Petty politics, shoddy policing and mindless violence ensures that despite the historic Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups to enter the temple in the first five days of its reopening.
The SC order was passed on 29th of September and the Kerala government had almost 20 days to prepare to ensure they provide security to women entering. But what translated on the ground was a reflection of the ruling Left’s reluctance to implement the SC order, in letter and spirit, despite tall promises by the Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan.
Far from providing protection to women devotees between the age group of 10 to 50, even women journalists were not given security to perform their jobs. No media enclosures were created in areas like Nilackal and Pamba where trouble was anticipated.
For almost a week before the opening of the shrine’s doors, several organisations had been issuing open threats to ensure they block women’s entry. Not just did the Kerala government allow those issuing such open threats to get away without consequences but also had the under-deployed police personnel in Pathanamthitta, knowing well that devotees will come in thousands for the pilgrimage.
On the second day of the opening of gates, a woman devotee from Andhra, Madhavi, who had come with her family including a 10-year old daughter was heckled by the crowds and turned away by the police.
But the very next day, a woman journalist and another young activist, Fathima, who had made controversial comments in the past about Sabarimala, was escorted with full police protection, in riot gear, to the top of the hill.
This only gave more credence to the opposition allegation that the left government in Kerala was insensitive to the devotees. Then the next day, another woman who runs Dalit organisations was refused protection by police because she failed to pass their background check.
Such arbitrary discrimination in deciding which woman devotee will get their protection only pushed the police and devotees into further chaos and reiterated the impression that the state had yielded control right at the beginning. The ruling coalition LDF’s reluctance to be seen acting tough against the devotees in order to protect their vote bank cost them.
The BJP and the Congress, with an eye on increasing their vote base, openly defied and challenged the SC order on the streets of Kerala, on social media and on news channels too. When vote bank is in question, the sanctity of SC order too seemed to have diminished for the political parties. As they organised protests-one after the other- they even refused to take a stand against the violence that was perpetrated against the women, particularly the journalists.
And today, as the doors of Sabarimala will be closed, the hooligans, in the garb of devotees are celebrating their victory in ensuring that they didn't allow a single woman to enter the shrine. The opposition parties are scrambling to claim credit for supporting lawlessness while pretending to stand by the faithful. The kerala government is trying hard to depict that they did try to provide protection and avert a bigger tragedy.
But the biggest casualty the last 5 days is the Supreme Court of India.