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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Sabarimala tense again as devotees prevent 11 women from reaching temple

Sabarimala was on the boil again since early morning today as a group of women from Tamil Nadu attempted to reach the hill shrine. Angry protestors blocked the women, all reportedly below 50 years of age, leading to a tense stand-off.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2018 09:12 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Though the women, part of an outfit called Maniti, arrived at Sabarimala with heavy police protection, the devotees converged in no time, blocking them at Pambha base camp.
Though the women, part of an outfit called Maniti, arrived at Sabarimala with heavy police protection, the devotees converged in no time, blocking them at Pambha base camp. (PTI File Photo)
         

Sabarimala was on the boil again since early morning on Sunday as a group of women from Tamil Nadu attempted to reach the hill shrine. