Temple controversy turns political as protests grow
October 20 2018 01:52 AM
Journalist Kavitha Jakkal (centre) gestures as she walks with police wearing protective gear near the Sabarimala temple in Kerala yesterday.

Reuters/Kochi/New Delhi

A senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader yesterday warned that protesters in Kerala would take the law into their hands if officials attempted to let women enter a hill temple at the centre of a raging controversy.
A political tinge for the controversy could help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party gain ground in Kerala, where it has never made much headway, and won just one of 98 seats it contested in the last elections to the state assembly in 2016.
Protests against women entering the temple grew yesterday, with hundreds of hardliners blocking three women from entering the Sabarimala temple for a third day.
The demonstrators were defying a Supreme Court verdict that overturned a decades-old ruling by a lower court denying entry to women.
“If the government is trying to implement its agenda in Sabarimala, we will prevent it, even by taking the law into our hands,” said K Surendran, the general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
Surendran accused the state’s Communist Party government, which has tried to implement the verdict, of provoking devotees after police gave protection to some women who sought to reach the remote site.
He did not elaborate on what the party plans to do, however.
Three dozen priests staged a sit-in against the court verdict.
Television channels broadcast images of scores of police attempting to calm protesters, who consider the verdict a challenge to tradition and interference in religious affairs.
The Supreme Court called the tradition patriarchal. The controversy has fired up Hindu religious sentiment.
Members of the BJP in the state have also strongly backed those seeking to block the entry of women.
Hindu hardliners, including members of the BJP’s youth wing, have clashed with police and attacked women, including journalists, who have tried to get to the temple.
Two women who got close were forced to turn back in the face of protests and a threat by the head priest to shut the temple if they entered, senior Kerala police official S Sreejith told reporters yesterday.
A third woman turned back at the request of police, citing the tension.
Meanwhile trustees of the temple, the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), has decided to submit a detailed report about the happenings in and around the temple both to the Supreme Court and the Kerala High Court.
A Padmakumar, TDB president, said in the state capital that the board would soon approach their legal counsel for preparing the report.
“We have no intention to play political games with Sabarimala,” said Padmakumar.

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