Rahul Gandhi Changes Stand on Sabarimala Row, Says Can’t Spell Out ‘Open and Shut Position’

Rahul Gandhi Changes Stand on Sabarimala Row, Says Can’t Spell Out ‘Open and Shut Position’

After over three months of continued protests, opposing the entry of women of reproductive age into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has tweaked his position on the issue. Mr. Gandhi, who earlier spoke in favor of allowing women of all ages into Sabarimala, today said he also sees merit in the argument of traditionalists, who are upholding the traditional ban.

“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 media in Dubai.

Admitting to the change in his stance, Mr. Gandhi said he would not “be able to give an open and shut position on this”.

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The acknowledgment of the traditionalists’ argument comes weeks after the election victories in the three heartland states, where the Congress had worn its religion on its sleeve. Mr. Gandhi had temple hopped regularly and in Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, who is now the Chief Minister, had spoken of cow protection and religious tours.

Mr. Gandhi’s new position closes the gap between the party’s central leadership and the state unit on the issue. Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s government had supported the traditional sentiment and now that the party is in the opposition, it has not changed its views.

Mr. Gandhi, who initially explained the gap saying the state unit “represents the emotions of the people of Kerala”, now said he has come to realize the “complications”.

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“After I spoke to the people in Kerala, and our team there, I realized that the issue is much more complicated and both sides have a valid position. I would leave it to people to decide on this,” he told journalists in Dubai on Saturday.

The top court’s September judgment that opened the doors of Sabarimala to women of all ages had called the traditional ban “almost like untouchability”.

Since then, right-wing groups had practically been picketing at the temple, harassing and threatening women and forcing them to turn away. Earlier this month, two women in their 40s finally made their way into the temple, another woman, a Sri Lankan, also managed to offer prayers.

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Attacked by parties like the BJP and the Congress, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan says he is duty-bound to follow the Supreme Court order.

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