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Union Minister KJ Alphons has waded into familiar controversy territory when he said late Monday that the Muslim and Christian women who tried  but were forcibly prevented by Ayyappa bhakts from visiting the Sabarimala temple did it only for “10 seconds of television time”. The minister claimed that the women went not because of devotion for Lord Ayyappa but only to create a scene and disrupt law and order. The Minister’s remarks come a day after the Kerala High Court expressed “dissatisfaction” over a BJP leader’s petition seeking a ban on non-hindus from entering the temple. The HC said yesterday that Sabarimala temple is not only for Hindus but has a tradition of welcoming people from all faiths.

“Who are the people trying to disrupt Sabarimala temple? A Muslim lady, who doesn’t even go to a mosque, tries to climb Sabarimala to prove a point. What does she wants to prove? There was another Christian girl, who doesn’t even go to church. She was going to Sabarimala just to be there before the cameras,” Alphons told ANI.

“They want to have 10 seconds of television time. All this is not acceptable. People of Kerala have a certain sentiment for Ayyappa. Therefore, all of us need to respect that,” added the minister.

Alphons was referring to an activist Rehana Fathima who tried to enter the temple on October 19, twop days after the temple opened for the pilgrimage season. A day later, a Christian woman, Mary Sweety began the trek but was stopped by protestors. She said she had visited churches, mosques, temples and “wanted to see Lord Ayyappa”. She was escorted back by police.

These women were among their scores that tried to enter the temple in the wake of the landmark judgement of the apex court on September 28 giving women of all ages the right to the enter the temple which was hitherto barred for women of menstrual age. The beginning of the season saw large scale trouble and had even threatened to blow up into a confrontation between pro and anti women entry groups.

Meanwhile, Rehana Fathima  has moved the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail after a case was registered against her by the Kerala police under section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the IPC. The case was registered on a complaint filed by the Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi alleging that her social media posts has hurt their religious sentiments.

—India Legal Bureau

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