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Not 51, only two women entered Sabarimala, Kerala government concedes

The Kerala government had told the Supreme Court in January that said 51 women had entered the Sabarimala temple since the top court’s order last September that no woman can be stopped from entering the temple.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2019 17:04 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Sabarimala,Ayyappa temple,Kerala govt
Bindu Ammini (R) and Kanakadurga (L), the two women from Kerala who entered the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala on January 2. (AFP)

The CPI(M)-led Kerala Government on Monday retracted from its earlier statement that 51 women had entered the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala saying it has proof to show only two women actually entered the shrine.

The U-turn came two days before the Supreme Court is expected to take up a bunch of review petitions challenging its September 28 verdict allowing women of all ages to worship at the temple. Replying to question in the assembly, temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran said the temple executive officer had submitted report saying only two women entered the temple. When opposition members asked about the earlier list he did not give a reply.

In the report submitted by the executive officer only two names figured - Bindu Ammini and Kanakagurga - who trekked to the temple in the early hours of January 2 under heavy police protection. A week after this, the government had claimed a Sri Lankan pilgrim Sasikala (48) also made it to the shrine but her name was not there in the list.

On January 18 the state government had submitted a list the Supreme Court that said 51 women have entered the Sabarimala temple since the top court’s order in September that no woman can be stopped from entering the temple.

But the government’s claim soon backfired with many women pilgrims who figured in the list saying their age was fudged. Some male pilgrims who have similar names as women, also figured in the list. A red-faced government was forced to remove 34 names from the list and asked the state police chief to inquire how the goof up took place.

The opposition Congress and BJP had criticised the government for submitting a “fake statement” to the apex court. Among 51, not a single woman figured from Kerala and majority of them (24) were from neighboring Tamil Nadu. The first in the list Padmavati Dasari, a native of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, said she was 55 but her age in the government list was 48.

The Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an apex body comprising many Hindu outfits, has sought an apology from chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“The CM had said several times that more than 100 women entered the temple. He was heaping insult on believers. The government will have to pay a heavy price for hurting their sentiments,” said its leader K P Sasikala.

Protests by right wing groups and devotees have rocked Kerala since the Supreme Court ruled that the temple can’t shut its doors to women.

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 17:00 IST