On September 20, 2018, the Supreme Court made a historic judgement, by lifting the ban on entry of women into Sabarimala Temple, ending the centuries-old rule that barred women of menstruating age (between the ages of 10 and 50 years) from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra while delivering the iconic judgement said that even if there was no law, the women cannot be discriminated against with regard to offering prayer in a temple. "When a man can enter, a woman can also go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman also.", it stated.
The landmark judgement passed by the Supreme Court caused dismay among many of the devotees of the Sabarimala Temple. Chief Justice Dipak Misra, reading out the judgment, also on behalf of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, said that the subversion of women's rights under the garb of the physiological phenomenon cannot be allowed. "All devotees are equal and there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of gender," he said.
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge in the five-judge bench, gave a dissenting view. She added: "The court cannot impose its morality or rationality with respect to the form of worship of a deity. Doing so would negate the freedom to practice one's religion according to one's faith and beliefs...
"All followers must be allowed to follow their own faith as per their own beliefs in a secular polity."
BJP ally and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan hailed the Supreme Court decision as a historic one. He said that there should be no discrimination against them (Women) at a time when they were going to space and joining the Army. He further added, "Stopping them from entering a temple is wrong. There should be no discrimination against them. Our party welcomes the Supreme Court verdict. It is a historic decision."
On September 30, 2018, Maharashtra based political party, Shiv Senacalled for a statewide strike in Kerala on October 1 following the Supreme Court's verdict lifting restrictions on the entry of women of all ages in the Sabarimala temple. In the wake of the landmark verdict by the Supreme Court, Shiv Sena called for a 12-hour bandh in the Kerala state.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who welcomed the landmark Supreme Court judgement, said that every time any historic change came, there were a lot of traditionalists who resisted, "...Those women who do feel very strongly that this is wrong, need not go. The court's judgement does not require anyone to go to Sabarimala. It just says if you want to go, you can no longer be prevented on the grounds of...I think that's the judgment that we all have to follow," he was quoted.
On October 7, 2018, the representatives of Sabarimala temple's 'tantri' (chief priest) refused to attend a conciliation meeting that was called by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to discuss the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that threw open the temple to women of all ages.
"Let us hear the final decision of the state government with regards to the filing of a review petition against the apex court's verdict. Once that is known, then we will decide on what needs to be done. To deploy female police personnel in the temple premises is a violation of the temple practices," Sabarimala priest Kantararu Mohanaru was quoted.
On October 8, 2018, Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala declared that the Kerala government won't file a review petition against the Supreme Court ruling that women in the age group of 10-50 can also enter the famed Sabarimala temple. "It is not possible to file a review petition by the Kerala government against the verdict as we had told the apex court in our affidavit that we will abide by whatever the court rules. Hence it's not now possible to file a review petition," said Vijayan, amid the widespread protests that were taking place against the September 28 verdict by the apex court.
On October 8, 2018, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury hit out at the Congress over its stand on the Sabarimala temple issue, saying it would only help the campaign of the RSS-BJP combine against secular-democratic values. Yechury alleged that the BJP and the RSS opposed the apex court's judgment on the issue and were behind the agitations and protests that were taking place in Kerala post the SC ruling.
On October 13, 2018, thousands of Lord Ayyappa devotees took to the streets in Kochi against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups into Sabarimala temple. Activist Trupti Desai too announced her plans to visit the hill shrine soon. Trupti Desai's planned visit evoked sharp reactions from Ayyappa devotees and the BJP, which is campaigning against the entry of women into the hill shrine.
On October 16, 2018, Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy strongly endorsed women's entry into Kerala's Sabarimala Temple, asserting that it is wrong to go against the Supreme Court's verdict, which allowed the entry of women of menstruating age inside the temple premises.
Swamy said, "The Supreme Court has made a decision, but now you (protestors) are saying that it's our tradition. Triple Talaq is also a tradition in that way, everybody was applauding when it was abolished. The same Hindus have come on the streets now. It's a fight between Hindu Renaissance and Obscurantism. Renaissance says all Hindus are equal and caste system should be abolished. Because no Brahmin today is only intellectual, they're in the cinema, business as well. Where is it written that caste is from birth? Shastras can be amended."
On October 17, 2018, Kerala police took to lathi-charge after protesters opposed the entry of women in the 10-50 age group to the Sabarimala temple. The event turned violent and protestors attacked journalists covering the stand-off at Sabarimala Temple. Two female reporters, working for two different television news channels, were injured when the protesters turned their ire on the media contingent.
The demonstrators were forcibly turning back stray women visiting the shrine despite police assurances that no one will be prevented from taking part in the pilgrimage. Police tried to calm the situation but the protestors pelted stones on them, prompting the police to take resought to lathi-charge. This further enraged the protesters, who smashed the windowpanes of a police vehicle, which was carrying away the injured women journalists. The protesters chased out another woman journalist, working for a news portal, from a bus headed to the temple town.
On October 18, 2018, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that the Supreme Court verdict has not taken into consideration the nature and premise of the tradition that has been accepted by society and has given rise to "divisiveness" in society.
He further said, "This situation is not at all conducive for the peace and healthiness of the society."
On October 18, 2018, a Delhi-based woman journalist of a foreign media outlet, who trekked the Sabarimala Hill, was stopped midway by Lord Ayyappa devotees opposing entry of women of menstrual age into the hill shrine. The journalist accompanied by her male colleague, a foreigner, descended the hills from Marakkoottam area in the face of mounting protest by Ayyappa devotees.
Reporters of Malayalam news channels who followed the journalist to the hill shrine said the devotees shouted slogans 'ladies go back'. Some even allegedly hurled abuses at her opposing her entry into the ancient shrine, the reports said.
