Opposition creates ruckus in Kerala Assembly over Sabarimala issue

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) were on their feet shouting slogans and displaying placards urging the state government to fully withdraw the restrictions in Sabarimala. 
Congress MLAs protest in the well of Kerala Assembly over Sabarimala issue. (Photo | ANI)
Congress MLAs protest in the well of Kerala Assembly over Sabarimala issue. (Photo | ANI)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Congress-led UDF Opposition Wednesday lambasted the ruling CPI(M) over restrictions imposed by police at Sabarimala, even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was to ensure a smooth pilgrimage for "real" devotees.

Armed with placards and banners, the Opposition members tried to interrupt the proceedings of the House as soon as it met and demanded the withdrawal of the prohibitory orders invoked in and around Sabarimala 'Sannidhanam', the temple complex.

Some members even tried to climb Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan's podium and argued with him, demanding scrapping of the Question Hour to take up the adjournment motion over Sabarimala, considering the gravity of the subject.

As the protest continued, the speaker stopped the proceedings for around an hour before the beginning of the 'Zero' hour (members can, with prior notice to the Speaker, raise issues of importance during this time).

Justifying the police restrictions at the Ayyappa temple, Vijayan said the CPI(M)-led LDF government had no agenda to destroy the faith of devotees.

He said the Sangh Parivar forces were trying to implement a "pre-planned agenda" at the Lord Ayyappa shrine to check the real devotees there and the government could not give perpetrators of violence a free hand.

Dismissing the charge that the Left government had shown "hastiness" in implementing the Supreme Court verdict permitting entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine, Vijayan said that as a responsible and law-abiding government, it had no way other than implementing the order.

"A small group, in the guise of devotees, had tried to prevent real pilgrims and unleash violence in the name of belief.

It is the responsibility of police to check the recurrence of violence," the chief minister said.

The government cannot allow Sabarimala to be turned into a centre of violence, he said, adding that police actions were not against devotees, but to protect and help them.

"All steps, taken by the police and the government, including the imposition of prohibitory orders, are in accordance with the law.

The restrictions at the shrine were inevitable to ensure smooth darshan for real devotees and cannot be withdrawn in the present circumstance of possible threats," Vijayan said.

Due to the effective intervention of police, no violent incidents occurred at Sabarimala after it was opened for the Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival on November 16, he said.

The chief minister also alleged that the stand taken by the Congress-led UDF on the Sabarimala issue amounted to "supporting and promoting" those who tried to run riot at the Ayyappa shrine.

Seeking notice for the adjournment motion, former Devaswom (temple administration) minister and Congress legislator V S Sivakumar said it was "police raj" at Sabarimala and it would destroy one of the rare pilgrim centres known for its secular traditions.

Police were chasing away devotees and not allowing them to perform rituals like "neyyabhishekam" (ghee offering), he said.

Besides the restrictions, lack of adequate toilets, rest rooms and dearth of safe drinking water also were causing hardships to the devotees.

"This government is trying to impose the stand of atheists on believers and destroy the Lord Ayyappa temple.

Otherwise, why did not you go for a review petition against the September 28 (supreme court) verdict?" Sivakumar asked.

He also accused Vijayan of allegedly highlighting the actions of the BJP in the Sabarimala issue to destroy the Congress party.

When the speaker denied permission for the motion, the Opposition trooped into the well of the House and raised slogans.

As they did not heed his repeated requests to return to their seats, he took up other businesses and adjourned the House for the day.

Meanwhile, Kerala Jana Paksham leader P C George and lone BJP MLA O Rajagopal, who had decided to cooperate on the Sabarimala issue in the House, came wearing black clothes as a mark of solidarity with Ayyappa devotees who are opposing the government's decision to implement the apex court order.

The hill shrine has been witnessing protests by devotees and right-wing groups on the matter.

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