A court in Kerala has agreed to hear a case filed by Praveen Togadia-led Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and others for facilitating the entry of what the organization called non-believers into the Sabarimala temple two weeks ago.
The case, filed by AHP National Secretary Pratheesh Vishvanath — the man behind the Hindu Help Line in Kerala — alleges that the government’s action of facilitating the entry of “non-believers” into the temple was in violation of the Supreme Court order of September last year.
In September, a bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had directed the state government to facilitate the entry of all believers, irrespective of age, into the temple.
The SC order came in a case filed by a Delhi-based NGO against the age restrictions imposed on women entering the temple, the biggest center of Hindu pilgrimage in Kerala.
The Supreme Court order, hailed by activists as a blow against patriarchy, met with widespread and vehement opposition in Kerala, particularly from Ayyappa devotees.
The relentless campaign against the SC order, initially organized by
Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad and later ‘hijacked’ by BJP and its sister organizations, had forced the Left Front government to go slow on its implementation.
The minister in charge of temple affairs, Kadakampally Surendran, even said the SC order was not meant for activists and his government will not facilitate the entry of ‘activists’ into the temple.
However, a section within the ruling CPI-M wanted the order implemented immediately, and put pressure on the government. The party also organized a ‘Woman’s Wall’ program on New Year’s day in support of women’s rights.
Within hours of the conclusion of the program, a special team of Kerala police took two women — Kanakadurga and Bindu Ammini — inside the temple through a staff entrance at 3:45 AM.
The incident, which reignited the protests, also led to allegations that the two women who went inside were linked to the CPI-M and were not true Ayyappa devotees. Protesters pointed to a video released by the activists that showed the women entering the temple without carrying the customary ‘offerings bag’ on their heads.
The petition by AHP in the court of the First Class Magistrate of Ranni alleges that the women whose entry was facilitated by the police team were non-believers, and therefore, the act by the police was in violation of the Supreme Court order which had directed the state government to facilitate the entry of “Hindu women” who wanted to “exercise their right to worship”.
“..such an exclusionary practice violates the right of women to visit and enter a temple to freely practise Hindu religion and to exhibit her devotion towards Lord Ayyappa. The denial of this right to women significantly denudes them of their right to worship,” the court had noted in its judgment last year.
Besides the chief minister, the petition also lists Director General of Kerala Police Loknath Behera, Kottayam Chief of Police Hari Shankar and Civil Police Officer Shibu among the respondents.
In addition, the petition also includes among the respondents women’s rights activists Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, who entered the temple, and Rehna Fathima, who tried to enter, but couldn’t.