THIRUVANANTHAPURAM — An all-party meeting on the Sabarimala issue on Thursday saw the Kerala government sticking to its stand of being "duty-bound" to implement the Supreme Court order allowing the entry of women of all ages into the Lord Ayyappa temple, leading to a walkout by opposition parties.
The opposition parties made a demand for putting off the implementation of the apex court order till 22 January, when the review petitions against the verdict are slated to come up for hearing.
Rejecting the demand, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan pointed out that since the court had not stayed its 28 September verdict, there was no other option but to allow women in the age group of 10-50 years during the upcoming pilgrim season.
As no consensus emerged at the nearly three-hour long meeting, opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP staged a walkout at the fag end of the crucial parleys, convened two days ahead of the temple's opening on 17 November for the two-month long pilgrim season.
Frenzied protests by devotees and various Hindu outfit activists had prevented some women in the 10-50 age group from entering the temple, when it opened twice since last month after the apex court order.
Speaking to reporters, Vijayan said the government had convened the meeting without any prejudice.
"The government was not stubborn. It had no other option, but to implement the apex court verdict. If tomorrow the court takes another decision, the government will follow that," he said.
He was also quoted as saying by NDTV, "We have to see if particular days can be fixed for women...this needs to be discussed."
The chief minister, however, said the government "is with the believers. There is no need for any concern," he said, adding the government will provide security to all devotees.
The government can only obey the court verdict and all the believers should understand this, the Left leader said.
Announcing the walkout, Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the government was "adamant" in its stand to implement the court verdict and was not prepared for any compromise.
"This is a challenge to the believers," he said alleging that the government was trying to "weaken" the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
Attacking the government, BJP state unit chief PS Sreedharan Pillai said the meeting was a "waste of time".
Meanwhile, Vijayan will also meet representatives of the Pandalam Royal family, traditionally associated with the Sabarimala temple, and members of the 'thantri' (priest) family.