Sabarimala: BJP, Congress launch marches through Kerala against SC verdict
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Sabarimala: BJP, Congress launch marches through Kerala against SC verdict

While the Left Democratic Front government supported the entry of the women to the temple and vowed to implement the verdict, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have backed the devotees protesting against violation of traditions and blocking woman devotees under 50 years of age.

india Updated: Nov 08, 2018 21:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Sabarimala,Supreme Court,BJP
The BJP and the Congress have launched protest marches across Kerala against the Supreme Court verdict opening the hilltop shrine to women of all ages, which has been opposed by devotees (File photo) (PTI)

Days before the Supreme Court takes up review petitions against its Sabarimala judgment allowing entry of women of all ages, the BJP and Congress on Thursday launched protest marches through the state in support of traditions of the hilltop temple.

With the annual pilgrimage season to the temple in Pathanamthitta starting November 16, the apex court will November 13 hear a set of petitions challenging its verdict, and many in Kerala, including police, hope that it will give the state reasonable time for implementing the order.

The temple had witnessed violent protests when it opened twice after the verdict for monthly pooja on October 17 and just-concluded one-day Sree Chithirayattam festival, with devotees foiling various women’s attempts to trek to the hilltop temple. The state crime branch and other security agencies have warned if the protests continued during the pilgrimage season, it may lead to a disaster. “Sabarimala is a ticking bomb. If it continues to burn, it is a recipe for a major disaster,” said a senior crime branch official who did not want to be identified.

The temple had witnessed two major accidents that claimed over 200 lives: On January 14, 1999, a stampede in the foothills left 53 dead and in 2011, 104 pilgrims died on Makara Jyothi Day at Pullumedu in another stampede.

Police face another peculiar problem. Many senior officials admit that a major section of personnel have a mental block in discharging their duty due to deep-rooted religious beliefs. Some of them are torn between their duty and belief, said the official adding if the violent situation continued, the state may seek deployment of central paramilitary forces.

While the Left Democratic Front government supported the entry of the women to the temple and vowed to implement the verdict, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have backed the devotees protesting against violation of traditions.

On Thursday, senior BJP leader and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yedyurappa flagged off the NDA yatra to Pathanamthitta, jointly led by Kerala BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai and party ally Bhartiya Dharma Jana Sena president Tushar Vellapally from Kasargode in north Kerala.

Five senior Congress leaders, including K Sudhakaran and K Muralidharan, are leading rallies from five places in the state.

Both the BJP and Congress blame the state government, saying its affidavit in the apex court had resulted in the verdict. But after initial outbursts the Congress has mellowed a bit but the saffron party hardened its position eyeing a split in majority votes, say political pundits. In a recent trip to Kerala, BJP president Amit Shah had pledged support to Sabarimala agitation and blamed courts for “delivering verdicts that are not practical and feasible on the ground.”

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court said the ongoing protest against women entry was unacceptable and it will set a bad precedent. Its observation came as it rejected the bail plea of one of the accused arrested in connection with violent incidents. Police have arrested more than 3700 people and registered 600-odd cases in connection with violence.

First Published: Nov 08, 2018 19:34 IST