Sabarimala Temple row: Board ‘won’t file review’ in SC, but will report ‘grave situation’

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages Kerala’s famed Sabarimala shrine, said Friday that it would file a detailed report on the ‘grave situation’ to the Supreme Court of India, in light of the intense protests and agitations against the top court’s order of allowing women from ages 10-50 to enter the Lord Ayyapa shrine, Indian Express reported.

On Friday, two women, an activist and a journalist, attempted to enter the shrine under police escort and were turned back after threats by the temple priest that he would close the temple.

Both women had managed to walk past ‘Marakootam’ along with the police which was also the spot where a woman journalist from New York Times was blocked on Thursday. On her way to the temple, the NYT reporter faced stone pelting from protesters which resulted in her descent.

TDB president, A Padmakumar, who is also a CPI (M) party leader, restated that the board will not file a review petition in the SC. “Already as many as 25 review petitions have come up before the Supreme Court on the Sabarimala issue. The board is a respondent in all the petitions. Hence, we will get a chance to present our side. For now, we are going to furnish a report narrating the grave situation in the wake of the SC verdict,’’ he said.

He also said that senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi will represent the board in the apex court. “The board will consult Singhvi and other advocates in the Kerala High Court on the future course of action. The board has decided to intervene in the issue and none should question our sincerity in this case,’’ he said.

He said that the existing situation at Sabarimala was causing the pilgrims trouble. “The board has the responsibility to implement the court order. At the same time, there is a direction from the Union Government to ensure the pilgrims’ protection. However, the board cannot agree with those who go up the temple with the agenda to demonstrate something. The board does not want to make it a conflict zone. Everyone should show restraint,’’ he said.

Reiterating his statement, CPI (M) leader and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said: “The government wanted to protect the interest of the faithful. Sabarimala should not become a battlefield… activists should not convert a sacred place to show their strength. The government is ready to intervene. It is for protecting the interest of lakhs of devotees. Police should have checked the background of the activists who have gone up to the temple.”

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the TDB has gone back on its promise to move a review petition under political pressure. “The board has betrayed the people. It is acting as per the directions of the CPI (M) and CPI. The board has a responsibility to protect the interest of the people. However, it is interested only in a political decision,’’ he said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan insisted that his government would continue to facilitate the entry of all at the temple. In a post on Facebook, Vijayan, who is abroad, said the government of India has written to the state to ensure strict security for all pilgrims, which shows that police action for security has its support.

Referring to the Sabarimala priest’s threat to close the temple down if young women were allowed to enter, Vijayan said there were similar incidents in the past. “The Travancore government in 1936 had ordered entry for all at Krishna temple at Guruvayur. But, lower castes were not allowed entry till 1947. It was a nine-year-long people’s agitation that led to the entry of all sections of people to the temple. This history reminds us that people’s freedom of worship cannot be denied,” he said.

“It is the government duty to protect all who desire to pray at Sabarimala. A section of people is preventing those who come for darsan as per the SC verdict. The police are engaged in overcoming such attempts and ensuring temple darsan for them.”

Upto six BJP youth activists were detained on Thursday for violating Section 144 by staging a sit-in protest at Nilakkal after a woman journalist was forced to return from her trek to the shrine due to protesters blocking her way and pelting stones.

Section 144 of CrPc was imposed in four places en route to the temple in the wake of the 24-hour hartal called by right-wing activists.

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