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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Year after Sabarimala verdict, devotees facing cases feel let down

The 23-year-old is facing three cases and can’t apply for a government job or go abroad. But he has no regrets. A right-wing sympathiser he said he did everything for his God, Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of Sabarimala.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2019 08:22 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
As the first anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict passed off peacefully on September 28, a majority of protesters feel what they did was right and another section says political parties have dropped them like hot potatoes.
As the first anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict passed off peacefully on September 28, a majority of protesters feel what they did was right and another section says political parties have dropped them like hot potatoes.(PTI Photo)
         

Arjun Jayakumar lost his job as a secretary with a private firm after he spent 12 days in the Poojapura Central Jail in Thiruvananthapuram in connection with last year’s agitation over the Sabarimala temple.

The 23-year-old is facing three cases and can’t apply for a government job or go abroad. But he has no regrets. A right-wing sympathiser he said he did everything for his God, Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of Sabarimala.

A relatively peaceful state Kerala had witnessed large-scale violence and five shutdowns in two months following the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to pray at the Sabarimala hill temple last year.

For the first time, more than 50,000 people were booked and many jails were packed to the brim.

As the first anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict passed off peacefully on September 28, a majority of protesters feel what they did was right and another section says political parties have dropped them like hot potatoes.

A regular at the hill shrine, Jayakumar said he’s worried now and that he never expected anything positive from the Communist government in the state but pinned much hope on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre.

He said though the Centre is hiding behind technicalities he’s sure it will not let down devotees like him. Injured during a baton charge, doctors have advised him rest but he has to keep the hearth burning so he’s working as a sales executive in an automobile shop.

“Besides baton charge, I was also tortured in police custody in Ranni police camp. I can’t stand too long now. I did everything for my faith. But I haven’t lost all hope either,” he said.

Many like him had spent days together at the hill shrine nestled in the Western Ghats and nearby areas after the verdict keeping a vigil on women in the 10-50 age groups.

P Abilash, an engineering student, spent 40 days at a tea shop disguised as a helper. He also has four cases against him for rioting, violence against women and flouting prohibitory orders.

He said he’s getting legal aid from the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an apex body of Hindu outfits formed in the wake of the temple struggle, but many others complained they find it difficult running from one court to another.

“My uncle Chandran Unnithan (56) sacrificed his life during the struggle. When he was leading a hymn-chanting procession, stones were pelted from the CPI(M) office in Pandalam. Injured badly, he died on the spot. We lost him badly but we hope his sacrifice won’t be wasted,” said his niece M Mini adding she is hoping against hope.

Protesters are worried because many political parties, including the BJP, which exploited the issue to the hilt are silent now. During the campaign for the Lok Sabha election, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had said “sacrifices of devotees won’t be wasted”.

They expected an announcement after the second Modi government came to power but they were taken aback when Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad said the Centre had no plan for legislation on the issue.

As the ruling CPI(M) and Congress scaled up their attack on the eve of five assembly by-polls, which is being touted as the semi-final before the assembly election due in 18 months, the BJP defended its position.

“What the Union minister said is since review petitions are pending before the apex court the government can’t take a decision now. We don’t need a certificate from our opponents on the issue,” said party general secretary K Surendran, also a candidate in Konni (Pathanamthitta) assembly constituency.

Having burnt its fingers, the CPI(M) is treading cautiously after the party had lost on all but one seat in the general elections and the temple issue was cited for the drubbing. It has also forced to lean ‘right’ a bit carrying out a state campaign saying it was never against believers.

“The BJP and Congress cheated believers,” maintained Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

But the Congress reiterated that if the Union government brings legislation it will support it. As the blame game goes devotees who face innumerable cases are a worried lot as they hop from one court to another.

Bindu Ammini, one of two women of menstruating age who entered the hill temple last year making history, said she too is worried over some of the progressive outfits diluting their stance for vote bank politics.

“We thought a steady flow of women after our entry. But it did not happen,” she lamented.