The Kerala government has declared its resolve to enforce the Supreme Court's order on women's entry into Sabarimala temple, but it deployed only policewomen over 50 years of age at the shrine when it opened on Monday, a move welcomed by both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The two parties are up in arms against the Left Front government for its decision not to file a review petition against the apex court's order lifting the ban on entry of girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine.
Officials said only women personnel who were not in the menstruating age group have been deployed for security inside the temple complex while those younger are stationed along the route from Nilackal base camp to Pamba, from where the pilgrims trek 5 km to the temple of Lord Ayyappa, its perennially celibate deity.
M M Hassan, a senior Congress leader and former state unit chief of the party, said he did not find any 'fault' with the government's decision and that deploying younger women at the temple complex would have 'provoked' devotees.
"I cannot find any fault with the government's move deploying women aged over 50 at 'Sannidhanam' (temple complex). Deploying younger women would have provoked devotees," Hassan said.
Referring to the Left Front government's decision to enforce the Supreme Court order and not go for a review, he said had the government acted keeping in mind the sentiments of Ayyappa devotees the present situation would not have arisen.
BJP Thiruvananthapuram district president S Suresh said only women of menopausal age should be put on duty at the shrine in keeping with its age-old traditions.
At least 15 policewomen aged 50 years or more have been deployed at the 'Sannidhanam'. When asked why only policewomen over 50 years were deployed inside the temple, Inspector General of Police M R Ajith Kumar said women staff of 'eligible' age from various departments were stationed at the shrine for official duty for quite some time.
Large-scale protests had erupted in different parts of Kerala on October 17 when the doors of the temple had opened for the first time after the Supreme Court's landmark order.
Backed by the Congress and the BJP, besides Hindu fringe groups, the protesters had fought pitched battles with police resulting in injuries to many. -- PTI