Indu Makkal Katchi(IMK) has demanded the Tamil Nadu government to provide subsidy for Sabarimala pilgrimage. The party has requested the government to help poor Ayyappa devotees by distributing Rs.6000 as subsidy for their pilgrimage to Sabarimala similar to how Christians and Muslims are given subsidy for Jerusalem and Haj pilgrimage.
IMK chief Arjun Sampath has put forth some demands that would help Ayyappa devotees, a large part of whom are Tamils. He has requested the TN government to arrange free bus transportation, free accommodation and food in Sabarimala and to seek the centre to waive off toll charges for the pilgrims. The party has also organised an event in which petitions to waive off toll charges will be given to toll gate officials and then sent to the Prime Minister and TN Highways Department.
Requesting that 5000 economically backward Ayyappa devotees should be identified from each district, IMK has sought the government to issue Rs.6000 to each of them as subsidy to make the pilgrimage. As the government is handling temple funds, albeit illegally, and using it for secular projects like opening colleges and building shopping complexes, the demand to open its purse for Hindu pilgrimage is nothing but righteous.
TN government has been providing subsidies for Haj and Jerusalem pilgrimages for many years now. The late CM J Jayalalithaa announced in 2012 that Rs.40,000 subsidy will be provided for Hindus who go on pilgrimage to Mansarovar and Muktinath. But the pilgrims were selected by HRCE which leads one to believe that the scheme was also sponsored by the HRCE department.
While only 500 Hindus were given subsidy nearly 4000 Muslims received Haj subsidy in 2008. The outgoing CM Edappadi Palanisamy had promised to increase the number of Jerusalem pilgrims from 500 to 10,000 and had also increased the subsidy from Rs.20,000 to Rs.37,000. Hindus who form the majority and have given up control of temples to the government receive less amount of subsidy than Christians and Muslims who control their places of worship and yet receive subsidy from the secular state.
So IMK’s demand to provide subsidy for Ayyappa devotees to aid their pilgrimage to Sabarimala has found support from many quarters. Sabarimala pilgrimage has been uniting Hindus across castes and classes which is seen as a hurdle to the plans of Breaking India forces. They have been trying to break the unique tradition by allowing women and break into the strong fort formed by Ayyappa Bhaktas against conversion.