Bid to build consensus on Sabarimala issue

An air of uncertainty hovers over the pilgrimage as the Sabarimala temple opens for monthly poojas on Thursday, the first time since the Supreme Court lifted curbs on entry of women into the hill shrine. While the State government reiterates its constitutional obligation to implement the verdict, the Travancore Devaswom Board opened a channel for parleys with the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam, members of the ‘Tantri’ (chief priest) family and organisations such as the Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and the Ayyappa Seva Samajam on Tuesday in a bid to evolve a consensus. If the board and the agitators stick to their stated positions — to implement the verdict, on one side, and to retain the tradition by preventing the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years to the temple respectively — the talks may not yield a positive outcome. Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president A. Padmakumar said the primary task of the board is to conserve the tradition and rituals of the temple. The Pandalam Palace as well as the Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and such others who focus on the service of the pilgrims have reiterated that they would not foment trouble. But women from different parts of the State collectively and individually have expressed their resolve to have `darshan’ and if the Sangh Parivar organisations decide to block them at Nilakkal, the base camp, it would lead to a commotion. Long march ends A long march taken out by the National Democratic Alliance from Pandalam and concluded here on Monday is mostly seen as a bid to gain political mileage from the issue. Though the BJP leaders had been reiterating that the party would not resort to violence in the name of the issue, any bid by Sangh Parivar organisations to stop women pilgrims would definitely lead to a showdown. Also the issue would come in handy for the BJP as well as the Congress-led United Democratic Front to lash the Left Democratic Front government. The BJP leaders would soon meet to discuss the future course of action and that means it would sustain the tempo till the eve of the Lok Sabha elections due early next year. The government has clarified that it would offer protection to all pilgrims, including women and also that it is committed to protecting the ritualistic tradition of Sabarimala and other places of worship. The LDF is embarking on an intense multi-tier campaign starting with mass public meetings under the leadership of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other leaders from Tuesday. The campaign that lays thrust on the government’s constitutional responsibility to implement the verdict, would also explain a proposal it had submitted to the Supreme Court to constitute a panel comprising experts in rituals and practices and also those of public standing to study the issue before taking a last call on the issue.

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