Sabarimala Resolution Likely After CM Pinarayi Vijayan Meets Royal Family to Iron Out Differences
Sources said the chief priest did not reject the demand of allocating separate days for women to visit the shrine but sought more time for consultation.
Sabarimala: Melsanthi Unnikrishnan Nampoothiri opens the Sabarimala temple for the five-day monthly pooja on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (PTI Photo)
A breakthrough in the Sabarimala issue may be in sight after a meeting between Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the royal Pandalam family.
According to sources, Vijayan asked the chief priest if they could allocate separate days for women to visit the Lord Ayyappa shrine. Earlier in the day, Vijayan had said his government may keep separate days for women devotees between the ages of 10 and 50 to visit the temple, which would open for the Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season on Friday evening.
After an all-party meeting, the CM had said he would meet the priest and the representatives of the royal family and place the suggestion in front of them, even as he stressed that the government would not back down from implementing the Supreme Court verdict despite opposition from the BJP and the Congress.
Sources said the chief priest did not reject the demand but sought more time for consultation. The royal family also reportedly asked Vijayan to allow the Devaswom board to approach the Supreme Court, asking for a stay on the verdict. The board is likely to move the SC seeking a stay till January 22.
Thursday’s all-party meet, during which the government had hoped to build consensus ahead of the shrine’s opening, was a fractious affair as the opposing sides failed to find a common ground and Congress leaders walked out, saying the CM was being adamant.
"The government refused to listen to our demands. This is a challenge to devotees. It’s unfortunate that the CM spoiled a golden chance to bring peace in Sabarimala,” state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala said.
Kerala BJP chief Sreedharan Pillai, who was also part of the meeting, said the NDA would consider extending the Sabarimala agitation outside Kerala, giving an insight into the BJP’s plan to capitalise on the issue ahead of next year’s general election.
He accused the government of being prejudiced, but said the police must be independent, urging the state’s machinery should go against the orders of the government and protect the customs. "The government wants to turn Sabarimala into a battleground, it is mocking the devotees," he added.
However, urging the devotees to understand the government’s compulsion, Vijayan said their beliefs cannot be above fundamental rights of women. “As a law enforcing land, we don’t have any other way. This is our appeal to devotees,” he said during a press conference.
He added that the government has no prejudice, but was bound by the top court’s order. “The government is with devotees. Will give security to them. There is no need for concern,” he said, stressing on the fact that his government was not being rigid in the matter of faith as alleged by the opposition.
Kerala has been up in arms against the decision of the top court to allow women of menstruating age to visit the shrine of Lord Ayyappa, considered a celibate. The state saw protests against the government’s decision to implement the SC order and several women who tried to trek to Sabarimala were stopped in their tracks.
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