Sabrimala chief priests may skip puja as temple opens tomorrow; key talks fail

While temple authorities and devotees are vocally against the Supreme Court verdict to allow women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said that no one would be stopped from visiting the temple.

Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Nilakkal (Kerala)

Women devotees take part in a protest against a Supreme Court verdict revoking a ban on women’s entry into the Sabrimala temple, in Thiruvananthapuram, in Kerala on October 15, 2018. The Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala had traditionally barred all women of menstruating age, between 10 and 50.(AFP)

Talks between the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), the tantri (supreme priest of Sabarimala temple) and the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam to resolve the row over the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple have failed, Sasikumar Verma of the erstwhile Pandalam royal family’s said on Tuesday.

The failure of the talks has raised the tension in the state with devotees intent of stopping women from entering when the temple opens for monthly rituals on Wednesday.

“(The) Board said that they can discuss the review petition on October 19. We’re upset that they’re unwilling to discuss it today. Meeting wasn’t satisfactory. We came out of meeting because they’re not ready to accept our demands,” said Verma, according to news agency ANI.

The erstwhile royal family, which is the custodian of the temple and the temple priests, have been demanding status quo in the hill top shrine and had been pushing the government to file a review petition in the apex court.

In the morning, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan insisted the government would not file a review petition and that no one would be stopped from visiting the temple.

“We will not allow any one take law and order in their hands. The government will ensure facilities to devotees to go to Sabarimala Temple and offer prayers. Government will not submit a review petition. We’ve said in court that we’ll implement the order,” ANI quoted Vijayan as saying after the weekly cabinet meeting around the time the talks began.

On the ground, the situation around Sabarimala temple is tense as devotees staged protests to stop women from entering the complex despite the Supreme Court’s historic ruling last month.

At Nilakkal, 15 km away from Pambha which is the base camp for the hill shrine, devotees, mostly women began checking vehicles amid heavy rain and asking women to go back. Despite a large deployment of police, no protester has been stopped from preventing women who were headed for the temple. A group of college students from Bengaluru were sent back. Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out.

Women journalists, who tried to reach the hill temple as part of their official assignments, were also stopped. Police foiled suicide attempt by a woman devotee in Nilakkal after she threatened to hang herself from a tree.

The temple opens its doors at 5 pm Wednesday but there is already speculation that chief tantri won’t show up for the rituals following the failure of the talks.

Security remains a concern amid the tense situation. More police force is expected to reach Nilakkal. Pathnamthitta’s superintendent of police T Narayanan who is camping in Nilakkal refused to speak to the media.

Earlier, Padmakumar who is also a former CPI (M) legislator had expressed hopes for a breakthrough in the talks.

“We are confident the issue will be sorted out amicably. We will hear all stakeholders patiently. We don’t want to make it a political issue. At the same time we will convince them about our limitations,” Padmakumar said.

The former royal family of Pandalam had put the ball in the TDB’s court to find a solution to the imbroglio.

“We stick to our decision to maintain the status quo at the temple. It is for the TDB to find a solution,” Verma said before the talks.

Earlier this month, the royal family and the tantri had turned down an invitation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for talks

The apex court’s verdict declaring the ban on women of reproductive age from entering the Sabarimala temple as unconstitutional sparked an immediate backlash among the devotees. The BJP and the Congress in Kerala have backed the devotees which has made it difficult for the Left front government to implement the Supreme Court order.

Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sabarimala-talks-fail-state-on-edge-as-temple-opens-tomorrow/story-wXuVKJCl1weYHp0w4rmF7M.html


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