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Kerala calls all-party meet on Sabarimala row

Govt wants to discuss issues around Supreme Court order on entry of women, before peak season begins

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore

  • Published 14.11.18, 3:16 AM
  • Updated 14.11.18, 7:56 AM
CM Pinarayi Vijayan said the meet would be used to “explain the rationale and seek everyone’s cooperation” for the implementation of the September 28 order that set aside an earlier ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50
CM Pinarayi Vijayan said the meet would be used to “explain the rationale and seek everyone’s cooperation” for the implementation of the September 28 order that set aside an earlier ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 Telegraph file picture

The CPM-led Kerala government has called an all-party meeting on Thursday to seek everyone’s cooperation and discuss issues related to the implementation of the Supreme Court order on the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple.

The decision came against the backdrop of the Supreme Court deciding to hear all review petitions and writ petitions on the matter in an open court on January 22.

The peak pilgrimage season at the hilltop temple to Lord Ayyappa is set to begin on Friday evening. The two-month pilgrimage season that will end on January 20 — two days before the apex court hears the review pleas — usually draws around 4 crore pilgrims.

A source in the office of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the occasion would be used to “explain the rationale and seek everyone’s cooperation” for the implementation of the September 28 order that set aside an earlier ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50.

The state government iterated its now well-known stand that it would go by whichever decision the court took.

“The Supreme Court has clearly said it is not staying the earlier order allowing women aged between 10 and 50 from entering Sabarimala. Isn’t that the meaning of this order? Now, if this has any other meaning, let us consult legal experts,” Vijayan said after Tuesday’s proceedings in the apex court.

The BJP has demanded that the state government take the apex court’s order as an acceptance of the voices against the September 28 judgment and defer its implementation until the court decides on the review pleas.

“I see this as a blow to those who tried to suppress believers. So, we demand that the implementation of the September 28 order be deferred till the final orders by recognising the spirit of today’s order,” said Kerala BJP president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai.

Since the court clearly stated that “there is no stay of the judgment and order of this court dated September 28”, the Left government said it would go only by what the court says.

“The government respects the Supreme Court’s authority. We follow what the Supreme Court orders us to,” said Devaswom (temple affairs) minister Kadakampally Surendran. “The responsibility before the government is to implement the court’s order,” he said, adding that the government would duly study the order.

The temple’s tantri (custodian of rituals), Kandararu Rajeevaru, could not hide his elation as he interpreted the order in favour of the devotees. “Ayyappa has saved us. This is a big win. I am so happy that the reviews will come up in an open court,” he said.

Recent incidents have proved that the pilgrimage season would be a big challenge for the government and the state police. When the temple opened in two phases after the September 28 verdict, protesters had prevented women of childbearing age from entering the shrine.

With the government left with little option but to implement the verdict allowing the entry to women aged between 10 and 50 and the Sangh parivar and other conservative groups lined up against it, this could well be the biggest challenge after the recent floods. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala urged the government to “show some sense” and not precipitate matters. “The government should drop its adamant stand to allow young women into the temple,” he said.