The all-party meeting, convened by the Kerala government on Thursday to discuss the Sabarimala situation, fell through, with Chief Minister Pinarayi emphatically stating that the government will carry forward the SC verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine, including during the two-month Mandalakala puja from November 16.
“We will not dilute the Supreme Court’s verdict in any way. We are a democratic state with the rule of law in place. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the constitutional rights are above individual beliefs,” the CM said in a press conference after the all-party meeting at the Kerala secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.
Clarifying that the government has no option but to follow the verdict, the CM also said that they would have discussions with the stakeholders of Sabarimala on how women entry could be implemented at the temple. He suggested a possibility of allotting specific dates for women to enter the temple.
“Right now, devotees who want to visit the temple can make online bookings. We are looking at ways in which we can reach a settlement. By settlement, I don’t mean blocking women. There are specific days in which women are allowed, so we can discuss if that is possible,” he added.
Responding to Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala’s accusation that the government has dealigned this issue with an ulterior motive, the CM said that the government would do what the Supreme Court has ordered.
“The Supreme Court said that there is no stay on the September 28 verdict, which allowed women into Sabarimala; this means that women between ages 10-50 have the right to come. So we cannot not implement this. Tomorrow, if they change this, we will go by their orders, even if we differ in our opinion,” he said.
On the allegations of obstinacy show by the government, Pinarayi said that the party was not being obstinate and will stand by the believers, but not at the cost of constitutional rights.
“There is no doubt that the government is with the believers. We have made several arrangements to develop the flood-ravaged area. And we won’t stop here. Our goal is to help Sabarimala rise to its full glory. As for women entry, the government has no option as the earlier verdict stand,” he said.
The CM also appealed to believers to maintain peace and tranquillity at the temple. “We are all responsible for carrying out the SC verdict and this is what I have to request,” he said.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it would hear the 49 review petitions submitted against the Sabarimala women entry verdict in open court on January 22, 2019. However, the bench also made it clear that there was no stay on the September 28 verdict, which allowed entry of women between ages 10-50 into the temple.
Government did not consider our request
Following the all-party meeting, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and State BJP President Sreedharan Pillai said that the government should halt the entry of women into the temple until the review petition is heard and a judgement is delivered on January 22, 2019. However, the leaders seemed unhappy with the outcome of the meeting.
After the meeting, Ramesh Chennithala said, “We had put forward two propositions to the government - to seek more time until the review petitions are heard and not to implement the verdict until then. The government, however, rejected our suggestions. They did not even consider our request to withdraw passes for the vehicles of the devotees arriving at Sabarimala. The government is standing firm in its stance and is not ready to no compromise. It was a good opportunity to restore peace at Sabarimala. We thought he will change his stance at the meeting. But since the government has not considered our suggestions, we staged a walkout.”
Interestingly, the CM, at the press conference after the all-party meeting said, “Soon after the discussions, I told the members that the meeting was over. Ramesh Chennithala, however, approached me and said that he and his party were staging a walkout.”
Accusing the government of working hand-in-glove with the RSS and the BJP and just being the mute spectators to the violence in October, Chennithala said “If there will be any violence in the coming days, the Kerala government will be responsible for it.”
(With inputs from Shiba Kurien)