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Congress in Delhi Says Sabarimala Verdict Final, Protesting Party Leaders in Kerala to Hold Fast


New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday denied there was any contradiction in the party’s stand at the national and the state level on the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

The party said there cannot be any discrimination on the ground of gender as per India’s Constitution. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the verdict was final and binding.

“There can be no discrimination on the ground of gender or sex as per India’s Constitution. Men and women are equal and there can be no two opinions on the issue. The judgment of the Supreme Court is final and binding on everyone,” he said.

Despite the party welcoming the verdict, the party’s Kerala unit announced that leaders would observe a day-long fast in Pathanamthitta on Friday and launch a campaign to protect the customs of the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple.
Leader of the Opposition in Kerala state legislative assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, said the day-long fast would mark the commencement of the Congress agitation, adding that he too would take part in it, The Hindu reported.

Surjewala explained it away by saying that the Kerala unit of the Congress was only expressing sentiments of the people of Kerala by demanding a review of the apex court’s verdict. He said the Kerala unit was well “within its rights” to demand a review of the judgment.

“It is not illegal and it is again for the Supreme Court to reiterate or to reconsider. So, I don’t think so there is any contradiction of stands there,” he said.

Sabarimala is a prominent Hindu temple in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. It attracts tens of millions of pilgrims every year.

The hill-top ancient temple of Lord Ayyappa remains open only for a little over four months in a year and the approach is through a forested area that involves an arduous five-km trek from the Pampa river base camp.

On October 28, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.

The Ayyappa Dharma Sena president had said the organisation would file a review petition against the judgment. “Until October 16, the Sabarimala temple is closed. So, we have time.”

The shrine’s head priest Tantri Kandararu Rajeevaru had said the verdict was “disappointing”, but the management accepted it.

| Edited by: Padmaja Venkataraman

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