Kerala govt is set on death-wish course

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Sabarimala temple has closed its doors after remaining open for five days of monthly pujas, without even a single woman of menstruating age making it to the sanctum sanctorum as the Supreme Court verdict granting the right of entry to all women irrespective of age led to massive protests by devotees, led by large numbers of women. Interestingly, only about 15 women attempted to make the trek to the hill temple, including women among a busload of pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana who came without any knowledge about the raging controversy. The rest were all activists wanting to enforce their right in view of the court verdict, but were stopped by fellow pilgrims and workers of organisations opposed to the court decision.

The Kerala government has maintained the position that it will do everything possible to implement the verdict and provide security to any woman seeking darshan, but the best it could do was to take two activists, one of them an atheist and another a TV journalist, to within 500 metres of the temple, where they faced stubborn resistance, following which they had to abandon the move. The fact that not even a single genuine woman devotee came forward to visit the temple voluntarily shows that the overwhelming majority of women in Kerala do not want such a right, although out-of-state feminists have been celebrating the verdict.

The state government’s approach, in this case, is also not above board. It showed a certain desperation to ensure access to at least one woman, just to prove that the court verdict had been implemented, but miserably failed in the face of consistent opposition by devotees. The police are believed to have even organised ‘sponsored’ devotees.

Although the government exhibited great hurry to enforce the decision, new developments in the Supreme Court suggest that the final word in the case may not have been pronounced yet. The court has fixed November 13 for hearing 19 review petitions and three new writ pleas against the decision, to be a heard reportedly by a three-member bench. A few more review petitions are said to be on their way. Normally, review petitions are considered in the judges’ chamber, but, in this case, it has been decided that they will be heard in open court, which promises more elaborate proceedings.

The Leftist Kerala government seems to be suffering from a strange death wish. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is speaking the same language that West Bengal’s last Left Front chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, spoke about Singur, which ultimately led to the demise of communist rule there. If Vijayan continues to refuse to see the writing on the wall, he will have the dubious distinction of presiding over the last Leftist ministry in the country.