Thiruvananthapuram: Controversy erupted in Kerala after the CPI(M)-led LDF government on Friday submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming 51 women of menstrual age entered the Sabarimala temple during the ongoing annual pilgrimage season.
The list, in a violation of privacy, had the phone numbers, addresses and Aadhaar numbers of the 51 people. It has, however, turned into a huge headache for the government as several persons on it have denied the state’s claims.
Son of one Kalavathi Manohar from Goa told the media that the age of his mother was 52 and not 43 as the affidavit stated.
Another name on the list, Deivasigamani Pandurangan, turned out to be a male from Tamil Nadu. "Deivasigamani is a male, not a female. I erroneously clicked the 'female' option when I was booking the ticket for him," his friend Balaji told the media.
With more people contradicting the details in the affidavit, local TV channels reported that the first two names in the list were fake.
Kerala-based news website Onmanorama called up the numbers of the women in the affidavit and found seven of the 51 women of menstrual age the state government claimed had entered Sabarimala were over 50 years of age while three said they had not gone to the temple.
The government, however, said these people were only trying to protect their close ones.
The BJP, the Sabarimala Karma Samiti and the Pandalam royal family, associated with the Lord Ayyappa temple, came down heavily on the state government saying there were discrepancies in the age of the women devotees mentioned in the affidavit. This is the first time the government has stated that 51 women in the previously barred age group have entered the temple.
Adding to the controversy, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said the figure was based on the virtual 'queue' facility reports. “51 women between the age group of 10-50 have visited the temple. However, we don't know whether all of them have managed to reach the Sannidhanam (temple complex) and offered prayers or not," he told reporters here.
Strongly reacting to the submission in the apex court, the main opposition Congress and the BJP hit out at the LDF government, alleging it was lying in the affidavit.
BJP state President P S Sreedharan Pillai termed the government's submission as "the biggest lie of the century."
The state had witnessed widespread violent protests for several days from January 2 after the LDF government confirmed that two women in menstrual age entered the shrine following the September 28 apex court order allowing women of all ages into the shrine.
Kanakduraga and Bindu, aged 44 and 42 respectively, had entered the temple in the wee hours of January 2.This was followed by a Sri Lankan woman Sasikala offering prayers at the temple.
Surendran said the government did not have the number of women who might have visited the temple without availing the online virtual queue system. After the apex court verdict of September 28 last year, the age of women pilgrims were not being cross-checked at Pamba which is around 3.5 km from the Sannidhanam, he said.
Pillai said that the government was 'lying' to the Supreme Court and "fooling the people". He said there were reports coming out saying most of the women in the government's list were above 50 years of age.
"In case if anyone had visited the temple, they should have come openly. Everything should have been done in a transparent manner. The CPI(M) and the government had failed in the Sabarimala issue and this was an attempt to hide it. They are fooling people," Pillai added.
"We don't know on what basis the government had given this submission. No one knew about their entry. Even the media was not aware about the visit," Narayana Varma, a member of the erstwhile Pandalam royal family, associated with the temple, said.
The Congress also trained its guns on the LDF government, saying the state administration had become "a laughing stock after submitting erroneous and misguiding affidavit."
"This submission of wrong affidavit has brought shame to the state. The Chief Minister was responsible for this," KPCC President Mullappally Ramachandran said.
Meanwhile, Bindu on Friday hailed the Supreme Court direction to Kerala police to provide round-the-clock security to her and Kanakadurga.
"This is a verdict upholding the self-respect and pride of women," Bindu told reporters.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L N Rao and Dinesh Maheshwari on Friday directed Kerala police to provide round-the-clock security to Bindu and Kanakadurga on their petition seeking police protection.
The bench gave the order after studying the present situation in Kerala which had witnessed frenzied protests by devotees, Bindu claimed.
"We have faced threats, verbal abuse in social media. In such a situation, the verdict upholds the self-respect and pride of women", she said, adding, she had faith in the judiciary and the judicial system.
Bindu also claimed many people whom she knew had offered prayers at the Ayyappa temple, but were scared to reveal their identity fearing threats.