Kerala Chief Minister Pinarai Vijayan today said no devotee of Ayyappa feels offended by the way two women were ‘facilitated’ to enter the Sabarimala temple and that the protests being seen on the streets are politically motivated.
“When news came out about entry of women into the shrine (yesterday), there was no spontaneous protests,” Vijayan said.
“However, people who wanted to take advantage of the situation for political gains instigated and orchestrated protests [later],” he said.
Vijayan also denied that the government had given special preference to the two women to enter the temple.
There have been media reports that the women were secretly hosted by Kerala Police for several hours and were taken in to the Sannidhanam (courtyard) through the staff entrance with their bodies, including faces, almost totally covered.
Shajan Skariah, the editor of Marunadan Malayali — Kerala’s biggest independent online news portal — alleged that the women were non-believers and were taken to the temple in an ambulance to avoid detection.
According to the rules of the temple, all devotees must travel exclusively on official buses to approach the temple, and then undertake a 3-hour trek.
Vijayan, however, denied the allegations, and said the women “came in like any other devotee”.
“They approached through the route taken by all other pilgrims… They were not given any special consideration.”
It has been difficult to ascertain the truth about the allegations and defense.
However, the video footage of the women’s entry — released by the women them — shows them going in to the temple at 3:45 AM yesterday in a hurried fashion, chaperoned by able-bodied men in black clothes.
The women are not carrying in the ‘offering bag’ on their head, a must for all devotees that enter the temple, according to tradition.
They are also later seen coming out and consulting with their accomplices about whether the footage was captured or not.
In response to the event, the BJP and the Congress are holding protests against the ‘defilement’ of the holy shrine ‘by CPIM’ ‘in the middle of the night’.
While the BJP is conducting a state-wide hartal and protests, the Congress has decided to take the matter up in the Lok Sabha and demand a special ordinance from the Center to protect the customs and traditions of the temple.
The party is also observing a ‘black day’ against what it called the CPI-M’s move to defile the temple.
Vellappalli Nateshan, leader of the community organization of the Ezhavas, said he was “pained” and “disappointed” at what happened.
Nateshan had so far been supporting the chief minister — an Ezhava — against the attacks of the BJP and the Congress.
He said he did not regret supporting the government’s ‘progressive agenda’, but did not see the temple entry as part of the same.
“The temple is for believers, not for activists to prove their strength,” he said, echoing the stand of Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran.