Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday accused the ‘sangh parivar’ and its associates of turning the Sabarimala temple into a conflict zone and vowed to implement the Supreme Court order in the next long-season pilgrimage starting in November.
He also slammed the temple tantri and the Pandalam royal family for claiming rights and powers over the Lord Ayyappa shrine that they do not possess.
The Chief Minister, who was abroad when the temple opened for the five-day monthly pujas on October 17, broke his silence over the temple unrest before the media here.
A dozen women in the hitherto barred age group of 10 to 50 were stopped during the five-day brief season far away from the hilltop temple which opened for the first time following the Supreme Court’s September 28 landmark verdict allowing all women inside the temple breaking centuries old tradition.
“Even before the temple opened, the sangh parivar forces had their plans laid out. The government never stopped any devotee at all. Instead, it provided all support as it is its constitutional responsibility to see that the apex court verdict is adhered to,” Vijayan said.
He said Sabarimala is a religious institution and peace and tranquillity has to be preserved but the sangh parivar forces “took over”.
“Their agenda was to convert Sabarimala into a conflict zone and we will ensure that at the upcoming festival season (the two-month-long season that begins on November 17), the government would do everything possible to abide by the top court’s order.
He said it would be ensured that during that period no devotee would be allowed to stay there beyond a particular time.
A Tirupati model system of managing the devotees would be put into force, Vijayan added.
He also slammed the tantri (chief priest), who had at the height of the conflict threatened to close the temple even as the police tried to escort women for the prayers.
“It was a needless statement from the tantri because the right to open and close the temple vests with the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).
“The protest by the temple employees was also wrong as both the tantri and the employees all come under the TDB and they should not forget it,” said Vijayan.
Taking on the Pandalam royal family and its claims that they have the rights to the temple, Vijayan said they were staking claims on things which they cannot.
“The Sabarimala temple is the property of the TDB and none else have any rights over it. According to the 1949 Covenant things are written very clearly and it says that the Sabarimala temple ownership was handed over to the TDB after the royal family had serious financial problems.
“Today they just conduct ritualistic activities of the temple and that they can continue to do,” said Vijayan.
But state BJP president P.S.Sreedharan Pillai, responding to the Vijayan’s statement on the Sabarimala temple issue, said that he felt sorry for Vijayan.
“Do not know what has happened to Vijayan as he appears to have lost his balance when he said that the tantri is an employee of the TDB. It’s for a government employee that there is a code of conduct and the tantri does not take a single rupee as salary. The tantri does not fall under the employee category . It was just because of the adamant stand of Vijayan, that things reached so low. He has proved to be an abject failure,” said Pillai.
Sreekumar Varma of the Pandalam royal family said he was extremely delighted that the will of Lord Ayyappa has prevailed even when several attempts to send women to the temple failed.
“I take this opportunity to thank all the devotees who stood their ground to protect the temple and its traditions despite several attempts to defame the temple was taking place.
“I do not recall any amendments being made with regards to the tantri and their rights and responsibilities. To the best of my knowledge it remains the same as it was before. About the statements against our family, I will study in detail what was said by him (Vijayan) and will react tomorrow,” said Varma.
Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala told the media in Kozhikode that it was most unfortunate that the state government was trying to aggravate issues over Sabarimala .
“The BJP here should march to the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not mislead people here. Only through a Constitutional amendment can one get around the present apex court verdict,” he said.