Kannur (Kerala): BJP chief Amit Shah began his speech here on Saturday with the chant of ‘Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa’, invoking Lord Ayyappa at a time when the row over women’s entry at the Sabarimala temple is snowballing into an election issue.
Addressing a public meeting after ‘inaugurating’ the Kannur airport, Shah said the BJP was “firmly” with the devotees of Lord Ayyappa and “warned” the Pinarayi Vijayan government over “ill-treatment” meted out to the devotees during the recent monthly pooja at the temple, inviting a sharp reaction from the Kerala chief minister.
“Today in Kerala, a struggle is going on between religious beliefs and state government’s cruelty. More than 2,000 activists and workers from the BJP, RSS and other organisations have been arrested. The BJP is standing like a rock with devotees, Left government be warned,” he said.
Accusing the state government of creating an “atmosphere of emergency”, Shah said, “The Kerala government should stop the brutality in the name of the Supreme Court judgment. I am warning the CM and the Communist government against fomenting violence in the name of religion.”
“There are various temples that don’t allow women and those that don’t allow men. The state government should not hurt the feelings of Lord Ayyappa devotees,” he said.
Citing that the fundamental rights also allow for freedom to practice religion, Shah said, “How can one fundamental right overwrite the other fundamental right?” He added that the Hindu religion has always respected women and cited the abolishing of child marriages, sati, and the bar on polygamy.
Vijayan, reacting to Shah's statement, said the agenda of the BJP stood exposed. He added that the BJP chief's statement was against the verdict of the Supreme Court, which had lifted the ban on entry of women to Sabarimala.
"Shah's statements in Kannur are against the Constitution and law of the land. It’s a clear intention of their agenda of not guaranteeing fundamental rights. This shows the agenda of the RSS and Sangh Parivar," he was quoted as saying by ANI.
He added, "Amit Shah, who threatened to topple our government, should remember that this government came to power not at the mercy of BJP, but the people’s mandate. His message is to sabotage the people’s mandate."
Speaking to CNN-News18, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac said the state government is duty-bound to act. “Where has the verdict been misused? The state has a very first stand. The Supreme Court has given its verdict and we will comply with it.”
Amit Shah arrived in Kerala on Saturday to attend a party function in the city and the 90th Mahasamadhi observance of saint social reformer Sree Narayana Guru at Varkala near Thiruvananthapuram.
Hundreds of party workers gathered to welcome Shah, who became the first passenger to land at the Kannur International Airport slated for official inauguration on December 9.
Shah is also scheduled to visit the family members of slain BJP activist Remith, who was killed allegedly by the activists of CPI(M) in 2002.
Later in the day, Shah will attend the 'Mahasamadhi Navathi Yathi Pooja Sammelan' at Sivagiri, a hillock spiritual mutt established by Narayana Guru in Varkala near Thiruvananthapuram.
Shah's Kerala visit assumes significance in the wake of massive protests against the CPI(M)-led LDF government's decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple. The BJP in the state has extended support to the agitation led by devotees of Lord Ayyappa to protect the age-old tradition of the shrine.
The state had witnessed massive protests from devotees at various places, including Sabarimala, Nilakkal and Pamba, against permitting women of all ages to enter the shrine, where the deity is 'Naishtika Brahmachari' (perennial celibate), when the temple was opened for monthly poojas from October 17-22.
At least 12 women in the 'barred' age group (10-50) had tried to trek the hills to offer prayers but had to retreat following widespread protests.
(With PTI inputs)