While speaking at the mass gathering organized by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said that the left has always stood for gender equality.
“Women, too, have the right to worship in a temple like any other women. This government is committed to implementing the Supreme Court verdict. The government can only proceed as per the constitution. The government does not want a confrontation with believers, we are taking a stand where everyone’s beliefs can coexist,” he said. LDF mega show of strength in Thiruvananthapuram with just a few hours to go for the temple to be opened as part of the monthly pooja.
Vijayan also took the opportunity to attack the BJP and the Congress which has already launched multiple agitations in the state against the verdict. “Some people are using this opportunity to destroy the secular fabric of our state. All religious followers should unanimously fight against this. The Supreme Court has said that the restriction for women between the age of 10 and 50 is against the constitution. That’s why it has been lifted. So we cannot pass an ordinance or make a new law to overcome this. There is no point in criticizing the state government for this,” he said.
On Wednesday evening the Sabarimala temple will be open for devotees for the first time after the Supreme Court has pronounced the verdict. On Tuesday, the protesters already started checking private vehicles at Nilakkal, the base camp to Sabarimala. They prevented women of the “banned” age group from trekking to the holy hill. Groups of women devotees including senior citizens, clad in traditional sarees, could be seen stopping each and every vehicle at Nilackal, the base camp located about 20 km away from Sabarimala hilltop. Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out of it. Very few police personnel were present when the incidents happened.
chief minister clarified that the CPI(M)-led state government decided against filing a review petition against the apex court verdict since it believed that women, like men, enjoyed the right to offer worship.
“The SC declared the ban on women from entering Sabarimala as unconstitutional. Some people are asking why the government isn’t filing a review petition. When it comes to issue of equality, women enjoy the same right as men to offer worship. That’s why the government decided against filing review petition. Where rule of law exists, the government can only adopt this position,” he said.
The government was duty bound to implement the supreme court verdict. The government was bound to abide by the law and cannot take a stand contrary to that just because some people were stirring up passions, he asserted.
“The apex court verdict did not come out of the blue. The India young lawyers association filed the writ petition seeking women’s entry in 2006. The ones who approached the court have close links to the RSS. Since the then LDF government was made respondent in the case, it had to file an affidavit. The government submitted an affidavit saying it was not opposed to women’s entry,” he said.
“The subsequent UDF government did not alter the affidavit until 2016 but maybe with an eye on elections they submitted a fresh affidavit in 2016 opposing women’s entry. When the current LDF government came to power, we told the court we stood by the affidavit filed in 2007 by the then LDF government. Now that the supreme court verdict has come, the government is bound to implement it. Traditions undergo change with time. We must understand that” Pinarayi Vijayan added.
“It was in 1991 that the Kerala High Court came out with judgment prohibiting women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple. We know that there have been instances before 1991 when women have entered the temple as part of film shoots and chooroonu rituals of their children,” the Chief Minister said. “The Supreme Court didn’t decide to come up with the verdict, allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala all of a sudden,” he said. The Chief Minister went on to say that the government was prepared to follow whatever the Supreme Court ordered. “Even if the SC prohibited the entry of women to Sabarimala, we would have followed that, even if we were against it,” he said.
“As it has decreed that this prohibition on women from the temple is against the basic principles of the Constitution, the government is bound to follow it. Such a rigid judgement cannot be circumvented by the government. Much like the judicial reform related to sati, child marriage and women’s right to property, this decision is meant to act as a safeguard to human rights.”
“Rituals and traditions should change with time. In the past, you could only enter the temple after having a bath in the pond. That is not the case now. Earlier, women did not have any right to inherit property. But is that the case now?” he asked.
Citing the examples of Sree Narayana Guru and Ayyankali, Pinarayi Vijayan said that some rituals and traditions are meant to be broken, and that the state of Kerala is what it is today by breaking many rituals.
“There is an attempt to create misconception among the faithful. They are trying to convince the people that the LDF government has committed a great crime. The LDF and its government have always stood for the rights of the faithful to live according to their beliefs. The government has adopted the same stand on Sabarimala also,’’ he said.
Referring to the BJP-led protest over Sabarimala, Vijayan said the Sangh Parivar has been demanding right over several places of worship in the country. “If everything is based on faith what will happen tomorrow? The real target of those forces is to destroy the secular mind of the state. All should come forward to defeat the attempt to destroy this secular mindset,’’ he said.
The Sabarimala temple was once owned by the royal family of Pandalam, and its administration was handed over to the then princely state of Travancore in 1949. The Travancore Devaswom Board had convened a meeting of the thantri and royal family, who have the final say in the traditions and rituals at the temple. The stakeholders walked out of the meeting as the Devasom Board refused to take a quick decision on filing a review petition against the verdict.
After the meeting, Devaswom Board president A Padmakumar said, “The royal family and thantri wanted that a decision on (filing a) review petition should be taken today itself. Besides, they demanded that the status quo be maintained regarding the entry of women (between the ages of 10-50) when monthly ritual begins. It is not possible for the board to go against the Supreme Court verdict,” Padmakumar said.
He added that the board would meet on October 19 to decide the legal course of action, including moving a review petition in the apex court.
Kerala has been witnessing intense protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees, including women, and right-wing outfits against the implementation of the apex court verdict. The temple will be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly puja.