Friday 5 October 2018 3:16 AM UTC
Thiruvananthapuram Oct 5: Rejecting the Opposition demand to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against its order, allowing women of all age groups into Sabarimala, the Kerala government Wednesday said it would implement the verdict in the coming pilgrim season itself.
A high-level meeting here of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the Lord Ayyappa temple, also decided to make necessary arrangements for women pilgrims visiting the hill shrine when it opens for the annual pilgrimage season on October 16.
Opposition Congress termed the CPI(M)-led LDF government’s decision as ‘unilateral’ and said it was against the interest of a majority of Ayyappa devotees in and outside the state.
It alleged that TDB President A Padmakumar, who earlier pitched for filing the review, had backtracked from his stand after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ‘chided’ him.
The party also decided to convene a meeting of former presidents and board members of the TDB Thursday to decide the future course of action on the matter.
The Sabarimala Temple had restricted the entry of women belonging to the age group between 10-50 due as part of its age-old tradition.
On October 28, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.
Vijayan said that as a government, it has to abide by the directives of the top court and make necessary arrangements for women devotees visiting the shrine.
“It is the responsibility of the government to implement the court order without any compromise. We will ensure that necessary arrangements are provided for women devotees in the coming season itself,” he told reporters here.
He also took exception to the TDB president’s recent remark that they were not expecting a large number of women devotees at the shrine in the wake of the apex court order.
On the protest launched by various outfits against implementing the court verdict, the Chief Minister said no one has the right to prevent women devotees if they want to offer worship at the shrine.
“When the Supreme Court has taken a stand after considering all aspects of the matter, people have to accept the law of the land. The government is for implementing it,” he added.
After the TDB meeting, Padmakumar said the Board discussed the Supreme Court order in detail and decided not to file the review petition.
“We view the apex court verdict with utmost seriousness. After discussing all the aspects, the meeting decided not to file the review petition in the present context,” he said.
Detailing the preparations for the coming pilgrimage season, he said special facilities would be provided to the devotees at Pamba and Nilackal, the base camps.
Temporary dormitories, women-friendly toilets and more drinking water facilities would be arranged, he said, adding that all existing arrangements would be made better useful for women devotees.
“The Board expects 40 per cent more devotees at the shrine this season in the wake of the SC verdict,” Padmakumar said, adding there was no room for any concern on the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala flayed the government and the TDB for its decision to implement the verdict in haste.
The TDB had “failed” in its duty to safeguard the interests of Ayyappa devotees, he alleged.
He demanded that the state or the central government come out with an ordinance “to overcome the Supreme Court verdict” and protect the interests of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.
Chennithala also said the district Congress committee in Pathanamthitta would stage a fast Friday to protest the stand taken by the state government on the Sabarimala issue.
Activists of Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing, took out rallies in all panchayats across the state Wednesday, urging the government to protect the centuries-old rituals and tradition of the hill shrine.
They also burnt an effigy of Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran at various places.
Hundreds of Ayyappa devotees, including women, Tuesday had blocked state and national highways in various parts of Kerala protesting the Supreme Court verdict.
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