Sabarimala tense after 2 women, dressed as men, try to enter shrine
Protesters forced two women in their 30s to turn back halfway from the hilltop shrine of Sabarimala in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta on Wednesday, days after two others became the first to offer prayers at the shrine in centuries.
Reshma Nishanth and Shanila Sajesh, residents of Kannur, covered almost half of the 5.5-kilometre trek to the temple but were intercepted by angry devotees in the morning. Live Updates
Dressed in men’s clothes, they used the lean time early in the morning to dodge protesters and started trekking at 5am. Both of them said they came after police promised protection.
They managed to trek for some time but were identified and encircled by the protesters as they walked up. Police then arrested five of the protesters and the women continued trekking for some time.
They were stopped in Neelimala as large numbers of protesters lay on the path leading to the temple to stop them from going further. The drama continued for two hours and police removed them forcibly.
Police pleaded helplessness as the situation turned tense, saying it was beyond their control and took the women to Pambha, the base camp, after they were blocked.
State’s temple minister Kadakampally Surendran said preventing the women, who came after taking the vow and fasted for the pilgrimage, was “really deplorable”. Surendran said the government did not want to create a scene so police took utmost restraint in handling the protesters.
“We don’t need any certificate from Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi whose party is on a mission to annihilate people in the name of the cow,” the minister said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on Kerala government on its handling of the Sabarimala controversy, saying the Communists didn’t respect India’s culture and spiritual traditions. He also slammed the Congress for taking multiple stands on the issue.
Modi hit out at the LDF government led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the opposition spearheaded by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state, said both the fronts were two sides of the same coin. “We know that the Communists do not respect India’s culture, history, and spirituality,” Modi said at a public meeting in Kollam.
Turning to the Congress, he said: “They say one thing in Parliament and another in Pathanamthitta.” He added that “they are only different in name but are similar when it comes to corruption, casteism, communalism and in damaging the cultural fabric of Kerala.”
Modi said at a public rally in the state capital, his first in south India with barely three months left for the crucial general election, that the state government’s conduct on Sabarimala will go down in the history as one of the most shameful.
Both the CPI(M) and Opposition Congress criticised the Prime Minister’s comments on Sabarimala.
The Supreme Court in September last year allowed women of all ages to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, overturning a centuries-old traditional ban on women of childbearing age from entering the temple.
Female devotees aged between 10 and 50 had for decades been barred from the shrine on grounds that the presiding deity Lord Ayyappa is a celibate, and the top court’s ruling enraged traditionalists in Kerala.
The Left Democratic Front government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said it was determined to uphold the court verdict. On January 2, two women in their 40s became the first to worship at the shrine on Wednesday, triggering unrest in many parts of Kerala.
One of them, Kanaka Durga, was attacked by her mother-in-law on her return home on Monday. She was admitted in a hospital at Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district.
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