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‘Big flop’, says opposition after walking out of Kerala’s all-party meeting to resolve Sabarimala stand off

An all-party meeting called by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan ahead of the annual pilgrimage season to Sabarimala beginning Friday did not help narrow down differences among the state’s political parties over the entry of women into the hilltop shrine. The Congress-led UDF and the BJP on Thursday walked out of the all-party meeting called by the Left Front government and blamed the chief minister for the stand off.

“Now the chief minister is responsible for any eventuality at the temple,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, blaming the Vijayan for what he described as, his adamant stand. “The government wasted a golden opportunity,” said Chennithala.

The state BJP’s PS Sreedharan Pillai also blamed the state government. “The chief minister wants to make Sabarimala a battleground,” said Pillai, asserting the chief minister will be responsible for any eventuality at hilltop temple. “We wasted more than two hours,” he said.

The opposition has been demanding that the state government back down from its stand of proactively implementing the Supreme Court’s September 28 ruling that allowed women in the reproductive age to enter the shrine.

The top court has agreed to revisit its verdict in January but has made it clear that it had not stayed its original verdict.

Women between the age of 10 and 50 were restricted from entering the over 800-year-old shrine in south Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district because its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is going to reach out to Sabarimala temple’s chief priest’s family and the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam, considered to be the custodians of the famous temple.

The shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa has been at the centre of high drama and tension following the top court order, with women trying to enter the shrine and protesters bent upon blocking them.

Pinarayi Vijayan said his government was duty bound to implement the order of the highest court in the country. “The government is with the judiciary and devotees… The Constitution is supreme,” he said.

“We can’t prevent women entry to Sabarimala”, he said, reminding traditionalists who are against the entry of women to the temple that he could not dilute the historic verdict.

“The government will provide security to women who want to trek to the temple,” Vijayan said.

But no woman was able to enter the hill shrine despite an army of security personnel accompanying them. The situation came to a head when the chief priest threatened to quit and even shut the temple gates if any woman came anywhere near the sanctum sanctorum.

First Published: Nov 15, 2018 14:05 IST

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