Sabarimala Temple verdict has provoked protests by right-wing groups.
Using the hot button issue of Kerala’s Sabarimala temple to ask for votes will be seen as a violation of the model of conduct enforced ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission said on Monday. The order clips the wings of any party seeking to capitalise on the volatile subject linked to religious sentiments and gender equality that has triggered widespread unrest and resentment since a Supreme Court order last year.
The court in September overturned a ban on women aged between 10 and 50 from entering the hilltop Sabarimala temple, but the devotees refused to accept the ruling and prevented female worshippers from entering. News that two women had managed to enter the shrine on January 2 triggered days of violent protest, with one person killed and dozens injured in clashes with police that saw buses torched and bombs hurled. An order on petitions seeking a review of the Supreme Court order is awaited.
“Invoking or doing something of religious propaganda on Sabarimala issues by invoking the name of the Sabarimala god will be a clear violation of model code of conduct… We are going to take this very seriously and we will not allow any kind of such violations that puts a particular political party in advantage, another at a disadvantage,” Kerala’s Chief Electoral Officer TR Meena said.
Calling it a “very controversial” issue, the officer said that he will hold a meeting with all political parties on Tuesday to discuss the issue and request them not to provoke religious sentiments while campaigning for the elections.
The Sabarimala temple — considered among the holiest in Hinduism and set on top of a hill in a tiger reserve — receives millions of pilgrims a year.
It is dedicated to the celibate deity Ayyappa, and followers believe letting in women of menstruating age goes against his wishes. It is one of the few Hindu temples with restrictions on the entry of women.
The BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has fiercely attacked Kerala’s communist government, saying they had completely disregarded the sentiments of the Sabarimala devotees by following the Supreme Court’s order. The Left Democratic Front, however, has argued in court that “attaching impurity to a woman during menstrual period is an abrasion to entire humanity”.
(With inputs from AFP)