- Sabarimala temple opens today for annual pilgrimage season
- State government non-committal on protecting women between 10 and 50
- Security heightened around hill shrine, over 10,000 cops deployed
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. Let them go get a court order," he said.
Pune-based women's right activist Trupti Desai said she will go to the shrine even if she is not provided protection by the state government. "I will come there for the fundamental rights of women. I am also a pilgrim. God never told us not to come. This is not activism. We have the court's order too. The government should respect the court order and give protection to us," Ms Desai told NDTV today.
"The matter could be finalized after a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court decides on a few other things, which means one thing is clear to all of us, that the verdict in 2018 was not the final one," Save Sabarimala Campaign spokesperson Deepa Rahul Easwar told NDTV today. "What's stopping people like Trupti Desai from waiting for a few months before the final verdict comes out?" Ms Easwar said.
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 on their own. 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.
On Thursday, the top court said the decision to end the ban on women between 10 and 50 entering the 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.
The Kerala government had supported the verdict, maintaining that the judiciary was permitted to set aside religious practices that violate fundamental rights. With the top court now referring the review petitions to a larger bench, the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP have both demanded that the temple administration be allowed to restore the earlier tradition.
Pathanamthitta District Collector PB Nooh has said that all basic necessities such as toilets, water kiosks and medical emergency centres are in place as Sabarimala opened today. The state road transport service said 150 buses will be deployed to help devotees cover the 18-km journey between the Pamba and Nilakkal base camps.