Sabarimala judgment: Congress, BJP step up agitation

Sabarimala judgment: Congress, BJP step up agitation

Members of the Hindu Sena shout slogans as they protest against the Supreme Court decision to allow women of all ages to enter inside the Sabarimala temple, in New Delhi on Thursday. AFP

With Kerala’s Opposition Congress party formally reiterating its position against allowing women of all ages entry to the Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, the stage is set for a political face-off.

The BJP, despite conflicting signals from the RSS, has already stated its intent to oppose the CPM-led state government’s moves to implement the apex court order.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday confirmed that the government would not file a review petition against the September 28 Supreme Court judgment which allowed entry for women of all ages into the temple.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said on Thursday that religious beliefs and rituals should not be tampered with.

"We are still with the 2016 affidavit submitted by the Congress-led Oommen Chandy government which favoured restrictions on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years," Chennithala said.

Chennithala and state Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran met leaders and former presidents of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the administration of the temple to discuss measures in the wake of the judgment.

"(Former TDB president) Prayar Gopalakrishnan will coordinate discussions to ensure that interests of the devotees are protected," Chennithala said.

The Congress' moves are also seen as strategic ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election since the BJP took its time before coming out with its take on the court judgment.

As the Congress prepares for a day-long fast in Pathanamthitta on Friday to protest the judgment, members of the BJP women’s wing, Mahila Morcha, staged a protest near the TDB office on Thursday.

The agitation was organised on a day the party mouthpiece, Janmabhumi, published an article backing the entry of women to the temple.

"The Supreme Court judgment does not impact tenets or rituals connected to the Sabarimala temple. The entry of women in large numbers will only enhance the glory and fame of the temple," R Sanjayan, joint director of the Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, wrote.

The chief minister has stated that the government's role is limited to implementation of the court order. The Congress and BJP have questioned the "rushed" manner in which the order is implemented.

Hindu outfits have already mobilised devotees — including a large number of women — against the judgment. The annual pilgrimage to the hill shrine begins on November 16.