A few days ago, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared that his government was committed to providing security to any woman who wished to visit the Sabarimala Ayyappan temple in Pathanamthitta district. The declaration by the CM, reiterated by many others in the government and in the CPI(M) is turning out to be an albatross around the party and governmentâ€™s neck.
Kerala is witnessing a consolidation of Hindu sentiment like never before and the BJP has played its cards, carefully orchestrating a slow but powerful build up of resistance to women entering the shrine.
On the ground, the focus has shifted away from the Supreme Court and for many, the state government has become the villain in the story.
"The Supreme Court may have given a verdict, but why was the government hurrying to implement it? They should have waited," Sunil Kumar from Kozhikode, who had come to visit the Sabarimala shrine said.
Ramesh from Kollam says the government erred in its stand in the SC itself. "The government is responsible, none of this would have happened if the government had taken a different stand in court," he says.
Though the CM claimed that women would be given security, the first two days saw two women- Madhavi a devotee from Andhra and New York Times reporter Suhasini Raj- abandoning their trek to the temple following protests. On Friday the government found itself in a huge controversy after a top police officer escorted a woman named Rehana Fathima to the temple.
As Rehana's details started coming out in the media, the government distanced itself from her saying it cannot support activists going to the temple, simply to 'prove the power of activism'.
Though eventually Rehena was not allowed to enter, the anger that was brewing in a considerable section of the Hindu community, grew further. "The government didn't know who she was? Even a small child can do a Google and figure out about her. I don't believe the government didn't know, they very well did and dropped the plan last minute," Praveen, another devotee said.
The government has been countering the BJP, RSS and Congress calling the protests and even the entry of Rehana a political conspiracy. Devasom Minister Kadakampally Surendran in a Facebook post alleged that Rehana had been propped up by Sangh elements who wanted communal riots in Kerala. But CPI (M) State Secretary's announcement that the party is not against entry of any women, activists included, has betrayed the deep confusion that prevails on both the party and government on how to take the Sabarimala issue forward without ruffling more feathers.
(With inputs from Korah Abraham)