Thiruvananthapuram: Members of the Opposition Congress and BJP in Kerala Friday staged demonstrations to express solidarity with Ayyappa devotees even as the CPI, the key partner in the CPI-M led LDF, said there was an attempt to “politicise” the Supreme Court order on Sabarimala.
The BJP said its protest would not be confined to Kerala and would expand to other South Indian States. CPI State secretary Kannam Rajendran said, “LDF was not against believers. The government was bound to implement the Supreme Court order and it was doing only that.” “There was an attempt to politicse the issue,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state government Friday said work on restoring various pilgrim facilities at Pamba,the foothills of Lord Ayappa at Sabarimala, was progressing fast.
The work was being carried out by Tata Projects Ltd and they have been asked to complete it before 15 November, an official release from the office of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said here.
Tata Projects have been entrusted with restoring basic infrastructure like roads and bridges and also construction of pilgrim facilities at Nilackal, the new base camp of the hill shrine.
Administrative sanctionto the tune of Rs 200 crore has been given to restore and repair roads to Sabarimala. This years annual pilgrimage at the famous Lord Ayappa temple begins on 17 November. Most of the roads toPamba, the base camp for pilgrims was virtually washed away in floods that ravaged the state in August last.
As the protest over the issue hotted up, an actor turned BJP supporter Kollam Thulashi courted controversy for his ‘unsavoury remark against women at a meeting organised by BJP at Kollam. He allegedly said that women on the banned age group should be ripped in half.
A group of Congress activists, including several women staged a dharna in front of an office of the Travancore Devaswom Board, that manages the hill shrine, with the slogan of ‘Protect Sabarimala Temple’.
Inaugurating the ‘devotees gathering,’ KPCC Campaign Committee Chairman K Muraleedharan, MLA, said the state government should file a review petition against the apex court verdict to allow entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala shrine.
Taking a dig at the BJP, which has also launched a protest march over the issue, Muraleedharan said the matter could be resolved if the Centre brings in a law to restrict the Court from interfering in temple customs and tradition. Meanwhile, the ‘Sabarimala Protection’ long-march led by BJP passed through the neighbouring Kollam district.
The march would culminate in the state capital on 15 October. Speaking on the occasion, BJP President P S Sreedharan Pillai criticised the CPI-M led LDF government’s decision to implement the top court order.
He said the saffron party was with the believers and there would be no compromise on that. The party would expand the stir over the issue to South Indian states, from which lakhs of Ayyappa devotees visit the hill shrine during the annual pilgrimage season, he added.
Similarily, a protest dharna was held in front of the secretariat by members of Pandalam Royal family, associated with Lord Ayappa demanding a law to preserve customs and traditions of the hill shrine. Cutting across political lines, Congress leaders V S Sivakumar, MLA, Pandalam Sudhakaran and Suresh Gopi, actor-turned-BJP Rajya Sabha member were among those who participated in the dharna, organised under the banner of ‘Ayappa Dharma Samrakshana Samithi.’
Speaking on the occasion, Pandalam Royal Family member Sasikumara Varma said customs and traditions of Lord Ayyappa Temple cannot be destroyed with a single court order. He also sought to know why there was an ‘infringement’ on the customs of the Sabarimala Temple alone. “Is it because the hill shrine has become famous?” he asked.
The sit-in dharna by activists of the ‘Save Sabarimala Forum’ and ‘Adivasi Samrakshana Samithi’, demanding steps to protect the tradition and rituals of the hill shrine continued for the fifth day at Nilackal in Pathanamthitta district.
The opposition Congress, BJP and various Hindu outfits have launched protests, demanding that the State government file a review petition against the 28 September top court order. But the Left government has maintained that it would not go in for a review of the ruling of the Supreme court.
The LDF also alleged that the ongoing stir over the Lord Ayyappa shrine was to “destabilise‘ the government. On 28 September, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine