On Sabarimala row, Amit Shah says emergency-like state in Kerala
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah said on Saturday there was an “Emergency-like” situation in Kerala, as he extended support to Lord Ayyappa devotees who have been protesting a Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala hill shrine.
Police in Kerala have arrested more than 2,000 people over the past few days in a crackdown on protesters who prevented the entry of women to the temple.
In Kannur to inaugurate the new district office of the BJP, Shah said his party will not remain a mute spectator to the “state-sponsored crackdown”. “Today in Kerala, a struggle is on between believers and adamant state government. More than 2,000 activists and workers of BJP, RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and other organisations have been arrested. Our party is with devotees, I warn the Left government to be careful,” he said.
Attacking the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, Shah said it was “playing with fire” in quelling with “brutal force” protests by Ayyappa devotees.
Shah, who began his speech by chanting ‘Swami Saranam,’ a hymn in praise of Lord Ayyappa, said the BJP will stand with Sabarimala devotees on the issue like a rock.
Addressing a BJP workers’ meet in Kannur, a Communist stronghold, Shah said the state government was repressing Hindu culture and “conspiring against temples” by using force.
The Supreme Court last month lifted a centuries-old ban on women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala, a verdict that prompted protests by traditionalists who said the court’s ordered went against their religious sentiments.
The temple, which opened for monthly rituals on October 18 for the first time after the Supreme Court’s verdict, witnessed violent protests. About a dozen women who came to worship at the shrine were prevented from going inside by angry protesters as police baton-charged devotees in two base camps of Pambha and Nilakkal.
Listing court verdicts “that have not been implemented in the past”, including on the bull-taming sport of ‘Jallikattu’ and prohibiting loudspeakers in mosques, Shah said “impractical” directions should not be given by courts and they should only pass orders that can be implemented.
“You concentrate on developing the state rather than attacking the Ayyappa bhakts,” the BJP president said, warning chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan that BJP workers “will not hesitate to pull down the government”.
Hours after the BJP chief’s remarks, Vijayan said Shah’s remarks were an attack on the Supreme Court and the Constitution of India.
“His statement that the apex court should pronounce verdicts that are implementable is nothing but a challenge to the various rights that the Constitution guarantees,” Vijayan wrote in a Facebook post.
“This clearly shows what’s on the mind of Shah is the same that’s there in the minds of the sangh parivar forces,” the Kerala CM said.
“The statement that women should not be allowed entry clearly shows that they (BJP) stand for the male hegemony. I wish to state that this government was elected by the people and not with the help or support of the BJP. People who support democracy should come out against this statement,” he added.
On Friday, the police said they had registered about 450 cases and arrested 2,000 people linked to violent protests against the Supreme Court verdict.
Referring to the police action, Shah said: “A non-believer government is trying to do enough dirty jobs in the name of a verdict.”
Shah said the Hindu religion always respected women and Sabarimala was not a gender issue but of protecting one’s culture and tradition. “We have several temples where men are unwelcome. In Kerala, for example, at Attukal and Chakkulathkavu, men are not allowed to perform offerings. Each deity has a different custom and tradition. We have to respect this diverse nature,” he said.
He said instead of giving relief to the flood-hit people in the state, the government was cracking down on peaceful devotees. “The state is under another Emergency. Even women are not spared and they are getting arrested late at night,” he said.
Responding to the BJP chief’s allegations, the Kerala CM said: “It is a democratically elected government. We came to power not due to Amit Shah’s largesse. He is threatening the government for trying to implement the order of the highest court of the country.”
Shah’s visit to Kannur, a district that has seen members of the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh clashing with workers of the Left parties, is significant as the BJP tries to gain a foothold in the only Left-ruled state in the country.
(With inputs from agencies)