Controversies that rocked Kerala in 2016
Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 21: 2016 saw the Left Democratic Front (LDF) returning to power in Kerala and issues like disappearance of 21 Keralites, attack on media persons by some lawyers and alleged encounter killings of Maoists keeping the government on tenterhooks. The LDF government received flak over the death of two Maoists, including a woman, in an encounter with police in Nilambur forests with major front partner CPI and CPI-M veteran V S Achutanandan decrying the handling of things.
However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear he would not do anything that would destroy the morale of police. The year also saw an ugly attack on media personnel by a section of lawyers in front of the Kerala High Court following which journalists were denied access to cover proceedings in the high court and other subordinate courts. Guidelines were formulated for media personnel covering court proceedings. In a tragic incident, 111 people were killed in an explosion during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple at Paravur in Kollam district on April 10.
The rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit woman in Perumbavoor, which eventually proved costly for the Congress- led UDF in the assembly polls and the commuting of death sentence of Govindachamy in the sensational rape and murder case was 23-year-old Soumya who was pushed out from a running train in 2011, also hogged media headlines. The stray dog menace continued to haunt the state throughout the year with four persons losing their lives and 701 people, including children, suffering dog bites. In retaliation, many stray dogs were culled in various parts of the state. The state lost several eminent persons including eminent writer and Jnanpith award winner ONV Kurup, theatre director, playwright and poet Kavalam Narayana Panicker and popular actors Kalabhavan Mani, Jishnu and Kalpana.
As the year came to an end, state's two famous shrines -- Padmanabhaswamy and Lord Ayyappa temples -- were caught in a row, the former over relaxation of dress code for women and the latter over a change of name. While the executive officer of Padmanabha Swamy temple in the state capital permitted women wearing salwar kameez and churidar to offer worship in the shrine, the administrative committee objected. The Kerala High Court has now stayed the executive officer's order stating status quo should continue.
As per the temple dress code, women can wear sarees, 'mundu and neriyathu' (traditional dress). They can wear salwar and churidar, but have to wrap a 'mundu' (dhoti) over it while entering the temple. The renaming of the famed Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala by the Travancore Devaswom Board led to a controversy with the government declaring the move as 'serious violation of rules'. The temple, believed to have been established 1,800 years ago, is considered one among the biggest and most ancient shrines in the state. Since then, it has been known as Sree Dharma Sastha temple and the board had no right to change it, the government had said.