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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

Sabarimala devotees fear pilgrimage to shrine will not be trouble-free

Most residents of Pathanamthitta district where the famous temple is located share the traders’ anxiety that peace will be shattered if women enter Sabarimala again.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2019 19:30 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
A view of pilgrims at the Sabarimala Sannidhanam or the main temple complex in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
A view of pilgrims at the Sabarimala Sannidhanam or the main temple complex in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.(HT PHOTO.)
         

When shops lining two base camps and the hill top temple in Sabarimala were auctioned last month, worried traders asked the State Dewasom (temple affairs) minister, Kadakampally Surendran for an assurance that the police will not take women to the Sabarimala temple again. They received none and the angry minister told them not to intimidate the government.

Most residents of Pathanamthitta district where the famous temple is located share the traders’ anxiety that peace will be shattered if women enter Sabarimala again. To add to their chagrin, some women activists like those of the Chennai-based Maniti Sangam and Pune’s Bhumata Brigade have announced that they will trek to the temple in the peak pilgrimage season beginning November 16, while those opposed to the entry of women have vowed to block their path. Other women who had aborted their trips due to resistance last year, have said they, too, will try their luck again this year.

The temple authorities have reportedly received 45 online applications for darshan from women. Two people had died in the protracted violence over the inflammatory issue, while many were injured when protesting devotees had physically blocked women from entering the temple last year.

And all the while, many political parties have kept the issue boiling with an eye on state assembly elections due in 17 months.

The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday provided some relief to protesting devotees by referring a clutch of review petitions to a larger bench. However, it did not stay the verdict of September 2018, which allowed women of all ages to worship at the temple. Legal experts say that if women want to visit Sabarimala, the government is bound to offer them protection.

“I have four cases against me. I will go this time again and block women if they try to enter the temple. It is my duty to protect my favourite deity, ” said P Abilash, an engineering student, who spent 40 days at a tea shop disguised as a helper, only to participate in the protests at the hilltop shrine. The cases against him were lodged for rioting and flouting prohibitory orders but Abilash is unrepentant.

The Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an apex body of Hindu outfits formed in the wake of last year’s protests, said it will prevent women from trying to enter the temple. “We hope good sense will prevail on the government. If it tries to fool devotees again, we will resist it fiercely,” said Hindu Akiya Vedi leader R V Babu.

Bindu Ammini, one of the two women who first entered the temple last year, said that the latest verdict was really disappointing and that the government was bound to protect women if they wanted to trek to the temple. Ammini also criticized the SC for ‘clubbing’ the Sabarimala case with that of other faiths and holds out little hope for a fair verdict. “I feel it (the case) will face the fate of the Ayodhya verdict in which the court kept to the majoritarian view,” she said in Kannur.

Meanwhile, traders are unwilling to take a risk and at least 60 per cent of the shops which provide the main revenue for Sabarimala, remain unsold. Last year, most of them had suffered huge losses due to violence and also fewer footfalls. They also say that the police harassed and accused them of sheltering trouble-makers.

“Last year, the Devasom board had auctioned shops and business establishments for Rs 60 crore in the base camps, along the trekking path and on the hill top. But this time, it could manage sales of only Rs 18 crore,” said K Prasad, a spokesperson for traders.