Thousands protest Sabarimala order, devotees threaten suicide in Kerala
With days left for the Sabarimala temple to open for monthly poojas, thousands of Ayyappa devotees took to the streets in Kochi on Saturday against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups into Sabarimala temple, even as activist Trupti Desai announced plans to visit the hill shrine soon.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which decided to implement the ruling, held a meeting to evaluate preparations carried out for pilgrims arriving at the temple which will open for monthly poojas on Wednesday. Though the government has not reacted to Desai’s planned trip to the temple, it has evoked sharp reactions from devotees and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is campaigning against the entry of women into the shrine.
Sasikumar Varma, member of Padalam’s ex-royal criticised Desai and urged the social activist to refrain from making any ‘provocative’ move. He urged the Left government to take steps to prevent any law and order situation. Desai, the ‘Bhumata Brigade’ leader, said in Mumbai that she along with a group of women will visit the temple “shortly” to offer prayers. “We will visit Sabarimala shortly. The ongoing agitation by devotees is the violation of the Supreme Court verdict. I appeal agitating devotees to welcome those women who come for worship at the hill shrine. I want to ask the Congress and the BJP whether they are against the fundamental rights of women. The parties should also explain their stand on this,” Desai said.
Holding placards bearing pictures of Lord Ayyappa and chanting hymns, protesters marched through the busy roads of Kochi, the state’s commercial hub, after launching the stir from a Shiva temple there. The faithful, a large number of them women, urged the Central and state governments to intervene in the matter to protect the sanctity of the centuries-old rituals and traditions of the shrine.
Meanwhile, the march led by BJP-headed National Democratic Alliance reached Kollam district on Saturday. BJP state president, P S Sreedharan Pillai, who lead the rally, said Desai was visiting Sabarimala as she perceived it to be a challenge rather than a pilgrimage. “It is a dangerous approach. She should desist from visiting the shrine and should not make Sabarimala a tension zone. I do not know if she is a devotee or not. But she is coming to add fuel to the fire,” Pillai said. Claiming that the NDA rally was getting tremendous support from all sections of people, the leader said the march would reach Thiruvananthapuram on October 15.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena’s Thiruvananthapuram district secretary Peringamala Aji threatened mass immolation if women try to break the age-old tradition of the temple. “Our women workers are ready to die. We can’t digest such an insult. The Kerala government and Travancore Devasom Board are playing with fire,” he said. Though Shiv Sena has little following in the state the party has been taking a belligerent stand on Sabariamala issue since the verdict.
Activist Rahul Easwar, who announced a hunger strike at Sabarimala during the five-day monthly pooja period, said they will stop Trupti Desai if she attempts to visit the Temple.