Will come back to Sabarimala, says activist Trupti Desai as she returns home for now

Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By
Nov 16, 2018 08:38 PM IST

Trupti has decided to go back after a 13-hour standoff at the Kochi airport with devotee-protesters who refused to let her proceed to the Sabarimala temple, which opened for a 64-day pilgrimage on Friday.

Women’s right activist Trupti Desai has decided to go back after a 13-hour standoff at the Kochi airport after devotee-protesters refused to let her proceed to the Sabarimala shrine, which opened for a 64-day pilgrimage on Friday.

Trupti Desai, a women's rights activist, waves from inside the Cochin International Airport at Kochi on Friday.(REUTERS)
Trupti Desai, a women's rights activist, waves from inside the Cochin International Airport at Kochi on Friday.(REUTERS)

She, however, vowed to come back, saying she had been asked by police to return after a meeting.

“Police have requested me to return to Pune,” she told reporters at the airport.

The activist had stayed put at the airport after landing from Pune at around 5 am with six young women en route to the hill temple, but was stopped by hundreds of protesters, including women and BJP workers, gathered outside the airport.

Taxi drivers also refused to take her out of the airport, where a large number of police personnel had been deployed to deal with the situation.


Officials of the Cochin International Airport Limited asked the state government to help end the impasse, saying operations at the airport was getting affected as a result of the chaos.

“I will go ahead, come what may. I will not go back without the darshan of Lord Ayyappa,” Desai had said earlier, adding that goons were out to block her and not devotees.

The state temple minister Kadakampally Surendran said Desai’s visit was a drama enacted by the BJP. He also said that her trip was sponsored by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Local BJP leaders protesting at the airport, however said Desai and her team were in the state to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that prevents entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50.

“She (Desai) came here not for a darshan but for disturbing a peaceful Sabarimala pilgrim season…” they said according to news agency PTI.

Read more: ‘Big flop’, says opposition after walking out of Kerala’s all-party meeting to resolve Sabarimala stand off

As the leader of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, Pune-based Desai had fought for the entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

It was seen as an important landmark in the movement for women’s rights in the country and the incident triggered similar campaigns at other famous shrines in the country where women have been prohibited from going inside the sanctum sanctorum.

Desai had sent an email to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking security, saying she feared an attack on her life during her visit to the hill shrine.

The shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa has been at the centre of high drama and tension following the Supreme Court’s September 28 order allowing women of menstrual age to go inside the temple.

Traditionalists, who believe the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate, had opposed the court verdict and last month stopped dozen-odd women who tried to enter the temple.

Read more: Kerala govt proposes ‘women-only’ slots in Sabarimala temple row, all-party meet ends in Oppn walkout

No woman has been able to enter the hill shrine despite an army of security men accompanying them twice and the situation came to a head when the tantri or the supreme priest threatened to quit and shut the temple gates if any woman came anywhere near the sanctum sanctorum.

The Supreme Court has said it is open to revisiting its verdict to allow women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple. Five judges led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said on November 13 they would hold hear the review petitions in open court from January 22 but made it clear that its earlier judgment holds.

An all-party meeting called by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to resolve the Sabarimala stand-off failed to make headway on Thursday with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staging a walkout.

Vijayan stood firm that he was “duty-bound” to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages entry into the temple. The annual Sabarimala pilgrimage season starts Friday.

As the hill temple is on edge the Travancore Devasom Board, which runs the temple, is planning to move the Supreme Court seeking more time to implement its September 28 verdict allowing women of all ages between 10 and 50 to worship at the temple.

(With agency inputs)

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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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