The all-party meeting convened by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday to sort out imbroglio over the entry of women in child-bearing age to Sabarimala Temple in Kerala’s Western Ghats ended in failure. A meeting the Chief Minister held later in the day with the representatives of the Pandhalam Royal Family — the customary owners of the temple who enjoys certain privileges as part of traditions — and the chief priest (Thanthri) too failed to break the deadlock.
Thanthri Rajeevaru, the chief priest, while speaking to the media after the meeting made use of the opportunity to plead with the women in the 10-50 age group not to come to Sabarimala and stay off the temple. Later, speaking to The Pioneer, the Thanthri said he enjoys certain privileges as the chief priest of the temple. “I am not a paid employee of the Government. I am reporting to Lord Ayyappa and has the authority to order purification ceremonies and atonements,” said the Thanthri.
Ramesh Chennaithala, Leader of Opposition in Kerala Legislative Assembly, walked out of the meeting alleging that the CM’s intransigent stance on the issue led to the failure of the talks. BJP’s Kerala chief PS Sreedharan Pillai, who has been spearheading the agitation against the entry of women in the 10-50 age group, later told reporters that the NDA would go ahead with the agitation from Friday against women devotees making it to the temple.
“We just pleaded with the Government to keep the Supreme Court order in abeyance till the court disposes of the review and writ petitions filed against the September 28 verdict. The Supreme Court Bench which heard the petition on Tuesday was not an appellate authority and that is the reason why the September 28 verdict was not stayed,” said Pillai, himself a leading lawyer in Kerala.
The breakdown of the all-party meeting has created a war-like atmosphere in the holy shrine as the police have prevented the entry of mediapersons to the temple premises. The temple reopens on Friday evening as a prelude to the 41-day Mandala Pooja, which begins on Saturday morning.
“The Government is duty-bound to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages into the temple. We will not make any amendment in the Supreme Court verdict delivered on September 28,” Vijayan told reporters after the all-party meeting. The CM said the Government is willing to set apart certain days exclusively for women to worship at the temple. “Beyond that we will not do anything to dilute the court verdict,” said the CM.
Chennithala accused Vijayan of creating troubles at Sabarimala. “This is not good either for the CPI(M) or the people in Kerala,” said the Leader of the Opposition.
Sasikumara Varma, head of the Pandhalam Royal Family, said though the talks with the CM was cordial, there was no consensus because of the intransigence of the latter. “We will have a meeting with the priests and then decide the future course of action,” said Varma.
The Kerala Government is deploying nearly 1,000 women cops at Sabarimala as part of beefing up the security around the temple. Services of women cops from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka too have been requested and it is expected that they would take position by Saturday morning. Interestingly, leaders of various Hindu organisations told this newspaper that they would lay siege to the temple to prevent the entry of women to the sanctum. The 2018-19 festival season in Sabarimala Temple is going to be a season of tension and turmoil because of the intransigence of the anti-Hindu Marxist Government,” said BJP chief Sreedharan Pillai.