Thiruvananthapuram: Even the Kerala government does not know for sure how many women have gone to the Sabarimala shrine since the Supreme Court struck down a ban on women aged between 10 and 50. Dewaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran told the legislative assembly, citing a report from the Sabarimala executive officer, that only two women in the age group had visited the temple.
The state government had earlier told the Supreme Court that at least 51 women in the age group had visited the temple. The government later corrected the number to 17 after spotting anomalies on the list.
The minister told the assembly on Monday that he could not confirm if a Sri Lankan woman had gone to the temple.
The minister also said that the Supreme Court had not told the Kerala government to ensure special protection for the women who ventured to visit the shrine despite stiff opposition from the conservative camp. He said that the devaswom manual does not allow for the closing of the temple in case any ritual is violated. He said that the tantri was bound to act by the manual even if he was not an employee of the devaswom.
He said that the violent protests against the Supreme Court had caused a decrease in the number of pilgrims to the temple. Revenue from donations decreased to Rs 72.10 crore during the Mandala and Makaravilakku seasons from Rs 97.52 crore a year earlier. Total revenue during the Makaravilakku fell to Rs 180.18 crore from Rs 279.43 a year earlier, he said.
Bindu and Kanakadurga, in their 40s, had defied dire threats from saffron organisations and offered prayers at the temple, breaking the centuries-old tradition and infuriating the Hindu right.
The two women received a letter saying they would be harmed for entering the shrine, the police said.
Forty-four-year-old Kanakadurga, who faced stiff opposition from her husband and other relatives for offering prayers at the Lord Ayyappa Temple on January 2, was forced to take shelter at Perinthalmanna here after her house was locked and her family members shifted to another building.
Police sources said she still continues to be at the shelter after being discharged from hospital following an alleged attack by her mother-in-law for entering the holy shrine.
An employee of the Civil Supplies Department, she has filed a petition in a court here under the Domestic Violence Act, stating she had the right to stay at her husband's home.
Bindu, a 42-year-old college lecturer and CPI(M) ML activist, had accompanied Kanakadurga to the shrine.
The Supreme Court had in a historic verdict last year lifted the centuries old ban on women of 10-50 age group from entering the temple, and allowed women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.
Both the women are being provided round-the-clock security by police besides CCTV survillance.
A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court would hear on February 6 a batch of petitions seeking review of its judgement allowing entry of women of all age groups into Kerala's Sabarimala temple.