The Kerala government on Monday admitted that only two women, and not 51, in the age group of 10-50 years had entered Sabarimala temple after a Supreme Court's judgment removed the bar on their entry. The statement is in contradiction to the CPI(M)-led state government had claimed in an affidavit in the apex court on January 18. It had claimed that 51 young women had entered the temple during the recently concluded annual pilgrim season. In a written reply in the state assembly, the government also said the visit of a Sri Lankan woman in early January was yet to be confirmed.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, in response to an unstarred question, said two women had offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa shrine according to the report of the temple executive officer. He also said they were awaiting confirmation on whether Sasikala, the 47-year-old Sri Lankan woman whose visit was earlier confirmed by sources in the Chief Minister's Office and police, visited the hill shrine.
Surendran was replying to a question by opposition Congress legislators on how many women in the age group of 10-50 years had offered prayers at the temple after the September 28 apex court verdict.
Controversy erupted after the state government filed the affidavit as some women who were named in the list were above 50 years of age. Names of at least two men had also crept into the list.
According to the Devaswom Manual, if any violation of traditional customs occurs, it is for the officials of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to hold talks with the head priest and take a final decision on atonement rituals, he added.
The two women referred to by the government as having offered prayers at the temple are Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, both in their early 40s. Kanakadurga and Bindu, 42, had entered the hill shrine on January 3, breaking a centuries-old tradition and defying dire threats from right-wing groups.
As the news spread like wildfire from the hill shrine, protests erupted at several places, with Hindu right-wing activists blocking highways and forcing closure of shops and markets. The violence rocked parts of the state during the January 3 hartal with several houses and shops of rival leaders and workers being attacked over the women's entry into the temple.
Kanakadurga had been in hiding for two weeks after the darshan at the Sabarimala shrine due to security reasons. When she reached home in Perinthalmanna, she had a verbal duel with her in-laws who opposed her entry at the temple. Kanakadurga alleged that her mother-in-law allegedly beat her up with a wooden plank and she was taken to hospital.
Kanakadurga suffered head injuries and is admitted to a government hospital at Perinthalmanna in northern Malappuram district, the police said. "My mother-in-law beat me up severely with the wooden plank," Kanakadurga told TV channels from the hospital.
Reports also suggested her mother-in-law also got admitted to the hospital later alleging that Kanakadurga had assaulted her. Both Kanakadurga's in-laws and her own family had opposed her decision to enter the Sabarimala temple taken in view of the landmark September 28 Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all age groups into the shrine.