Hours after Kerala government's decision prohibiting entry of devotees into the famous hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has responded to the opposition critique of "hasty reopening of religious places" in the state.
"Imagine what would have happened if Kerala had not allowed religious places to open? They would have said that the state government is not taking into consideration the feelings of believers. Our decisions were based on discussions with representatives from all religions," said Mr Vijayan.
Union Minister V Muraleedharan had earlier questioned "the haste shown" in reopening the places of worship in Kerala.
After the decision against opening the Sabarimala temple for devotees, the Junior Minister said that the Pinarayi Vijayan government has been "forced to accept the wish of Ayyappa devotees".
"Victory for Ayyappa devotees! Pinarayi Vijayan government was forced to accept the wish of Ayyappa devotees not to open the Sabarimala temple for darshan amidst the rising COVID19 cases in Kerala," the BJP minister said in a tweet.
Religious places in Kerala were allowed to reopen from Tuesday after over 75 days, as part of Centre's "Unlock1".
The Centre allowed reopening of places of worship, malls and restaurants from June 9 onwards across the country after they remained out of bounds since March 25.
"Some of the religious places agreed to reopen with precautions. State did not oppose that. State is not adamant. However, the decision of those against reopening must be appreciated, keeping the circumstances in mind," Mr Vijayan said.
The decision against reopening the Sabarimala temple - one of the most popular shrines in the country that draws lakhs of pilgrims each year - was taken after discussions with the chief priest of the temple, who has written a letter raising concerns over spike in coronavirus cases, informed Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
The Sabarimala chief priest, in a letter, had raised concerns about temple rituals getting affected if any devotee tests positive for the virus.
The temple festival, which was likely to be held in June, has also been cancelled. The rituals by priests, however, will continue within the temple.