Congress challenges Pinarayi, CPM to come clean on Sabarimala entry issue

Sabarimala temple
The Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala. File photo: Nikhil Raj/Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Ahead of the upcoming assembly polls, Opposition Congress led UDF on Sunday challenged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the CPM to come clean on the Sabarimala women's entry issue.

"What is the stand of the CPM and Chief Minister on Sabarimala? Are they with the devotees?Do they have the guts to say they are with the devotees? Will the CM shed his fake persona of a renaissance leader?" leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala asked.

The LDF government had erected a 620 km "renaissance" wall on January 1, 2019, in which lakhs of women from the northern end of Kasaragod to the southern tip here, had participated as part of a state sponsored initiative to uphold gender equality.

The 'Women's wall' was conceived in the backdrop of frenzied protests witnessed in the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala after the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict, allowing all women to pray at the Ayyappa shrine.

Two women in their forties had trekked the hill shrine a day after the human wall was erected and offered prayers, breaking the age-old custom of not allowing those in the menstrual age to pray at the Ayyappa temple. Chennithala also wanted Vijayan to clarify if there was a change in the stand of the party and left front on the issue.

"Is he prepared to state that they would stand with devotees? Do not hurt their sentiments further," he told reporters at Malappuram. The draft Sabarimala bill, brought out by the Congress on Saturday would be discussed by the UDF to give final touches.

The "draft law" proposed by the UDF contains entry restrictions with the permission of the temple Tantri (priest).

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said in Kottayam that the UDF had never thought of making sabarimala apolitical agenda during the polls. Asked about the Marxist party's stand, CPM leader M Govindan Master, said: "let the decision of the larger bench come. And then we will hold discussions with all sections on how it can be implemented." Attacking the two fronts, BJP Kerala unit president K Surendran said both have shifted from their traditional stand with an eye on the coming polls and are 'cheating' people.

“Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had announced the party stand which was against the devotees,he said. Now the UDF has said they will bring in a legislation to protect the rights of Sabarimala devotees and they have also prepared a draft bill,” he added.

Surendran alleged that during the height of the Sabarimala protests, no Congress worker was arrested by the Vijayan government while over 52,000 cases were registered against activists of the BJP and right wing outfits.

“Is the Pinarayi Vijayan government prepared to withdraw all the cases registered registered then and apologize to the Ayyappa devotees?” he asked.

Surendran also said if the BJP comes to power, all the Devaswom boards in the state would be dissolved, politicians removed from its administrations and believers appointed.

On Friday, Vijayan had said the UDF was raking up the Sabarimala issue because of the coming Assembly elections.  

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