While the Supreme Court has allowed women of all ages to continue visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, the Kerala government on Friday clarified that activists hoping to make a statement by taking up the pilgrimage will not be given police protection. "This is not a place for activism. This is not a place for activists like Trupti Desai to show their strength. We won't take them in. Let them go get a court order," said Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
Mr Surendran reiterated the government's stand that it has sought legal advice to gain better insight into a recent Supreme Court verdict on the Sabarimala issue. "The earlier situation was different, when there was a strong Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter. That is not the situation now, given that the case is being heard by a larger bench," he said.
A top court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday referred review petitions on its earlier Sabarimala verdict to a seven-judge bench while widening the ambit of the debate to look into gender discrimination across religions. It, however, did not stay its 2018 majority decision that allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple.
In his statement, the Kerala Minister also asked mediapersons to exercise restraint during the holy period. "Interviewing activists and whipping up a frenzy is not what the media must be engaging in... It is obvious that there will be attempts by certain sections to get some political mileage, but the media shouldn't be party to this," he said.
Trupti Desai, however, remained firm in her resolve to undertake the Sabarimala pilgrimage. "The government can decide whether we should be provided protection, but we'll definitely go there. Saying that we should get an order from the court to get police protection amounts to disrespecting the Supreme Court's judgement," news agency ANI quoted the Pune-based activist as saying.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government had decided to seek legal advice on the Sabarimala verdict hours after it was delivered on Thursday. "The government will implement whatever the Supreme Court says. As of now, we understand that the Supreme Court judgement of September 28 is still in place, but are unclear about the implications of this judgment. As we will have to seek expert opinion on the matter, we will need more time," the Chief Minister said at a press meet then.
Travancore Devaswom Board president N Vasu, who took over the post from A Padmakumar today, also expressed a similar opinion. "We don't ask men or women to come to Sabarimala. Devotees come by themselves. As we need some clarity on young women entering the temple after the recent Supreme Court order, we have asked for legal advice," he said.
The issue in question was a Supreme Court order from last year that allowed women of all ages into the Ayyappa shrine, ending a centuries-old ban. The Kerala government had supported the verdict, maintaining that the judiciary was permitted to set aside religious practices that violate fundamental rights. However, 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.
(With inputs from ANI)