Sabarimala: A hollow victory for Comrade Pinarayi – M.R. Subramani

Bindu (left) and Kanaka Durga (right)

Swarajya MagazineBindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga, who are in their 40s, had attempted to enter the temple on 23 December but were stopped by Ayyappa devotees. Both women are CPI(M) activists and it goes against the earlier statement of the Kerala police that it would not help activists to enter the temple. – M.R. Subramani

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)–ruled government in Kerala seems to be claiming a pyrrhic victory over two women, Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga, entering the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple on Wednesday (2 January 2019). Bindu, hailing from Koyilandy in Kozhikode district, and Kanaka, from the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district in Kerala, entered the sanctum sanctorum at 3.45 am.

Both these women, who are in their 40s, had attempted to enter the temple earlier on 23 December when Ayyappa devotees had stopped them. Bindu and Kanaka are activists and it goes against Kerala police’s earlier statement that it would not help activists to enter the temple.

One of the two women, Bindu, is a Maoist activist and even has criminal cases pending against her.

The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Pinarayi Vijayan seems to have planned the entry of women diligently. There could be two reasons why the LDF has resorted to this extreme step that has left millions of Hindus hurt and shocked.

One reason is the response to the “Wall of Resistance” organised by the CPI(M) in Kerala on 1 January. Responses to the resistance were mixed with many Muslim women surprisingly coming out to seek the right of Hindu women to enter the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple or against patriarchy. At some places, the participation was poor.

The other reason is that perhaps Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that political parties should not compare his government’s efforts to make triple talaq, prevalent in the Islamic society, as unlawful with resistance to the entry of women of reproductive age into the Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala.

With Modi making it clear that there is a clear distinction between the two issues that amounts to the Centre’s support for the resistance, the Pinarayi government probably got swinging.

The exercise seems to have been well-planned. First, the women were clad in black from head to toe. Also, police, disguised as devotees, accompanied them.

Some say the two were whisked inside the temple on the pretext that they were transgenders.

Second, videos show the women approaching the sanctum sanctorum from the side, where the administrative block functions at Sabarimala. This means they have avoided ascending the 18 holy steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum.

The video also shows the women being hurried to the ramp in front of the sanctum sanctorum rather than being taken to the front. Clearly, there was a plan, more to hurt the sentiments than actually ensuring equality for women.

This episode of the women’s entry and exit from the temple being videographed is another proof of a well worked-out plan.

If the Vijayan government wanted to ensure equality for women, he and his officials should have made the women climb the 18 steps, take the flight of steps to the sanctum sanctorum, get down, and face the deity from the first row.

The women are not seen carrying the irumudi bag with two compartments with rice and ghee-filled coconuts. This is another indicator that the LDF government’s plan was to force the women’s entry by hook or by crook.

The video also gives away how hollow the attempt has been with one of the two telling the police that she couldn’t stand before the deity.

Probably, these women have been rushed through the ramp, where the third row of devotees have a darshan (view) of Ayyappa. The plan becomes more obvious when the women are taken out through an entry that had been blocked through the season.

From the sanctum sanctorum, pilgrims were directed to the Maligai Purathu Amman Temple premises all these days. But as the videos show, the women have been asked to climb down a flight of stairs that take people out to the rest houses nearby.

Kanaka’s brother has, according to Janam TV, said the CPI(M) and Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar had helped both the women enter the Sabarimala shrine. Four devotees had also attempted to stop these two at Erumeli Dharma Sastha Temple but in vain.

Once the women’s entry was confirmed through closed-circuit televisions, the temple’s Tantri shut it for an hour to perform punyavaham or rituals to cleanse the temple of any harm that might have been caused by the entry of these two women. The temple was re-opened an hour after the rituals were performed.

The performing of the rituals looks like a warning that has been sounded out to the Pinarayi government that the temple administration would not hesitate to challenge its actions.

The entry of two women has now resulted in a law and order problem in Kerala with protests erupting across the state. Black flags were shown to State Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran at Guruvayur, while Health Minister Shylaja suffered a similar protest at Kannur. A dawn-to-dusk hartal (strike) has also been called for on Thursday (3 January), turning the entire affair into a murky one.

The LDF government’s action in Kerala comes even as it drags its feet on the issue of implementing the ruling of the Supreme Court on a church case at Piravom in Ernakulam district. The Supreme Court gave its verdict on the issue sometime in July last year.

However, the Pinarayi government has shown more urgency to implement the 28 September 2018 Supreme Court ruling to allow women of all ages to enter the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. The CPI(M)–ruled government, probably, has also attempted to make the petitions in appeal against the 28 September ruling infructuous.

