Pinarayi govt excesses infuriate court

Sushil Kutty

So, it wasn’t a never-ending tease? The BJP is done with the Sabarimala sannidanam and is all set to take the battle to the Secretariat, handicapped as it is with just a single face in the Kerala Assembly to make a stand, raise ruckus. The skirmish inside the assembly is between the LDF and UDF and the BJP is banking on Swami Ayyappa to change the composition of the House.
For now, it is left with BJP MLA O Rajagopal and Independent MLA PC George to give a change of complexion; both legislators arriving donning black to give that impression. It wasn’t much of an opposition. More so, because with the Congress bringing Section 144 into the Assembly, the House was adjourned as quickly as the cries rose to a crescendo.
And ‘yuvati-praveshanam’ is no more a worry, says the BJP. It’s two months to the date since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict allowed women of all ages entry into the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple and as many as 20 women in the age-group 10-50 were thwarted despite the Pinarayi Vijayan government’s express orders that nobody will be allowed to stop them.
Two months later, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is more or less resigned to the general feeling that no more attempts will be made and if Trupti Desai makes a Che Guevera like incursion she too will not succeed, not with the BJP willing to go any length to block her if she tries for it. Besides, the BJP also thinks it’s on a winning streak with the Kerala High Court coming down heavily on the LDF government for its wrong priorities, for leaving the Ayyappa devotees hungry and thirsty in the sannidanam.
While leaving Section 144 in place, the high court did chide Pinarayi for stopping Ayyappans from doing the ‘namajapa’ as and when he feels like it; and stop dogging the faithful while he’s doing it about the temple premises. The court has set up a three-member panel to keep an eye on the goings on in Sabarimala, including two judges and a police officer, who turns out to be not a friend of Pinarayi, having been sidelined by that worthy.
BJP President Amit Shah has also sent a four-member fact-finding panel of BJP MPs to Sabarimala with orders to report back in a fortnight. For sure, that report will be damning and who will be damned is not a mystery, the Pinarayi government, of course! The saffron party is smarting – it’s most recognized “youth face”, K Surendran, has been put behind bars and not about to be set free anytime soon.
On the flip-side, Pinarayi-picked police officers posted in and around the Sabarimala temple, those who went after the BJP protest-sharpshooters with a vengeance, have been shunted out under pressure from the court, with at least one of them likely to face a privilege motion in Parliament. In fact, police posted at Sabarimala have been at the receiving end of devotee-ire for no fault of theirs except that they followed orders.
Besides, if the devotees suffered for lack of toilets and bath and drinking water, the 10,000-strong police force posted at Sabarimala also took the hit, crammed 20-50 a dormitory and catching the viral fever by the dozens; also, no longer the benign ‘Ayyappan Police’ but the baton-wielding “khaki enemy”, designated “CPM-goons”. Policemen and women from police stations all over Kerala have been posted at Sabarimala and this has left bare law enforcement in the districts.
The police are not the only depressed lot, the Travancore Devaswom Board is also one solid block of misery with the daily takings at the shrine plummeting to historical lows. The devotees, whose numbers too fell, have been very miserly, their pockets zipped against the LDF government’s neglect and because of the “police atrocities.” Very few Swami Ayyappas are donating and buying the religious stuff the Devaswom sells to make hay while sun still shines.
Nearly 1,200 temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board survive on munificence from the Sabarimala temple. The salaries of priests and other staff in these temples and the pensions of those who served gods are dependent on how much Sabarimala rakes in every year. This year looks bleak. The TDB is panicking and the Pinarayi Vijayan government is wavering.
But other voices are rising even if muted. For example, that of those who say that the money crunch will hit only the ‘savarna’ TDB employee. The “Nair and savarna above them” are against the Supreme Court verdict not because of “yuvati praveshnam” but because the court ruled Sabarimala would henceforth be a “public place”. For some reason, the “high caste Hindu” was comfortable with the undeclared “private place” tag to Sabarimala.
Also, brought in by Arabian Sea currents, are reports that a Gulf-based group is behind the attempted “Sabarimala takeover” with support from a broad spectrum of political, media and business players; all of them invested in promoting ‘Pilgrim Tourism’ with Sabarimala as the hub. None of them expected women Ayyappa devotees to take to the streets and the BJP to reverse its stand once it saw the “Suvarna Opportunity” Sabarimala provided to build a locked vote-bank. Like they say the best-laid plans of men and mice… But there’s still a chance, January 22! (IPA)

Friday, 14 December, 2018