On October 19, 2018, six BJP youth wing activists were arrested at Nilackal for staging a protest in violation of Section 144 of CrPC, which has been clamped in the area in view of violent demonstrations against allowing women in the menstruating age group inside the Sabarimala temple. While being forcibly bundled into a police vehicle, state BJYM president Prakash Babu said not a single woman in the age group of 10 to 50 would be allowed to climb the hills which house the Sabarimala temple.
On October 19, 2018, women's activist Trupti Desai, who had threatened to block Prime Minister Narendra Modi's convoy at Shirdi, was detained by Pune police from her house. Desai, president of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, has been supporting the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. PM Modi visited Shirdi on October 19, to attend a function to mark the conclusion of the year-long Saibaba Samadhi centenary programme organised by the Sai trust.
Trupti Desai was detained by Sahakarnagar police station (Pune) till 2 pm until Modi's speech was over. She was provided snacks and tea at the police station
The Sabarimala temple complex witnessed high drama and tense moments on October 20, 2018, when two women reached the hilltop with a heavy police escort. However, they had to return before they could reach the sanctum sanctorum following massive protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees.
In the file photo, Journalist Kavitha Jakkal being escorted by cops to Sabarimala temple on Friday. Pic/PTI
Four women hailing from Andhra Pradesh were on their way to the Sabarimala temple when protesters blocked their path on October 21, 2018, and turned them away. Two women accompanied by a male devotee were the first to face the wrath of the traditionalists.
In the file photo, Activists block a road to the Sabarimala temple, at Vadaserikara town in Pathanamthitta district. Pic/PTI
On October 23, 2018, Union Minister Smriti Irani waded into the Sabarimala issue by asking if it was proper for anybody to desecrate a place of worship to justify the right to pray. "It is plain common sense... Will you take sanitary napkins soaked in menstrual blood to a friend's home? You will not. Do you think it is respectful to do the same when you enter the house of God?" Irani was quoted.
On October 25, 2018, four women approached the Kerala HC seeking a direction to the state government to provide them security to offer prayers at the Sabarimala temple. In their petition, the women submitted that despite a judgment of the SC permitting entry of all women into the hill shrine, their hopes are still in limbo.
In the file photo, Devotees protest as several women arrive to offer prayers at Sabarimala temple. File pic/PTI
In a crackdown on protesters, who prevented women from the hitherto banned age group from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, the Kerala police arrested more than 2,000 protestors in the course of two days from October 25 to October 27. A total of 452 cases have been registered against 2,300 people for defying the September 28 SC order allowing women of all ages to visit the temple.
In the file photo, Hindu Sena members shout slogans during a protest. Pic/AFP
On October 27, 2018, BJP president Amit Shah extended full support to the protest by Ayyappa devotees against the CPI(M)-led LDF government's decision to implement the Supreme court order on entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple, saying the Left government was trying to "suppress" the agitation by force. Amit Shah further condemned the arrest of over 2,000 devotees, including RSS and Sangh Parivar activists, across the state agitating against the entry of women of all ages into the temple.
On October 28, 2018, an ashram run by a supporter of the Supreme Court's Sabarimala verdict came under attack early, the Kerala police said. Two cars and a two-wheeler parked outside the ashram were set on fire around, said Swami Sandeepananda Giri, who was present on the premises at the time. Giri has been taking a strong stand against the BJP-RSS combine in the state that has criticised the apex court's September 28 verdict opening the gates of the Lord Ayyappa shrine for all women.
In the file photo, Hindu devotees gather at a Shiva temple during a protest against the Supreme Court verdict revoking a ban on women's entry to Sabarimala temple in October. Pic/AFP
On October 28, 2018, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal alleged that BJP president Amit Shah through his comments on the Sabarimala verdict was "actively encouraging people to violate the Supreme Court order".
Kejriwal Tweeted: Amit Shah actively encouraging people to violate SC orders. Creating anarchy. Hopefully, SC will take cognisance (sic).
On October 29, 2018, The Kerala government assured the high court that every genuine devotee would be provided necessary assistance for offering prayers with sanctity and dignity at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala temple. The state also informed the court that necessary action would be taken to maintain law and order in Sabarimala. The court then closed the petition, saying that the apprehensions raised by the petitioners were premature and irrational.
In the file photo, 'Chanda' drummers take part in a rally in Bangalore. Pic/AFP
Amidst the constant protests, a total of 550 women from the hitherto banned age group of 10 to 50 years on November 10, 2018, registered online for prayers at the Sabarimala temple during the upcoming festival season beginning on November 16. According to the Travancore Devasom Board, till November 9, close to 3.50 lakh pilgrims have booked for 'darshan' through the Kerala Police's online facility. It includes 550 women between 10 and 50 years of age, the temple custodians said.
In the file photo, Padipooja was performed at the Sabarimala temple on Nov 6. Pic/PTI
On November 13, 2018. The Supreme Court said that it will hear written petitions seeking a ban on entry of girls and women between the age group of 10 to 50 to Sabarimala, only after it decides the review pleas seeking a recall of its September 28 verdict that cancelled all ban on women's entry to the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
Following which The Supreme Court agreed to hear on January 22 in open court the pleas seeking review of its verdict, which allowed entry of women of all age groups into Kerala's Sabarimala temple, but refused to stay the judgment.
The Supreme Court made a landmark judgement on September 28, 2018, ending the age-old ban on women between the ages of 10 and 50 years (or women of "menstruating age") from entering Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Several women activists came forward and hailed the Supreme court's judgement claiming the judgement as a victory for gender equality.
But soon after, the judgement was met with protests from various sections, including agitating devotees who took to the streets against the Apex Court's judgement. Kerala's Sabarimala temple has been at the centre of a row ever since. Here's a quick round-up of the latest development on the Sabarimala Temple row
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