The Sabarimala stand-off between the devotees of Lord Ayyappa and the CPI-M Govt took a new turn on Saturday as the Kerala Government started deploying hundreds of policemen in battle fatigues all over the Holy Shrine to prevent the Sangh Parivar and RW activists from assembling near the temple premises.
Currently devotees are not being allowed in the Maha Ganapathi Temples at Pamba and Nilakkel enroute to Sabarimala as a ploy to nip in the bud any opposition from the activists to prevent women activists expected in the shrine on Tuesday. The dawn to dusk hartal in Pathanamthitta district on Friday in protest against the mysterious death of Sivadasan, turned out to be total with all shops and business establishments downing the shutters as a spontaneous response. The devotees strongly believe that Sivadasan was murdered by the police.
Thoughthe Pathanamthitta Superintendent of Police T Narayanan told reporters that 1200 policemen would be deployed on the route from Pamba to the holy shrine on Monday and Tuesday , it is understood that the Kerala Government would bring in CPI-M activists from Kannut and Kasaragod in the garb of policemen to muzzle down any opposition from the devotees to the entry of women.
“The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government has taken this as a matter of prestige. They will see to it that at least a dozen activists enter the sanctum sanctorum and worship in the temple,” said a senior Kerala police official.
The district administration has slapped prohibitory orders in the Pathanamthitta district to prevent the arrival of various Hindu activists to the shrine. The temple will opened on Tuesday for a special Pooja. Besides the armed police, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government would deploy thousands of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) volunteers in the holy shrine to take care of devotees who are likely to oppose the young CPI-M women who would be brought to the temple darshan as per the Supreme Court verdict. The DYFI is the militant youth wing of the CPI-M is notorious for adopting physical assaults on their opponents.
This correspondent witnessed hundreds of police vehicles packed with trainee cops rushing to Sabarimala through the Main Central Road connecting the National Highway at Angamaly with the shrine in the Western Ghats. “We are on our way to Sabarimala for security duty,” said one of the cops who was having breakfast from a roadside eatery.
The police have arrested more than 3700 Hindu activists till Saturday evening as part of the crackdown on “potential trouble makers”. Veteran scribe and human rights activist P Rajan said that Kerala was in the verge of a riots because of the intransigent attitude of the CPI-M in tackling the situation. “The BJP is likely to emerge as the possible beneficiary in this agitation as I am seeing a massive women upsurge in the State. This is quite unusual in a State like Kerala where women prefer to be in the background in all issues. The attitude of the Pinaryi Vijayan had succeeded in bringing the women devotees out against the entry of women in the shrine,” said Rajan, who has no love lost for the Sangh Parivar or the BJP.
The Congress and the Communists stand isolated as well as exposed in this issue. While the CPI-M leaders are planning to seize control of the temple, the Congress leaders in the State are caught between deep sea and devil which has prevented them from taking any pro active stance towards the devotees. The BJP, which had welcomed the Supreme Court order was quick enough to see the writing on the wall and declared their support to the agitating devotees.
In an interesting twist to the Sabarimala imbroglio, historians in the State made a disclosure that the women devotees were not allowed in the temple way back in the 1800s. An official publication by the then British Government which had ruled South India “Memoir of the Survey of Travancore and Kochi States” published in 1827 with the authorization by the then British Government states that women were not allowed to visit Sabarimala due to a host of reasons including their physiological issues.
“Though girl children and aged women visit the temple, females falling under the menstrual cycle are not permitted here. This is because of the strict celibacy followed by the presiding deity,” writes Dr S Raymon , the general editor of the book in its pages 136 and 137. The book demolishes the claim made by the CPI-M activists that women devotees of all age groups used to undertake pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
What stands out in the run up to the opening of the temple for the customary Pooja is the massive but peaceful protest marches staged by women devotees across the State. These demonstrations, known as Akand Nama Japa Rallies are attracting thousands of women devotees who assemble in front of temples and recite hymns and prayers in praise of Lord Ayyappa.
“You can see educated as well as illiterate housewives in these congregations. They are all upset that an age old custom practiced in the temple is being bulldozed by the government,” said Thankamani Valliathan, a housewife in Mavelikkara nursing her swollen feet after participating in a three km long rally.
The situation is same all over Kerala. The rally held at Ernakulam last week saw more than 1,00,000 women going around the town singing hymns despite the scorching sun. “An opinion is gathering momentum among us that the Government is highly indifferent to the religious sentiments of Hindus. We will not take it lying down anymore,” said Sindhu Vishnuprasad, housewife.
Even as this report is despatched, a public meeting is being held at Erumeli, 20 km away from the temple to protest the move by the Kerala Government to provide police security to the women activist who are getting ready to visit the shrine on Tuesday.
“Let me make it clear. We do not have any political affiliations. Our mission is to safeguard the customs of this centuries old temple. We will not allow the police of Pinarayi Vijayan to overpower us to make the women in 10-50 age group to enter the temple,” said Sumathi Narayanan, one of the participants in the demonstrations