The Supreme Court will take up the appeals on 22 January and the Kerala government could maybe argue that the issue is infructuous now that Bindu and Kanaka have made it, albeit in a questionable manner. –  Swarajya, 2 January 2019

» M.R. Subramani is the executive editor at Swarajya. 

Pinarayi Vijayan


8 Responses

  1. If the Congress remains ambivalent, so does the BJP at the Centre.

    But Congress is now one up on the BJP in that it has given adjournment notices in Parliament accusing the Kerala state Communist government of playing with the sentiments of devotees.

    Silence is acquiescence to the event, Mr Modi. In the end it shows your government in a very bad light vis-a-vis Hindu faith issues.

    As for the sponsorship of under-age women entering the Sabarimala shrine, the Supreme Court’s ‘lordships’ are at the root of the problem with their insensitive, arrogant rationality and stubborn refusal to fix the problem.


  2.  Shashi Tharoor and Kerala MPs

    Sabarimala entry by women ‘sponsored’ – Aditi Tandon – Tribune News Service – New Delhi – January 3

    As violence erupted in Kerala over two women breaking the faith barrier in the Sabarimala temple, the Congress protested the development in Parliament, giving adjournment notices on the issue and accusing the state’s Communist government of playing with the sentiments of devotees.

    Congress MPs from Kerala, including former ministers K.V. Thomas and Shashi Tharoor, protested outside Parliament over the entry of women into the shrine, calling it “sponsored” by the state government.

    “We are observing a black day in Kerala. The CPM government in Kerala is challenging the sentiments of Sabarimala devotees. The two young women who entered the temple did so with the sponsorship of the state government. These women are activists. They are Maoists,” K. Suresh, Congress MP from Mavelikkara (reserved) said.

    Present during the protest was Congress MP and party’s deputy whip in Lok Sabha K.C. Venugopal. IUML’s P.K. Kunhalikutty too joined the Congress in the issue. The protests moved outside after the Lok Sabha was adjourned owing to disruptions by 21 MPs of the TDP and AIADMK, who were suspended by the Speaker.

    Inside, Kerala MPs N.K. Premchandran of the RSP, Congress’ K.C. Venugopal and K. Suresh and IUML’s Kunhalikutty moved notices of adjournment to discuss the situation arising out of the entry of young women into the shrine.

    The Congress stand on Sabarimala has remained ambivalent. The central leadership says it respects the apex court verdict allowing women of all ages – including the hitherto barred women of reproductive age — to enter the shrine. But Kerala Congress opposes it and has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on the issue. The party is clearly competing with the BJP for the attention of Hindu devotees ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. So much so, even Tharoor, who previously supported the SC verdict, revised his position later. Tharoor says he earlier saw the issue as one of equal access but later realised it was that of religion and sanctity.

    “Hearing my constituents on the matter, I realised the issue is not of equality but of sanctity. We have in the Hindu religion practices that cannot be reduced to rationalistic propositions. Let’s also not forget that there has never been a mass movement of women seeking entry into Sabarimala temple….”


  3. As the Centre doesn’t act on behalf of the Ayyappa devotees, it must be in league with the vicious Vijayan campaign against Hindus.

    Silence is acquiescence to the event, Mr Modi.


  4. Kerala Strike 3 Jan 2019

    Entry of Women in Sabarimala Unnecessary Provocative Act: Tharoor – The Quint – 3 January 2019

    Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday, 2 January, criticised women who are entering the Sabarimala temple and said though he is all for women empowerment, it is a matter of sanctity of the temple.

    In an interview with Mirror Now, Tharoor said, “Sabarimala advocates will tell you that any woman who believes in the legend of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala would not wish to worship there until she had turned 50, because to worship there before 50 … if she is of reproductive age that would violate the very principles of the deity she was worshiping.”

    Therefore, he said, the only women of the reproductive age who would go to Sabarimala would be women who in fact do not believe in the Ayyappa legend.

    The debate, as Tharoor said, could be framed from the point of view of equality and from the point of view of sanctity.

    However, the Congress MP clarified that he honours the judgment of the Supreme Court in that matter, “but it is fitting that Supreme Court is going to hear the objections in an open court on 22nd January.”

    ‘Entry of Two Women an Unnecessary Provocation’

    According to Firstpost, Tharoor said that since the apex court is set to take up the matter in open court, the entry of the two women into Sabarimala was an “unnecessary provocative act”.

    On Thursday, according to CNN News18, the senior leader said, the Congress party is in favour of women’s empowerment but reiterated that the matter is concerning faith.

