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SC declines urgent hearing on contempt plea against Sabarimala temple authorities; hartal brings life to standstill in Kerala

Press Trust of India
3rd Jan 2019
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The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to accord an urgent hearing to a contempt petition moved by a lawyers' group against the Sabarimala temple authorities for closing the shrine after two women entered it.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul said the contempt petition will be heard along with the pending review petitions against the apex court verdict which allowed women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Sabarimala
Image: Shutterstock

Advocate PV Dinesh appearing for Indian Young Lawyers Association told the bench that the temple authorities closed the shrine on Wednesday for purification purposes after two women had entered, which is in violation of apex court verdict.

On Wednesday, two women under 50 had stepped into the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa, breaking a centuries-old tradition defying dire threats from the Hindu right.

Kanakadurga, 44, and Bindu, 42, stepped into the hallowed precincts guarded by police three months after the apex court's historic judgement lifting the ban on entry of girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine of Lord Ayyappa, its "eternally celibate" deity.

Following the entry of the women into the shrine, the chief priest had decided to close the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in order to perform the 'purification' ceremony.

Meanwhile, the All India Democratic Women's Association has expressed strong objection to the purification rituals carried out by the priests after the women visited the Sabarimala temple, calling it "demeaning", as it projects women as "impure" and "unclean".

"The purification ritual is demeaning to women as it projects them as 'impure' and 'unclean'. It is also a clear violation of the Supreme Court verdict," AIDWA said in a statement.

AIDWA strongly condemns the attempts of right wing groups to create a communal frenzy and subvert the implementation of the orders of the Supreme Court (SC) in the Sabarimala case.

"They have resorted to threats and attacked the houses of the two women imperiling the lives of their families," the statement said.

Despite the Supreme Court's historic ruling on September 28 last year, permitting women in the 10-50 age group, no children or young women in the 'barred' group were able to offer prayers at the shrine following frenzied protests by devotees and right-wing outfits.

The state also witnessed widespread stone pelting, blocking of vehicles and incidents of violence and vandalism on Thursday. It marked the dawn-to-dusk hartal called by the Hindu outfits in Kerala against the entry of two women into the Sabarimala shrine onnWednesday.

The 12-hour long hartal, called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups, and the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP), hit normal life in the initial hours.

A 55-year-old man, who was seriously injured in stone pelting at Pandalam, died late Wednesday night, police said. State-run KSRTC buses, which were pelted with stones during the violence on Wednesday by anti-women entry agitators, kept away from roads in many districts. Adding to the woes of the public, number of autorickshaws plying were very less.

A large number of passengers, including women and children, were seen stranded at bus stands and railway stations across the state. A 64-year old woman, Pathumma from Wayanad who came for treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) here, collapsed and died at the railway station here in the morning, following which her relatives alleged that a delay in getting ambulance service resulted in her death.

Shops and hotels remained closed in the state capital. However, defying the hartal call, several merchants opened shops in SM Street, a major traders' hub in Kozhikode, Kochi and Kollam under police security.

The merchants' organisations had said they would not extend support to the hartal and keep shops and business establishments open. Television channels aired visuals of protesters forcibly downing shutters of shops in various districts since the hartal began at 6 am.

The protesters burnt tyres and placed granite blocks on roads to check vehicle transport in Kozhikode, Palakkad and Kollam. The local party offices of the ruling CPI(M) were pelted with stones in Ernakulam and Malappuram districts, police said.

A library managed by the Left party in Palakkad was vandalised by protesters. Autorickshaws and private buses suffered damage during stone pelting in Kannur and Kozhikode, the police said.

Besides buses, police patrol vehicles were also attacked in some places. The BJP is supporting the shutdown while the Congress-led UDF is observing a "black day" on Thursday.

A large number of protesters were arrested in various districts in connection with the violent incidents but the police is yet to divulge the total number of people arrested across the state.

At least 22 people were arrested in Malappuram and 12 in Kannur in connection with violence on Wednesday night and this morning, police said.

Meanwhile, the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala witnessed a heavy rush of devotees despite the hartal and road blocks in the morning, shrine sources said.

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