to the Pandalam royal family, reported Malayala Manorama.