The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government in Kerala has run into a controversy on account of its list of 51 women of menstruating age or below the age of 50 who, it claimed, have visited the Sabarimala temple after the Supreme Court’s verdict in September.
The Kerala government on Friday informed the Supreme Court that 51 female devotees of menstrual age had entered the shrine. However, several media reports have said that most of the names and phone numbers mentioned on the list turned out to be of women over 50 years of age or of men.
CPI(M) leader and Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran told The Indian Express that the list was based on an online registration system which did not have a way to verify the applicants ages or identities. “A lot of women in the age group of 10 to 50 had registered their names for darsan [offer prayers at the shrine],” Surendran said. “Of them, 51 had taken the queue. We don’t know whether they had darsan or not. It is not an affidavit but only a list. If someone in the list now says that her age was above 50, let them do so.”
Civil servant Kanakadurga and law lecturer Bindu Ammini – who became the first of menstruating age to enter Sabarimala and offer prayers on January 2 – were not on the state government’s list as they had not registered online. They went into hiding after receiving threats following their entry into the temple.
The government has promised to correct discrepancies, if any, in the list, Manorama Online reported. Quoting unidentified government lawyers, the report said the government had not submitted the list to the Supreme Court. “We just mentioned about the list,” the lawyers said.
A report in The Indian Express, however, quoted top government sources who said that the state did not think the list would get publicised when they filed it in court.
There have been massive protests across the state since the Supreme Court, in September, allowed women of menstruating age to enter the shrine, scrapping an age-old tradition.
Reactions to the list
Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar said the organisation did not have information on the 51 women who, according to the government, had visited the temple. “I am not aware. At the same time, I can’t say anything about the report of the government in the court,’’ Padmakumar said.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala accused the government of trying to cheat the Supreme Court. “The government told the court that 51 women have visited the temple,” Chennithala, a Congress leader, said. “But, when media contacted the people figured in the list, it was revealed that most of them were above 50. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should explain why the government gave a wrong report in the court.”
BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai claimed the state government was trying to take the attention away from the “humiliation it had faced” because of the protests. “The wrong report was meant to influence the review petition pending in the Supreme Court,” Pillai said.