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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Woman, 30, gives up Sabarimala quest after protests; says husband made her come

Though a senior police official assured any woman willing to trek to the Sabarimala temple would be escorted there, a 30-year-old woman, who approached the police at the Pambha base camp, decided to return after protesting devotees blocked the trekking path.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2018 22:21 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
The Sabarimala temple will open for 'darshan' at 5pm, the second time after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of all age groups into it.
The Sabarimala temple will open for 'darshan' at 5pm, the second time after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of all age groups into it. (PTI)
         

A 30-year-old woman returned from Sabarimala due to protests as the hilltop temple in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta reopened for a few hours Monday with thousands of police personnel, including women, on vigil to prevent any recurrence of the large-scale violence seen at the shrine last month against the Supreme Court ruling allowing entry of women of all ages.

The tantri (supreme priest) opened the doors of the ancient temple to Lord Ayyappa at 5 pm. At least 5000 devotees waited in long, winding queues as people were only being allowed in small batches due to prohibitory orders imposed in the area banning large gatherings.

While no woman pilgrim was seen initially despite a senior police official assuring anyone willing to trek to the temple would be escorted there, Anju, who was accompanied by her huband and two children, later approached the police at the Pambha base camp. But as the news spread, hymn-chanting devotees blocked the trekking path. The protest was led by Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Sasikala.

The woman later told police that her husband had forced her to come along with the children and she was returning.

The Sree Chithira Attathirunal pooja, an offering to honour the last king of the erstwhile Travancore dynasty Sree Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma, was held today before the temple closed at 10 pm. The temple will also be open Tuesday.

No untoward incident was reported from two base camps, Nilakkal and Pambha, and other areas. However, in Erumeli, pilgrims blocked roads chanting hymns Ayyappa Saranam in the morning, saying the state transport authority was deliberately delaying buses to the base camps.

The reopening comes two weeks after the temple and surrounding areas witnessed violent protests carried out by several Hindu outfits opposing the verdict of the Supreme Court allowing women of all ages to worship at the shrine. The base camps had witnessed large-scale violence during which many including women journalists were injured when the temple opened on October 17 for the first time after the top court’s verdict allowing women of menstruating age into the shrine.

Many Hindu outfits have once again threatened to prevent women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple. The Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an umbrella organisation of many outfits including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Hindu Aikya Vedi, had even urged media houses to not send women journalists to the area, saying that it might aggravate the issue.

Police have clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, which restricts a gathering of more than four people, since Saturday night, said state police chief Loknath Behra, adding the temple and surrounding areas are under a three-tier security ring.

Around 2,300 personnel, including a 20-member commando team and 100 women, have been deployed for the security of the devotees.

Earlier, journalists were not allowed entry to the two base camps — Pambha and Nilakkal. Later, the DGP denied there was any restriction for the media.

As the temple issue raged, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit PS Sreedharan courted trouble after a video clip of his speech at a party meeting was leaked. In the video, Pillai is purportedly heard saying that he was in touch with the tantri when two women came close to the temple in October.

Pillai is also heard saying that the Sabarimala issue was a “golden opportunity” for the BJP and other players were caught unaware by the agenda set by the party. He later admitted that the tantri had called him as a lawyer to seek a legal opinion from him.

“He asked me whether shutting the doors of the temple will invite the contempt of court. I told him if customs were violated he was free to do it,” he said. The tantri has, however, denied he had sought any legal advice.

The senior BJP leader said his speech at BJYM conference in Kozhikode was deliberately leaked to create confusion among devotees.

CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has sought action against the tantri “for conspiring with the BJP leader.”

The temple tantri and officials had said they would close the shrine if any female devotee from the age group 10 to 50 tried to enter the sanctum sanctorum from October 17 to 22, when the temple was open for the monthly puja, saying it was against the centuries-old temple’s tradition.

The Left government in Kerala has announced it will implement the top court’s ruling pitting it against the BJP and numerous Hindu groups which have been up in arms against the September 28 verdict.

First Published: Nov 05, 2018 14:17 IST