Thiruvananthapuram: While protests kept women of menstrual age out of the Sabarimala temple for a second day on Thursday, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which administers the hill shrine, will meet on Friday in Thiruvananthapuram to find a solution to the stand-off. The TDB said it was ready for any sort of a compromise. (Also read: Minister, BJP Chief Cross Swords Over Audio Tape)
Reaching out to devotees through media, TDB president A Padmakumar said, “We are not for any politics over the issue.” PTI quotes him as wondering aloud if filing a review petition in the Supreme Court, against the verdict that allowed women of all age groups inside the temple, would end the impasse. Friday’s meeting comes after an earlier meeting among all the stakeholders ended without reaching a consensus. Representatives of the Pandalam royal family had walked out as the TDB refused to take a decision on filing the review plea.
The Sabarimala temple opened on Wednesday for the first time after the recent apex court order, allowing entry of women of all age groups there. What unfolded on Day 2 was just a repeat of the first day with angry protesters again opposing the entry of women of menstrual age into the hill shrine.
There were sporadic incidents of violence in wake of the ‘hartal’ called by Hindu right groups in Kerala over police action against protesters. No girl or woman in the “banned” age group has been able to visit the shrine since the doors were opened on Wednesday.
The 12-hour bandh called by Sabarimala Samarakashna Samithi, an outfit of devotees, also hit normal life in some parts of the state. The BJP and its allies lent their support to the shutdown. Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad, led by Parvin Togadia, also called for a hartal, demanding that the CPI(M)- led LDF government promulgate an ordinance to get around the apex court verdict. The Congress did not back the strike calls but held demonstrations against police action in several places.
Suhasini Raj, India reporter for The New York Times, along with her colleague, a foreign national, managed to go past the Pamba gateway but was stopped by angry devotees who erected a human wall before her. They were escorted to safety under police escort. “I had reached half way and then the protests grew stronger. I was hit by a stone and then we decided to return. The police had provided us all the security,” said Raj, who had earlier pointed out that she came to do her job to speak to devotees.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinayari Vijayan took to Facebook to allege that the RSS was trying to “destroy” the Lord Ayyappa shrine by “unleashing terror”. Blocking devotees from proceeding to the Ayyappa Temple and forcing them to return by creating terror were part of the RSS-Sangh Parivar’s move to “destroy” Sabarimala, Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
He claimed that right-wing forces had always been disturbed due to the unique nature of Sabarimala temple where devotees, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, offer worship. The saffron groups’ attempt was to destroy this basic quality of the hill shrine and the present developments could be seen as part of that move.”The RSS is trying to destroy the Lord Ayyappa shrine by unleashing terror,” the Chief Minister alleged.
There are three more days to go before the shrine closes on October 22 after the five-day monthly puja.