Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who earlier made a pitch for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple following the Supreme Court order, appears indecisive on the issue now.
The Congress president held a differing opinion on women of menstruating age entering the shrine of Lord Ayyappa than his party’s Kerala unit which has been protesting against it. But he says he sees validity in both the arguments.
Mr Gandhi admitted that his initial position was different from his present position and said he “won’t be able to give an open and shut position on this”.
“I can see validity in the argument that tradition needs to be protected… and that women should have equal rights,” Rahul Gandhi said at an interaction with the press in Dubai.
The Congress had initially welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict in September which ended a ban that prevented women and girls between 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine that draws millions of pilgrims every year.
“Restrictions can’t be treated as essential religious practice,” the top court had said in a majority four-one judgement, calling the custom “almost like untouchability”.
Rahul Gandhi had agreed with the argument and said that all men and women are equal and all women should be permitted to enter the temple of the celibate god. However, he had noted that his view was different from that of his party’s Kerala unit.
“My party represents the emotions of people of Kerala,” he had said.
Soon after, the Congress cadre in Kerala began participating in massive protests that kept women away from the temple until earlier this month.
“After I spoke to the people in Kerala, and our team there, I realised that the issue is much more complicated and both sides have a valid position. I would leave it to people to decide on this,” Mr Gandhi said on Saturday.
Kerala has seen massive protests since the verdict at various places, including Sabarimala, Nilakkal and Pamba. Over a dozen women tried to visit Sabarimala over the past three months but were blocked by protesters. Only two women have so far been able to enter the shrine, that too in the dead of night. Their move, however, intensified protests across the state with right-wing groups accusing the ruling Left of hurting Hindu sentiments.
Attacked by parties like the BJP and the Congress, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was duty-bound to follow the Supreme Court order.