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Home / Politics / Policy /  Sabarimala verdict may be a bombshell for Kerala govt

Bengaluru: The Supreme Court verdict on Friday allowing women of menstrual age the right to worship in Kerala Sabarimala temple, abolishing a centuries-old Hindu religious practice, may have just a landed the state’s communist government a political bombshell.

The state government is tasked with implementing the verdict and is at risk of losing political capital from the protesting Hindu believers, who form about half of Kerala’s population.

While the government has welcomed the verdict, hailing it as a victory for women’s rights, the ruling has sparked a heated debate among Hindu believers and a significant women population, who see it as an infringement of their religious beliefs.

The government may also have to hastily beef up facilities and security for women’s entry, as the temple will open for the next pilgrimage season in about two months.

The petitioner who argued against women’s entry in the case, Rahul Eshwar, said he did not rule out the verdict creating a law and order situation in Kerala. In addition, Eshwar said he and his associates would file a review petition.

Kadakampally Surendran, Kerala’s communist minister for ‘Devaswom Boards’ (public-run temple boards), said he would ask the board tasked with running the temple, the Travancore Devaswom Board, to implement the verdict.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the verdict. There may be some hurdles, but the government will work to implement the law. The board will have to see whether women will be able to enter this pilgrimage season or not. Once the board takes a decision, we will take a look at it," he told reporters.

He added that the Kerala government set high priority on women’s security and would not allow their security in the temple to be threatened.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in its 4:1 verdict on Friday, said banning entry of women to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple amounted to discrimination and the practice violated the rights of Hindu women, Press Trust of India reported on Friday. The CJI said devotion could not be subject to discrimination and patriarchal notions could not be allowed to trump equality in devotion, the report said.

The Travancore Devaswom Board welcomed the verdict and said it would not file a review petition. The board had argued in the top court against allowing women temple entry.

“We welcome the judgment, as there is no other way. We will discuss with the government how arrangements can be made to allow women entry," said the board’s president, A Padmakumar, to television reporters.

Two religious heads, the head priest of the Thantri Kandaru Rajeevaru temple and Sasikumar Varma of the Valiyakoickal Panthaplavil Palace, said they disagreed with the verdict. Both are closely connected with the running of the temple and its customs.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has been treading cautiously on the subject. After the verdict, J Padmakumar, the BJP’s Kerala spokesperson, put the ball in the court of the government, stating the party would wait and see how the Travancore Devaswom Board handled the matter.

“The BJP is not a participant in the case. The state leadership will meet and discuss what position needs to be taken on the verdict. The leadership thinks we should not alienate anyone from worship, but we do not want to take an arbitrary decision. We must discuss with other Hindu organisations," Padmakumar said.

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