Thiruvananthapuram: Keeping alive the debate on entry of women of menstruating age into Sabarimala shrine, CPM, heading ruling LDF, has batted for entry of women of all age groups into the temple, saying those having a "feudal" and "anti-women" mindset are endorsing the restriction.
In a recent article published in the party mouthpiece Deshabhimani, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the restriction at the hill shrine was an echo of an outdated class system which was keen to retain male dominance in the society and discriminate women from public space an places of worship.
The statement assumes significance in the wake of repeated contention of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the shrine, that any decision on the matter should be taken after upholding the customs and tradition.
Stating it was 'unfair' to bar a section of women under the garb of their menstruating age at the shrine, the leader said biological peculiarities of women should not be considered as their drawback.
"Women of the state are far ahead in terms of health, literacy and life expectancy compared to their male counterparts," he said.
"CPM supports the entry of women of all age groups at Sabarimala. We cannot minimise the restrictions of women as a mere issue of rituals. Only those who wish to reestablish the erstwhile feudal system can see it as an issue of rituals and traditions," Balakrishnan said.
He also alleged that the TDB had an "anti-women" mindset and said its president Prayar Gopalakrishnan was behaving as if "mountain would crumble if women enter the shrine and offer worship to Lord Ayyappa."
He also flayed Congress-led UDF and BJP and RSS for allegedly endorsing the restriction and accused them of raising "irrational ritualistic beliefs" to support their stand.
Taking a dig at the TDB president, the leader said "Prayar Gopalakrishnan said of over four crore pilgrims, who visited Sabarimala during the last pilgrimage season, five lakh were women, belong to the age group of above 50 years."
"That means, five lakh women offered worship to Lord Ayyappa in a single pilgrimage season itself. That had not triggered an earthquake," he said.
Claiming that CPM had always intervened in such issues of social relevance cutting across minority and majority community barriers, Balakrishnan said in the past the party took a strong stand in "certain anti-women practices" which existed in Christianity and Islam also.
"We are following the same stand in the issue of women's entry in Sabarimala also. Women were denied entry during the time of Brahmanical dominance. The temple authorities and tantris imposed the restriction, adhering to the then social systems," he said.
Balakrishnan also urged KPCC president VM Sudheeran to make his stand clear on the issue and asked whether the Congress was against giving equal status to women.
The Congress's women's wing Mahila Congress should also reveal their stand on the matter, he said.
"Barring women from public space and places of worship is unbecoming of a progressive society," the CPM leader said.
He expressed hope that the entry of women of all age groups into Sabarimala would help them to be viewed as an "equal social being along with men."
Women, belonging to the age group of 10 and 50, have been barred at the shrine dedicated to Ayyappa, considered a "perennial celibate" (naishtika brahmachari), for decades.
While hearing a PIL by the Young Lawyers Association, seeking entry for all women and girls in the temple, the Supreme Court, earlier this year, had wondered if man-made customs can prescribe such prohibition when "the God does not discriminate between men and women".
In 2008, the then LDF government had submitted an affidavit favouring entry of women belonging to all age groups. Later, in 2016, UDF government submitted an affidavit opposing entry of women.