Thiruvananthapuram: The TDB, which administers the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Wednesday decided against filing a review petition against the Supreme Court order lifting the ban on women of menstruating age from entering the shrine, saying it has “no relevance now.”
Meanwhile, four young women devotees approached the Kerala High Court seeking a direction to the state government to provide them security so they could offer prayers at the temple. A division bench comprising justices P R Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran heard their petition and sought the state government’s response to it.
The TDB’s decision not to file a review petition came a day after the Supreme Court listed for hearing 19 such pleas for hearing on 13 November. The Travancore Devaswom Board also resolved not to file a report in the Supreme Court on the situation that prevailed at the shrine and the surrounding areas in the aftermath of its order.
The Special Commissioner for Sabarimala M Manoj had yesterday filed a report in the Kerala High Court voicing apprehension that there could be “frenzied protests and turbulence” during the three-month-long annual pilgrim season beginning 17 November over the Supreme Court’s order allowing girls and women of all age groups to enter the temple.
“During the festival season there will be large crowds in places connected with Sabarimala pilgrimage and these type of protests by frenzied devotees and protestors may lead to crowd turbulence and stampede which may lead to injuries to pilgrims, police and others and loss of life,” Manoj said.
TDB member K P Sankara Das said the board would file a report only if the apex court asked for it. Das told journalists the board would submit its response if the Supreme Court sought its views while considering the review petitions filed already.
“There is no relevance of a review petition by the TDB now,” he said. The TDB had last week decided to approach the Supreme Court with a report on the situation following large-scale protests by Ayyappa devotees over the LDF government’s decision to implement the apex court order.
The board’s decision came a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said his government disfavoured filing a review plea and wanted the Supreme Court verdict enforced. Vijayan had also criticised the temple head priest and the Pandalam royal family, associated with the Sabarimala temple for ages, on Tuesday.
He slammed head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru over his reported remark that he would lock the temple doors and go away if women of “barred” age group entered the premises, and asserted the TDB and not the erstwhile Pandalam royalty was the custodian of the shrine.
The Pandalam royal family that once owned the temple criticised Vijayan on Wednesday with its representative Sasikumar Varma saying the temple belonged to devotees who had the right to question any violation of its customs and traditions.
“We have never asked to close down the temple. We are not prepared for any compromise on customs and traditions. The family is not eyeing the wealth of Ayyappa temple,” he told reporters. Varma asserted the royal family still had rights over the temple.
The Congress, meanwhile, threw its weight behind the ‘Tantri‘, the head priest of Sabarimala, calling his criticism by the Chief Minister an “onslaught” on Ayyappa devotees the world over. Ramesh Chennithala, the leader of the opposition, said the Tantri was the “final authority” on deciding about the rituals to be performed at the temple and the traditions to be followed.
“His (Vijayan’s) attack against the head priest is an onslaught on the devotees of Lord Ayyappa across the world,” he said. Later addressing an LDF convention at Kollam, Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, reaffirmed that his government would not go for a review of the Supreme Court verdict.
Vijayan said the LDF government’s stand of enforcing the SC order was unchanged. “The LDF is of the view that there should not be any gender inequality and discrimination. The state government’s endeavour is to only implement the Supreme Court verdict.”
Attacking the BJP-RSS combine, Vijayan said while secularism was enshrined in the Constitution, it was trying to destroy the secular fabric of the state on Sabarimala issue. He, however, insisted the number of such elements was “minuscule,” and asked secular people to isolate them.
Meanwhile, Kerala police chief Loknath Behera held a meeting with his top officers to review the security arrangements to be put in place at the hill shrine for the upcoming Mandala-Makaravillaku season beginning 17 November. According to sources, suggestions were made to restrict the crowd at ‘Sannidhanam‘ (temple complex) during the festival period.