Hartal in Kerala over Sabarimala verdict; women take out prayer march

    Hundreds of devotees of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala took out a Nama Japa Yatra (prayer march) in protest against the Supreme Court’s verdict on entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. The verdict which is in clash with the age-old traditions of Hindus triggered widespread outrage among people.

    Meanwhile, Ayyappa Sangams in Tamil Nadu have also planned protest against the verdict. Senior RSS leader S Gurumurthy advised them not to take out protests against the verdict. He tweeted: “Told Ayyappa sangams (who wanted to protest against SC order), not to do it, but appeal to all women who respect Sabarimalai tradition to follow it. Leave those who disrespect it do what they like. Million women did not agitate to go to Sabarimala. Ignore habitual agitators.”

    The Shiva Sena unit in Kerala has declared one-day hartal in the state to protest against the verdict. They said they would talk to other religious organisations to fight it out legally.

    Meanwhile, the members of Pandalam royal family (into which Lord Ayyappa is believed to have born) decided to approach the President and Centre to express their concern over the ‘violation of age-old belief systems’.  More than men, it is the women who are in the forefront to protect traditions with regard to the hill shrine.

    In an article in Swarajya, former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandeya Katju had made a scathing attack on the judiciary over the verdict.  He writes: “Justice Indu Malhotra in her dissenting judgement in the Sabarimala case has displayed the balance and restraint required by all judges of a supreme court. I regret I cannot say the same for the judges in the majority. By interfering with the centuries-old practice of the Sabarimala temple they have opened up a Pandora’s box and embarked on a perilous, unpredictable path of hyper-activism, which will be an albatross hanging on the necks of judges in India…..In most mosques in India, Muslim women are not allowed, and they have to pray at home. Even in the very few where they are allowed, e.g. in Jama Masjid, Delhi, they cannot pray along with the men, but in separate enclosures. Will the Supreme Court display the same bravery and order that Muslim women must be allowed to stand next to Muslim men during prayers in mosques? Or is the Court’s bravery selective and confined to Hindus?”