Shah backs protesting Ayyappa devotees, slams Left govt over ‘crackdown’

Kannur, Oct 27 (PTI) An “Emergency-like” situation prevails in Kerala with the state government “playing with fire” in quelling with “brutal force” protests by Ayyappa devotees over Sabarimala issue, BJP chief Amit Shah alleged Saturday, escalating his attack on the Left dispensation.

In a hard-hitting speech after inaugurating the BJP district office in politically sensitive Kannur, which has often seen clashes between BJP-RSS and CPI(M), Shah alleged that the communist government is “conspiring against temples” and came out in support of Ayyappa devotees, who have been protesting against the implementation of the Supreme Court decision to allow entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine

“An Emergency-like situation exists in Kerala,” Shah alleged and accused the CPI(M)-led LDF government of “suppressing” the Ayyappa devotees’ agitation.

Listing court verdicts which have not been implemented, including on ‘Jallikattu’ (traditional bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu) and prohibiting loudspeakers in mosques, Shah said “impractical” directions should not be given by courts and they should pass orders that can be implemented.

“You concentrate on developing the state rather than attacking the Ayyappa bhakts,” the BJP president said and warned Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that he would have to pay a “heavy price” if this continues, as BJP workers “would not hesitate to pull down the government”.

Hitting back at Shah, Vijayan reminded him that the state government was not at the mercy of the BJP.

“But this is a government elected by the people. Shah’s speech gives the message that the electoral verdict will be sabotaged,” Vijayan claimed in a statement.

“All democratic-minded people should raise their voice against this,” he said.

Vijayan also claimed that Shah’s speech was more against the Supreme court and the Constitution rather than against the state government.

Shah said even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had released various central projects for the state, none of them have been taken up.

“If the state government had shown the same interest in meeting the grievances of the flood-affected people as it had shown in taking on the Ayyappa devotees, I would have said they have fulfilled their responsibilities.

“But they have failed and the chief minister has no right to continue in office even for a minute,” the Bharatiya Janata Party president said.

Shah said Hinduism has always given respect to women and worshipped them.

Gender equality cannot be ensured just by giving rights to them to offer prayers at temples,the BJP chief said.

“Even women in the state were against government’s move to implement the SC order,” he said.

Shah, who began and concluded his speech with ‘Swamiya Saranam Ayyappa’ mantra, cautioned the Left government that the clampdown on the agitation amounted to “playing with fire”.

He said Hindu faith has never undermined women. “Hinduism has always stood for social reformation and against social evils like child marriage.

“But in the name of ending social evils, if the government here tries to interfere in the customs and traditions of Lord Ayyappa, BJP workers across the country would stand like a rock behind the devotees,” he said.

Over 2,000 people, including BJP, RSS and Nair Service Society (NSS) workers have been arrested in a state-wide crackdown and many have been put behind bars on non-bailable offences, he claimed.

The BJP was planning to launch agitations from October 30 -November 12 to protect the rituals and traditions of the hill shrine, he said, adding that the party would go to any length to preserve the temple’s customs and traditions.

“There is no restriction on women to offer prayers in any other Ayyappa temple. The uniqueness of the Sabarimala shrine, where the main deity is ‘Naishtika Brahmachari’ (perennial celibate) has to be protected,” he said.

“Hinduism has varied customs. There are many temples in the country where only women are allowed and not men and there are also shrines where only men are allowed,” he said.

The state had witnessed massive protests from devotees at various places, including Sabarimala, Nilakkal and Pamba, against permitting women of all ages to enter the shrine when it was opened for monthly poojas from October 17-22.

Shah also visited the house of a BJP worker Remith, who was killed allegedly by CPI(M) workers in 2002.

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