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Sabarimala temple a symbol of secularism, anyone can enter it: Kerala high court

The hill shrine of Sabarimala is a symbol of secularism and devotees of all religions can enter it, the Kerala High Court observed on Monday dismissing a BJP leader’s demand to impose a ban on non-Hindus in the temple, saying such demands will disrupt the state’s secular fabric.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2018 22:19 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Sabarimala temple,secularism,Kerala high court
Protesters gather after a lady devotee trekked up with her family to Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta on October 20, 2018. (PTI)

The hill shrine of Sabarimala is a symbol of secularism and devotees of all religions can enter it, the Kerala High Court observed on Monday dismissing a BJP leader’s demand to impose a ban on non-Hindus in the temple, saying such demands will disrupt the state’s secular fabric.

BJP Intellectual Cell leader T G Mohandas had filed the plea arguing that the “non-idol worshippers’ entry into the temple violates the Kerala Places of Public Worship Act, 1965”.

He had sought an inquiry into the alleged “police attempt” to take non-idol worshippers to the temple.

Mohandas’s plea was filed presumably in reaction to the police’s attempt to escort model-turned-activist Rehana Fatima into the temple on October 19.

Fatima had tried to enter the temple after the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict overturned the centuries-old practice of barring women in the menstruating age (10-50 age group) from the shrine since it is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, a celibate deity.

Hundreds of people have been arrested for defying the verdict and preventing women in the 10-50 age group from entering the shrine.

Fatima and Kavitha Jakkala, a journalist from Andhra Pradesh, had reached within 50 metres of the hilltop temple complex in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district when the police took them back after the Sabarimala priests threatened to close the shrine in protest.

The BJP, which is trying to make inroads into Kerala, on Sunday announced a ‘Rath Yatra’ to save the temple’s customs and traditions. The party has opposed the entry of all women into the shrine as part of its efforts to increase its influence in the state.

BJP chief Amit Shah had on Saturday extended the party’s support to devotees opposing the entry of menstruating women into the shrine.

The court on Monday said that the temple welcomed devotees from all faiths and remained a symbol of communal harmony. It noted the devotees of Lord Ayyappa have to pray first at a mosque named after his Muslim disciple, saint Vavar Swami, before offering prayers at the temple.

“Sabarimala is a symbol of secularism. Anyone one can go to the temple,” a division bench of justice R Ramachandran and justice Devan Ramachandran observed.

The bench criticised the petitioner, saying the tone and tenor of the petition tends to disrupt the society’s secular fabric. It also said a devotee can go to the temple without ‘Irumudikettu (offerings including rice, ghee, camphor, incense sticks, and turmeric powder’). “...those who want to enter without it can go through another entrance,” it said.

The court scheduled the next hearing in the case two weeks later to hear the state government and Travancore Devaom Board, which runs the temple. It separately disposed of a plea of four women lawyers for police protection to offer prayers at the temple.

First Published: Oct 29, 2018 20:37 IST