Thiruvananthapuram: As the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala opens today for the 41-day annual pilgrimage season, the Kerala government has said that the shrine is “no place for activism” and the activists hoping to make a statement by taking up the pilgrimage will not be given police protection. The state government is also non-committal about giving protection to women between the age of 10-50 years of age who were allowed to enter the shrine last year after the top court lifted the centuries-old ban on their entry. The Sabarimala shrine will open this evening at 5 pm two days after the Supreme Court referred the review petitions against its 2018 verdict to a seven-judge bench. Security has been heightened around the hill shrine with deployment of more than 10,000 cops in four phases.
Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:
- In a statement on Friday, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that women seeking protection to visit the shrine will have to get a court order. “This (Sabarimala shrine) is not a place for activism. This is not a place for activists like Trupti Desai to show their strength. We won’t take them in. Let them go get a court order,” he said.
- The Kerala Minister also asked mediapersons to exercise restraint during the holy period. “Interviewing activists and whipping up a frenzy is not what the media must be engaging in… It is obvious that there will be attempts by certain sections to get some political mileage, but the media shouldn’t be party to this,” he said.
- Pune-based women’s right activist Trupti Desai, who tried to defy the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstruating age to Sabarimala shrine last year too, on Friday said that she will go to the shrine after November 20 even if she is not provided protection by the state government. “I will go to Sabarimala after November 20. We will seek protection from the Kerala government and it is upto them to give us protection or not. Even if not provided with protection, I will visit Sabarimala for the darshan,” said Ms Desai.
- The temple board has echoed the state government’s views, adding that it has sought a legal advice after the top court order on Thursday. Travancore Devaswom Board president N Vasu on Friday said, “We don’t ask men or women to come to Sabarimala. Devotees come by themselves. As we need some clarity on young women entering the temple after the recent Supreme Court order, we have asked for legal advice.”
- Last year, the Supreme Court had, by a majority verdict of 4:1, ended the centuries-old ban on women and girls between 10 and 50 – or those of a menstrual age — from entering the famous Ayyappa shrine, calling the religious practice “illegal and unconstitutional”. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right of every individual to practice their faith.
- More than 60 petitions were filed after the Supreme Court’s September 2018 verdict sparked violent protests in Kerala. The petitions argued that the temple deity is a “Brahmachari” (celibate) and “centuries-old beliefs” should not be disturbed by the entry of menstruating women worshippers. The opposition parties including UDF and BJP have also been demanding that the state government must not allow women of menstruating age to the shrine.
- On Thursday, the top court said the decision to end the ban on women between 10 and 50 entering Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple in Pathanamthitta district will be taken up by a larger seven-judge bench.
- Reading out a majority verdict on Thursday, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the question of whether women of all ages should be allowed into Sabarimala is part of a larger debate that includes issues like allowing Muslim and Parsi women to enter religious practice and female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
- As the shrine opens, Pathanamthitta District Collector PB Nooh has said that all basic necessities such as toilets, water kiosks and medical emergency centres are in place. “All basic arrangements are in place. We have deployed over 800 medical staff and established 16 medical emergency centres. Around 2,400 toilets and more than 250 water kiosks are ready. We have more than 1,000 sanitation workers deployed to ensure a clean atmosphere,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
- The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation said it has decided to be deploy 150 buses to transport devotees between the Pamba and Nilakkal base camps, about 18 km away.
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