Kerala: Sabarimala issue re enters the spotlight even on poll day

Nair Service Society (NSS) general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair said Ayyappa devotees were “still bitter” about the events that “hurt their faith, political reactions flew thick and fast


Even as Kerala voted to elect the next state government on April 6, a heated discussion ensued over the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, yet again. After he cast his vote in Kottayam, Nair Service Society (NSS) general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair on Tuesday told the media that Sabarimala Ayyappa devotees were “still bitter” about the events that “hurt their faith”. Nair added that “there should be a government that stood for values and faith” reported The Hindu. 

According to The NewsMinute, Nair,  added that “people wish to vote for those upholding secularism, democracy, social justice and those who protect the faith of people, which the LDF government was not able to do. The protests and opposition of people in the Sabarimala issue have not died down.” Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress’ campaigns have mentioned the Sabarimala issue. Even Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said figuratively in Kannur that deities of the land, including Lord Ayyappa, would bless the Left Democratic Front (LDF) for ministering to the people in the time of catastrophe, reported the Hindu.

In February, the Kerala government had decided to withdraw “cases of not serious criminal nature’’ registered in connection with the Sabarimala and anti-CAA protests.  According to media reports, the Kerala police had registered an estimated 17,000 cases, against around 68,000 people from different Hindutva outfits as accused, in connection with the Sabarimala protests in 2018 following the Supreme Court decision allowing entry of women to the Ayyappa temple. The citizenship laws that led to widespread protests across the country, resulted in the registration of 530 cases from January to March, 2020 in Kerala. The Congress party had also announced that it would withdraw all cases related to both issues if voted to power.

According to the TNM report, the BJP state president K Surendran even went on to call CM Pinarayi Vijayan an ‘asuran’ (demon) saying he changed his stance on Sabarimala as he fears the government will lose, saying, “The change of statement shows how frail he (Pinarayi Vijayan) is. It is Pinarayi Vijayan and his ‘asura ganangal’ (group of demons) who destroyed Sabarimala. The state government helped the Maneethi Sangam to ascend Sabarimala. In the cover of darkness, Pinarayi and his ‘asura ganangal’ took the women in an ambulance to Sabarimala. People won’t forget this. Now by just saying that gods are with him, people won’t consider it. He is the biggest ‘asuran’.”  

However, the reactions after that came fast and thick, barbs came from opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala who said the CM was late to “atone for his trespasses against the Ayyappa faith”. Congress leader A. K. Antony said the CM “should apologise” to believers for “desecrating” the Sabarimala temple by “ham-fistedly” enacting the 2018 Supreme Court verdict permitting women, irrespective of their age, to worship at Sabarimala, stated the news report. While Ex CM Oommen Chandy said  Vijayan’s ‘invoking’ of Ayyappa faith “was unconvincing’ and Sabarimala devotees would ‘reject his election day overture.’  Meanwhile, the BJP State president K. Surendran reportedly said that NSS’ chief “had given a clear message to the people”. Surendran also said A. K. Antony and Oommen Chandy “were weeping crocodile tears for Sabarimala devotees”. Surendran went a step ahead and told the media that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s police had ‘secretly’ and ‘rapidly’ conveyed “activist women” to Sabarimala Ayyappa temple under cover of darkness in 2018.

According to CPI State secretary Kanam Rajendran, the NSS general secretary might have crossed a line if confirmed that he had made a political statement on polling day. The Hindu report quoted Rajendran as saying, “No other social organisation leader had attempted to broadcast their political preference on voting day. BJP and Congress had harped on about Sabarimala because they had nothing else to say.” The TNM report recalled how the issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala temple had started in 2018 when a Supreme Court verdict allowed women of all ages to worship at the temple in Pathanamthitta district. The state was witness to many protests soon  after two women entered the hill shrine following the Supreme Court verdict. 

Now, on polling day 2021, the discussion resurfaced when all political parties suddenly recalled the matter as if they were still in campaign mode.


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