In an astonishing move, the Travancore Devaswom Board(TDB), in a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram, said it will not go for an appeal against the Supreme Court’s order to allow women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple.
This comes just a day after the TDB president Padmakumar had said that they will consider filing a review petition and had added that “real women devotees of Lord Ayyappa were unlikely to visit the temple and only women activists would".
Now, Padmakumar evidently has retroceded from his and the board’s earlier stated position and in Wednesday’s statement said,’ we have got a copy of the judgment, we are convinced with the judgment there is no scope for review petition’.
The announcement comes after the Kerala government too made its position to not file an appeal petition. Although the TDB is an autonomous body and can take decisions independently, they seem to toe the line of the state government on this contentious issue.
Sources have told Republic that in Padmakumar’s meeting with Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the latter lashed out at the board for speaking against the state government’s standpoint.
Vijayan reportedly told Padmakumar that if the board appeals, it will be against the CPIM government’s outlook on gender equality and will be a huge embarrassment for him and the party. The decision of TDB to not appeal was after much political pressure, sources added.
Now, the Ayyappa Dharma Sena and Pandalam Palace might consider filing a review petition along with a few Hindu groups. Sources indicate that a delegation might meet CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran to seek ‘Jallikattu-like’ ordinance to supersede the SC orders.
Meantime, TDB and Kerala government are concentrating on the elaborate facilities that will be required to facilitate women to enter the hillock temple. The TDB is likely to request for an additional 100 acres in the Periyar Tiger Reserve forest range to ensure adequate security is arranged. The supplication is likely to not be met in toto as the shrine is located in the already ecologically fragile Western Ghats.
The mountainous path for devotees includes a steep trek from Pamba though Neeli Mala to the shrine. Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran has said that facilities for women pilgrims will be possible only till Nilakkal and Erumeli. After crossing the Pamba river, rudimentary amenities are only possible.
The trek route is dotted with ‘viripandals’(dorms), toilets, bathrooms and shacks with first-aid and food. Now, additional lightings, bathing areas at Pamba and extra women police force will be added to ensure safety for women pilgrims.