Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah on Saturday warned that his party’s workers will uproot the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala if it continues to arrest Ayyappa devotees who protested in the state against women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple. Shah asked courts to issue “practical instructions to governments”.
On Friday, police said it has arrested 2,061 people in connection with last week’s violence that broke out against the Supreme Court judgment permitting the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple. At least 452 cases have been registered so far, police said.
Before the judgement, women between the menstruating ages of 10 and 50 were barred from entering the temple as the deity’s devotees believe he is an eternal celibate.
On October 17, the temple opened to the public for the first time since the court’s order. Protestors gathered near the shrine prevented women aged between 10 and 50 from entering its premises. The shrine closed on October 22 after the monthly rituals were completed, but not a single woman of menstruating age was able to enter it.
Shah was addressing a gathering at an inauguration ceremony of a new district committee office in Kannur. “We [the BJP] will uproot this government if it continues arresting people who protested the Supreme Court verdict [on women’s entry into the Sabarimala],” Shah said. The crowd applauded his statement.
The BJP leader said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was “fighting with fire” by trying to implement the court’s order. “The government has put more than 2,000 members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, BJP and other groups in jail,” Shah said. “I would like to ask the government: whose property have they damaged? You are acting against Ayyappa devotees, so the whole country will stand behind them.”
Shah demanded for the “protection of the uniqueness” of the Sabarimala shrine. “There is no restriction for women to offer prayers in any other Ayyappa temple,” Shah said, while adding that Hinduism did not discriminate against women. “There are temples that give entry to women only where men are denied of entry. It is not discrimination. It is part of worship.”
He accused the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government of conspiring against temples. “They have created an emergency-like situation in Kerala,” he said.
The BJP leader began and ended his speech by asking those gathered to join him in chants to the Sabarimala deity.
‘Shah’s statement reveals true colour of RSS’: Vijayan
Vijayan said Shah’s comments were an attack on the Supreme Court, Constitution and the country’s judicial system. “Shah’s assertion that courts must only pronounce verdicts which can be carried out, conveys the message that fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution are not meant to be implemented,” PTI quoted Vijayan as saying.
The chief minister said Shah had dared to threaten a democratically-elected government because it stood by the top court’s verdict. “Shah’s statement also reveals the true colour of RSS and Sangh Parivar,” he said.
Corrections and clarifications: A previous version of the article erroneously quoted BJP President Amit Shah as saying that the Centre will dissolve the Kerala government if devotees are arrested. The error has been corrected.