Against thebackdrop of the Supreme Court's decision to refer the Sabarimala case to alarger bench, the Lord Ayyappa shrine is all set to open on Saturday, even asthe government said those women desirous of visiting the hill temple should geta "court order."
The top court hasdecided to set up a larger bench to re-examine religious issues including thosearising out of its earlier verdict that lifted a centuries-old ban on women ofmenstruating age visiting the shrine.
With the two-month-long annual pilgrimage season set to commence from November 17, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said Sabarimala was not a place for activism and the LDF government would not support those who make announcements about entering the hill shrine for the sake of publicity.
Dismissingreports that police would provide security to women activists who attempt toenter the shrine, he said there was "some confusion" over the latest SupremeCourt order and women desirous of visiting Sabarimala should get a "courtorder."
The government would not encourage those women who want to visit the shrine for publicity, he added.
The CPI(M) statesecretariat, which met here, discussed the verdict and expressed a similaropinion.
"The common emotion of the secretariat was not to allow women to enter the temple till the apex court finalizes the verdict.
Those who want to enter the temple can approach the court and get a favorable judgment," a source close to the CPI(M) state leadership told.
Law minister A KBalan said the government will approach competent legal experts on the"confusions" prevailing in the apex court's judgment.
"This Sabarimala season will be peaceful. But if anyone tries to hamper thepeaceful darshan of devotees, the government will take strong action. Ifsomeone thinks that they can exploit the devotees by spreading lies and turnthem against the government, let me tell you, it's not going to happen," hesaid.
Justice R FNariman, who had penned a dissent order on behalf of himself and Justice D YChandrachud in the judgment, said the government must read the "extremelyimportant dissent" verdict in the 3:2 majority verdict.
Tight securitywill be provided during the pilgrimage season with over 10,000 police personnelbeing posted in phases in and around the hill temple.
Pathanamthittadistrict collector told the media that there was no need for declaringprohibitory orders like last year.
The Ayyappa temple in Pathanamthitta district had last year witnessed violent protests by right-wing outfits and devotees over the September 28, 2018, order of the apex court allowing women of all age groups, including those in the menstruating age, to offer prayers at the hill shrine.
Unlike last year,when the shrine and the adjacent areas were recuperating from the August delugethat had hit the state, the Devaswom Board this year has made extensivearrangements to receive devotees.
The Board, which manages the temples in the state, said resting places for the devotees at Nilackal, Pamba, and Sannidhanam areas have already been set up along with medical, water and toilet facilities.
"At Sannidhanamalone, facilities have been arranged for around 6,500 people to rest with theirbags containing sacred offerings.
The resting area for 9,000 devotees has been arranged at Nilackal where there is a parking area for over 9,000 vehicles also. There are over 1000 toilets, 120 urinals, and 60 bathrooms at Nilackal," a senior official in the Devaswom ministry said.
Similarly at Pamba, the Board has arranged facilities for 3000 people to rest. The board has also set up five emergency medical centers.
Meanwhile, the Congress-led United Democratic Front demanded the withdrawal of the state government's affidavit in the Supreme Court which it said was filed in favor of women's entry into the shrine.
"Belief and devotees are two factors considered by the Court while hearing this case. The state government and its affidavit are against both. That's why we demand the withdrawal of the affidavit," opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said.
In another development, N Vasu took charge as the Travancore Devaswom Board president on Friday and said more clarity would have been there if the court had said its 2018 order stayed.
He said it was someanti-social elements and goons who tried to destroy the peace of Sabarimala.
"Who threw a coconut on a 52-year-old woman devotee? Who climbed the holy steps at Sannidhanam without the irumudikettu (sacred bundle)? Who threw stones at the Sannidhanam police station? Was it the woman? No.
So the onlyoption we had last time was to deal with those who went to Sabarimala todestroy its peace," Vasu said.
The Kerala StateRoad Transport Corporation has decided to deploy 150 buses to transportdevotees between Pamba and Nilackal, a distance of around 18 km.
The KSRTC hasalso arranged special services from almost all parts of the state to Pamba andNilackal.
The five-judgebench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday said a larger bench willre-examine various religious issues, including the entry of women into theSabarimala temple and mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation inthe Dawoodi Bohra community.
The annualpilgrimage to Sabarimala commences on the first day of the Malayalam month ofVrishchikam which falls on November 17 and ends on December 27.The temple tantri (headpriest), Kandararu Mahesh Mohanaru and melshanti (chief priest) A K SudheerNamboodiri will open the temple on November 16 evening at 5 PM.