The Kerala government on Friday afternoon created headlines by declaring that not two, but 51 women below the age of 50 had entered Sabarimala this season. Raising a list of women who entered the temple and their details, the government’s counsel told the Supreme Court that this was the data collected from the digital registry where devotees bought online tickets to visit the hill shrine.
The list, in a blatant violation of privacy of all these 51 people, had their phone numbers, addresses and Aadhaar numbers. Moreover, copies of the list were soon made available to the media, thereby making the details available to a large section.
This list, however, has turned into a huge headache for the government, as several persons who were part of it have denied the state’s claims.
When TNM contacted Vanaroja E, who was on the list, her son Elumalai Saravanan said that the online registration site had recorded her incorrect age due to an error in the date of birth in her Aadhaar card.
“My mother is 55 now. I am 34. This is the third time my mother is going to Sabarimala. So when we registered online they recorded her age incorrectly as 46. The DOB is not mentioned in my mother’s Aadhaar card. Even when we got the ticket, it was the incorrect age,” he said.
Elumalai added that a group of Ayyappa devotees even visited his house to verify the age of his mother following the publishing of this list. Devotee groups had got to know the details from the list that was already being forwarded on social media.
“They came and checked our id proof and after being convinced that my mother was above 50 took a picture of her,” he added.
Another name on the list, Deivasigamani Pandurangan, turns out to be a male. When TNM contacted his number, the call was answered by Deivasigamani's friend, Balaji, who booked the ticket. "Deivasigamani is a male; not a female. I erroneously clicked the 'female' option when I was booking the ticket for him," Balaji told TNM.
Similar to the first case, an error in the date of birth on Tirupathi Ramulamma's Aadhaar id showed her age as 48 while her daughter booked the tickets online. "I booked the tickets for my mother, Tirupathi Ramulamma, and my husband. My mother is 59 years old," Subashini, Ramulamma's daughter said. Many Malayalam channels, too, tracked down people on the list, and most turned out to be above 50 years of age. Three on the list, Deivasigamani, Kalavathi and Paranjyoti, are men and it is unclear if that number will go up.
Following this news, state Congress chief and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the government’s attempt to deceive the Supreme Court with wrong facts was shameful. He also accused the government of repeatedly hurting the sentiments of Sabarimala devotees and fuelling the Sabarimala controversy to maintain unrest in the state.
Meanwhile, Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar said that the group would move the Supreme Court against the ‘fake document’ that the government has submitted before it.
“The Kerala Government has blatantly lied to the top court by producing a misleading document which claimed that 51 women below 50 years entered the temple. I personally verified 12 of the numbers given there and none of them was true. Is this not shocking? We will definitely move the court against this action of the government,” he told TNM.