CPM softens stance on Sabarimala, to wait for clarity on SC order

Devotees queue up to offer prayers at Lord Ayyappa temple on the 2nd day of Malayalam month of 'Vrischikom,' in Sabarimala, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. File photo: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala's ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) has decided to soften its stand on implementing last year's Supreme Court verdict allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple as the apex court has referred the review petitions to a larger bench.

The party said on Friday that no action is to be taken to ensure women entry in Sabarimala this pilgrimage season until the verdict of the larger seven-member-bench.

Considering the dissent amongst the judges in the five-member bench that referred the review pleas to larger bench recently, the government should refrain from taking any drastic decision on the matter, the CPM Secretariat concluded.

The state government has also adopted a similar stance. Due to the obvious limitations in announcing that women will not be allowed to visit the Sabarimala temple, the Kerala government said that no protection will be provided to the women choosing to enter the temple.

The CPM secretariat also opined that the agenda of the sangh parivar organisations to gain political benefits from the verdict must not be taken lightly. The secretariat felt that the decision to protect women of all ages to enter the temple following the SC order dated September 28, 2018 distanced the Hindu community from the party.

However, the party secretariat stood by their decision to support the gender equality element inherent in the Sabarimala women entry issue.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said more clarity on the Supreme Court's latest verdict was required before articulating the state's stand on the issue. He was also advised by the state's Advocate General to wait for a clearer decision. Sources said that Supreme Court lawyer Jaideep Gupta had advised the government to keep in abeyance any move to let women into Sabarimala. Gupta is reported to have told the government that it was legally safer to let the old customs prevail till a final verdict is given.

The Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who sounded combative, made it abundantly clear that women wanting to make a political statement by visiting Sabarimala are unwelcome. “Sabarimala is no place for them to demonstrate their activism,” Kadakampally said. “Activists like Trupti Desai cannot treat Sabarimala as a venue to exhibit their might. Such people are interested only in propaganda, devotion is not their issue. We are not here to promote their personal interests,” he added.

Meanwhile, the police department has been advised to not resort to extreme measures. If women arrive at the temple for a visit, the police have been instructed to send them back from the different checkpoints including Nilakkal.

The government has also instructed the devaswom board members to exercise caution and not say contradictory statements.

The government's decision comes in as a relief to the police force which guarded the hill shrine which was a veritable battleground last year. 10,017 police personnel will be deployed in the Sabarimala temple premises this season. According to police sources, the number will be reduced gradually if there are no major protests or security issues.