Yet again tension prevailed in Pamba, the base camp that gets pilgrims to the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple. A group of more than 20 women of reproductive age, and belonging to an activist group, Manithi, attempted to enter the temple but had to withdraw following protests.
Since 28 September this year, when the Supreme Court of India said women of all ages could enter the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple against the tradition that barred women of reproductive age from 10 to 50, the hill shrine has been a witness to quite a few tense moments.
A number of organisations have filed nearly 49 petitions seeking a review of the ruling, and the apex court has fixed 22 January as the date for hearing, much after the current Mandala puja season gets over on 20 January.
The last time things got as tense as on Sunday (23 December 2018) was when Rehana Fathima, an activist, and journalist Kavitha Jakkal attempted to enter the shrine on 19 October. The two faced stiff opposition with the tantri threatening to close down the temple.
When Manithi, a women welfare and rights organisation, announced that its members planned to storm Sabarimala on 23 December, the Kerala government, its Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and police should have woken up. But they seemed to have not done their homework properly.
On 19 October, when the Kerala government could not help Rehana Fatima enter the Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala, the authorities had declared that activists would no more be allowed to break the tradition in order to implement the Supreme Court order.
There have been a couple of occasions when there were some uneasy moments at Sabarimala, particularly at Pamba, but not at the scale as seen on Sunday. In fact, the unrest at Sabarimala with devotees and the state government locking horns, the number of visitors this year has dropped sharply.
Income at the Sabarimala shrine has dropped by over 40 per cent, while overall, Kerala has missed out to cash in on the current tourist season due to the unrest related to the entry of women of certain age to enter the Ayyappa temple.
Did the Pinarayi government in Kerala close its eyes on Manithi group activities since they happen to be more aligned to the leftist groups and thoughts? Had the Kerala government and its Chief Minister done some homework, as a few did on social media, the women group and, particularly, its leader Selvi Mano wouldn’t have been welcomed.
While the Kerala government came up with stringent regulations in even allowing Union Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, in the case of Manithi, the women were allowed to drive up to Pamba all the way with heavy police escort.
Selvi Mano, speaking to television channels, said the group was helping devotees to enter the shrine. So basically, six women devotees — five of them of reproductive age — wanted to enter the temple and the rest were accompanying to help them accomplish their task.
Is helping women enter the Sabarimala temple the most important and pressing issue for an organisation that claims to fight for women rights and welfare? There are dime a dozen issues for the Tamil Nadu-based organisation to attend to, starting from harassment of women at work places.
Instead of focussing on more pressing issues, that this group accompanies half a dozen women to help them enter the temple is nothing but mischief. And, Selvi Mano is no angel in offering to help the women. Her intentions are very obvious from her Facebook cover.
Along with the Kerala government, the Tamil Nadu government should have also swung into action. This is because a person like Selvi Mano can create tensions between the states by coming up with such a mischievous attempt.
What’s so great about Selvi Mano? Nothing great but a look at her Facebook page provides enough proof of the woman’s objective, outlook and intent. The Vijayan government should not have, in the first place, encouraged a woman like her to make such an attempt at Sabarimala.
Selvi Mano was a little left leaning, no doubt. But should he encourage a woman who campaigns for the country’s secession — particularly a separate Tamil nation?
Sample this for example. On 17 December, she put up a status on Facebook that her organisation wouldn’t allow the reopening of UK-based Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi, and would support the city people, who are against the industrial unit. This came two days after the National Green Tribunal quashed the Tamil Nadu government order to shut the copper plant on 28 May.
A day earlier, she came up with a status supporting Madurai-based 'Thai Puratchi’ organisation condemning the Union and state governments and asking them to totally remove Sterlite from Thoothukudi. In another status, she asked people affected by Gaja cyclone to reject relief materials offered by Sterlite.
Selvi Mano has been, throughout the last few months, campaigning for a separate Tamil state. On 29 November, she came up with a separate map of Tamil Nadu, saying the state’s gross domestic product of $256 million was higher than Finland’s $253 million, and called for a separate nation.
A few on Twitter have also pointed out that Selvi Mano had supported Zakir Naik, the controversial Islamic scholar, who has been charged with trying to foment communal trouble.
Amusingly, one of her organisation members, who also attempted to enter the Ayyappan Temple, had given her views to a foreign television group saying Indian men wanted their women only to cook and produce children.
The issue then is why did the Pinarayi Vijayan government permit a group of women, who openly want the country to be broken into pieces? By encouraging Manithi and Selvi Mano, in particular, isn’t the Communist Party of India (Marxist) indirectly supporting the forces that are out to create trouble and unrest in the country?
Manithi and Selvi Mano shouldn’t have been allowed to even cross the Tamil Nadu border. In his over enthusiasm to implement the 28 September Supreme Court ruling, Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan isn’t doing the right thing by encouraging people who are against its very foundation, unity and peace.
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