Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday flayed those agitating against his government's move to implement the Supreme Court verdict on entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, saying 'deliberate' efforts were being made to destroy the state's unity and secular fabric.
As protests against the verdict continued in the state with police chasing away Bharatiya Janata Party activists at Haripad in Alappuzha district, a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking review of the judgment which lifted the ban on entry of women of all ages into the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The petition filed by Shylaja Vijayan, president of National Ayyappa Devotees Association, said the September 28 judgment is 'absolutely untenable and irrational..'
The issue has taken a political turn with main opposition Congress and BJP coming out against the Left Democratic Front government's move to implement the verdict, saying they are
with the believers.
Stepping up its agitation, BJP Monday said at Kochi that it would organise a five-day long 'Save Sabarimala yatra' from Pandalam to Thiruvananthapuram, a distance of about 100 km, on October 10 to protest the government's 'hasty move' to implement the verdict.
Accusing the state government of trying to divide Hindus to 'defeat' the protests by devotees of Lord Ayyappa, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai, said the yatra would commence from Pandalam, where according to mythology, Lord Ayyappa is believed to have spent his childhood.
Vijayan defended his government's decision and said it was committed to protecting the religious beliefs and customs of different religions and places of worship and there was no question of succumbing to 'politically motivated' efforts to create tension in the state.
"The people of Kerala faced the recent unprecedented floods unitedly but deliberate efforts are now being made to destroy that unity, to destroy the secular fabric," he told reporters.
Holding out an olive branch, Vijayan also made it clear that the government was prepared for talks with all concerned if they had any misunderstanding over the state's stand on the issue.
Meanwhile, joining issue for the first time, Travancore Royal family member Ashwati Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi said it was 'very painful' to hear about the recent developments relating to the Sabarimala temple.
"It is sad to note that centuries-old traditions are being violated," she said in a statement Thiruvananthapuram.
Reaffirming the government's stand not to seek a review of the apex court verdict, Vijayan said the government in its earlier affidavit had made it clear that it would implement the court's order.
The government would go ahead with all 'democratic and progressive steps' needed for enriching and empowering women in society.
He said his government's policy was to ensure equality and justice to all.
Attacking the main opposition Congress and the BJP for the agitations against the apex court order, the chief minister said the Congress will 'destroy' itself by joining hands with communual elements, and accused the saffron party of having 'double standards' on the issue.
The chief minister described as 'ridiculous' the U-turn by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who welcomed the court verdict before demanding that the government file a review petition against it.
In BJP-ruled Maharashtra, the government had implemented the Bombay high court orders on entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali dargah and Shani Shinganapur temple, he said, adding it showed the 'double standards' of the saffron party.
Vijayan said the LDF government had taken a number of women-friendly initiatives, including raising a women-only battalion, and increasing their presence in the state police and fire services.
Meanwhile, Chennithala blamed the LDF government for the 'crisis' and said they would not launch any open agitation, but would support the agitation by devotees.
"The UDF is with the believers. We will not lend any support to anybody to hurt the sentiments of believers," the Congress leader told reporters.
"The UDF will not allow converting Sabarimala into a war zone. We are against violent protests and hartals. Our stand is that the faith of believers will be protected," he said.
The congress leader said it was the Centre's responsibility to protect all religions and accused the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of misleading people on the issue.
"The RSS-BJP combine is trying to mislead the people and is launching violent agitations. We are with the believers and want to protect their faith," he said.
Ayyappa devotees are holding prayer meetings and marches across the state over the past few days demanding that the government seek a review of the verdict.
The Pandalam royal family that has been associated with the Lord Ayyappa temple and that of the tantri (head priest) have opposed the government's decision to implement the apex court's order.