Kerala gets cold feet on women at Sabarimala

Cheryl Sanders
November 17, 2019

He has advised the government to wait for the apex court's larger bench verdict before taking a call on allowing women from the restricted age group to have darshan. The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had, on November 14, in a 3:2 verdict made a decision to refer the issue to a larger bench to re-examine religious issues including those arising out of its 2018 verdict lifting a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the hilltop shrine. The state government on Friday said it would not protect women's rights activists who plan to visit the temple. Few publications have said that she would go to the shrine after 20 November, but PTI reported she would be reaching on 17 November.

But that decision is now in question, after the Supreme Court agreed Thursday to review its landmark ruling.

The CPI (M) State secretariat that met here on Friday decided against granting entry of women to the temple. The temple was opened to devotees for the annual two-month pilgrimage season at 5 pm. "Saying that we should get an order from the court to get police protection amounts to disrespecting the Supreme Court's judgement", news agency ANI quoted the Pune-based activist as saying. Women police constables have been deployed in the area.

"As we need some clarity on young women entering the temple after the recent Supreme Court order, we have asked for legal advice", he said.

"If someone thinks that they can exploit the devotees by spreading lies and turn them against the government, let me tell you, it's not going to happen", he said.

Last year, the police provided security to women who faced stiff resistance from activists of some right-wing forces and chased them away.

Travancore Devaswom Board president N Vasu, who took over the post from A Padmakumar today, also expressed a similar opinion.

A top court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday referred review petitions on its earlier Sabarimala verdict to a seven-judge bench while widening the ambit of the debate to look into gender discrimination across religions. The police informed that they have convinced the women regarding the customs in Sabarimala and other issues related to it.

The resting places for the devotees at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam has already been set up along with medical, water and toilet facilities.

The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala, is situated on a hilltop about 4000 feet above sea level- Sabarimala.

The devotees have to trek through hard paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to pamba.

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