    Tharoor said that his party is criticising the state government on “the needlessly provocative actions at a time when the pilgrimage season was going on peacefully.”

    He also criticised the BJP for inciting violence and vandalism. “We believe that reducing a sanctified place to a stage for political theatre is a shameful act by both parties,” he added.


  5. Shutdown across Kerala, many devotees call off pilgrimage, say ‘sanctity’ of temple breached – Hindustan Times – Ramesh Baby – 3 January 2019

    Widespread violence was reported across Kerala as a shutdown began on Thursday, day after two women under the age of 50 managed to enter the Sabarimala temple.

    The BJP had called for a two-day protest against the women’s entry in the Sabarimala temple under police protection.

    On Wednesday, angry protestors blocked roads in many parts of the state. Police caned protestors in Kasargode, Palakkad, Kollam and many other places. A group of women jumped a barricade and came close to the CM’s office in the state capital, but were overpowered. Many government buses and vehicles were pelted with stones.

    Here are the live updates:

    7:45 am IST
    Many devotees call off pilgrimage

    Many pilgrims bound for Sabarimala temple called off their pilgrimage saying that sanctity of the temple has been breached. Two big groups from Tamil Nadu returned this morning.

    7:40 am IST
    Strict action against those flouting laws: Kerala DGP

    Kerala DGP Loknath Behera on Wednesday said strict action will be taken against those flouting rules of law and order during the bandh called for by some organisations over the entry of two women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple.

    Furthermore, Behera directed all concerned authorities to give special attention to pilgrims so that they remain unaffected.

    7:35 am IST
    Relatives of one of the women who entered the temple moved to safety

    In response to two women entering the shrine early Wednesday, protests broke out around Kerala, the state where the shrine, the Sabarimala Temple, is located. According to local news reports, the police moved relatives of one of the women who entered the temple into a safe house.

    7:31 am IST
    Cong led UDF to stage protest

    Opposition Congress led UDF will stage protest today.

    7:30 am IST
    Bandh cripples normal life

    Bandh has crippled normal life in the state. At many places even private vehicles are not plying.

    7:19 am IST
    Widespread violence reported across Kerala; 57 buses destroyed

    57 buses have been destroyed. Many CPM and BJP offices attacked. Widespread violence reported from many areas of the state.

    7:10 am IST
    Police arrest two in connection with activist’s death

    A native of Pandalam Chandran Unnithan (55) died in stone pelting. BJP said CPM workers were behind the attack. Police arrested two in connection with the death.

    7:00 am IST
    Shutdown begins in Kerala; activist succumbs to injuries

    Shutdown has begun in Kerala. Security has been beefed up after intelligence report of violence. An activist of Sabarimala Karma Samiti who was injured during stone pelting succumbed to his injuries in the early hours on Thursday, said police.


  6. Yes, Mr Hegde! So why hasn’t your government ordered President’s Rule in the state?


  7. Ananth Kumar Hegde

    Anant Hegde: Sabarimala row and the law and order situation in Kerala is the state government’s failure and a “daylight rape on the Hindus” – India Today Web Desk – New Delhi – 2 January 2019

    In a shocking statement, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde on Wednesday likened the controversy surrounding the entry of women in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple to rape. Hegde said that the Sabarimala row and the law and order situation in Kerala is the state government’s failure and a “daylight rape on the Hindus”.

    Hegde said that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s “prejudice is creating confusion among the people”. He said that even though the Supreme Court has given its directions in the Sabarimala issue, the power to maintain the law and order situation in Kerala rests with the state government.

    “The Kerala government should have managed the situation without hurting the faith of the masses. But the state government entirely failed. It’s daylight rape on the Hindu people,” he added.

    Hegde’s statement came on the day protests erupted across the state after two women in their 40s entered the Lord Ayyappa Temple early Wednesday and offered prayers.

    The same was confirmed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

    Following the entry of the women at the shrine, the chief priest closed the temple to perform the “purification” ceremony. The shrine was reopened in the afternoon.

    As soon as the news broke out, right-wing activists blocked highways and forced closure of shops and markets. They were later detained by police.

    An umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups have called for a state-wide shutdown on Thursday (January 3), amid protests at several places.

    Accusing the government of betraying the devotees, Sabarimala Karma Samithi (SMS) also called for a state-wide shutdown but, the traders association said that it would not cooperate with it.

    Kerala has been on the edge since the Supreme Court, on September 28, permitted women in the age group of 10-50 to offer prayers at the shrine. Many women have previously attempted to enter the Sabarimala but were forced to give in to the frenzied protests by devotees and right wing outfits.


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