Social activist Trupti Desai on Wednesday said she would visit the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala along with six other women in the previously banned 10-50 age group on November 17 but it was stoutly opposed by a right wing activist, sparking fears of a fresh confrontation.
Desai, who spearheaded the campaign to allow entry of women to various religious places, including Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple and the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, announced the decision even as the Supreme Court once again refused to stay its verdict which allowed entry of women of all age groups to the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, meanwhile, called for a ‘holistic approach’ on the Sabarimala issue so that the sentiments of the people were not hurt, observing the Centre would intervene in the matter at the ‘right time’ if required.
Asked by reporters if an ordinance was required to deal with the situation, Sharma said the Kerala government had to decide on the matter.
“The state government has to take a call on that (ordinance) and the central government, if required, will definitely intervene at the right time,” he said in Delhi.
The two-month-long Mandala Makaravillakku pilgrimage season in Sabarimala commences on November 17 and attracts millions of devotees from all over the country.
With no stay being given, it remains to be seen whether girls and women in the menstruating 10-50 age group will be able to enter the shrine after a 6-km arduous trek since attempts by some were foiled by protesters at the base camps in Nilakkal and Pamba when the shrine was opened for 8 days in two spells after the September 28 verdict.
Desai, in an email to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, sought security as she apprehends an attack on her life during her visit to the shrine.
“We will not return to Maharashtra without darshan at the Sabarimala temple,” she said adding ‘we have faith in the government that it will provide security for us’.
It is the responsiblity of the state government and the police to provide protection and take us to the temple as the Supreme Court has permitted all women to offer prayers at the shrine, she added.
The Chief Minister's office said they had received the e-mail and it has been sent to the officials concerned.
Trupti has also sent a mail to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure security for her trip to the hill shrine.
Rahul Easwar, President of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, which is among the organisations protesting against the entry of women of all ages into the shrine, said Ayyappa devotees would resist through 'Gandhian means', any attempt by Desai and her group to trek the holy shrine and offer prayers.
“We will lie down on the floor. We will protest and at all costs prevent them from offering prayers at the shrine", he said in Thiruvananthapuram.
The temple had witnessed a string of protests from the main Opposition Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and right wing outfits against the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government's decision to implement the apex court verdict, lifting the centuries-old ban on the entry of women in the 10-50 age group.
The shrine had been opened for four days in October and two days this month for the monthly pujas when the protests were held.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked a lawyer, who on Wednesday sought stay on the court's Sabarimala verdict, to wait till January 22 when the Constitution bench will hear review petitions.
The matter was mentioned by lawyer Mathews J Nedumpara, who has filed the review on behalf of the National Ayyappa Devotees (Women's) Association.
The apex court on Tuesday declined a similar plea while agreeing to hear in open court a batch of petitions seeking review of its verdict.
The top court has fixed January 22 to hear all the review petitions.