Much to the dismay of the 11 women, who arrived in Pamba on Sunday, the Kerala government passed the buck over whether they would be allowed into Sabarimala temple to the High Court-appointed Monitoring Committee. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the government is acting on the directions of the High Court and that the Monitoring Committee would assess the current situation over the entry of the women. "The government will abide by the decision by the Committee," the Minister said.
But it was not enough for the group of women from Tamil Nadu, who was soon forced to return after the police refused to provide them security to climb up the hill. Protesters from the BJP and right-wing organisations, who made their way to Pamba on hearing of the womenâ€™s arrival, heckled and booed them even as they waited for the green signal from the Monitoring Committee that was not to come.
A Hemachandran, who is part of the three-member Monitoring Committee, told TNM that the role of the committee, as appointed by the High Court, is clear. "The committee was appointed when there was police excess at Sabarimala. The police still have the right to interfere when there is a law and order situation. Also, I have been told that the decision of the Manithi group to offer prayers at the shrine was informed well in advance to the state police chief," he said. Hemachandran also told TNM that the Committee was yet to take a decision on whether to allow the women to enter the temple.
He also pointed out that women have attempted to climb the shrine even prior to the committee being formed. The Kerala High Court appointed the committee on December 3 to review the facilities for the ongoing season. Hemachandran, Justice S Sirijagan (retired), Justice PR Raman (retired) are the members of the committee.
Despite the Kerala government stating that it would be committed to implementing the Supreme Courtâ€™s order allowing the entry of all women into the shrine, it appears to have buckled under pressure from protesting groups, choosing to pass the buck to the Monitoring Committee instead.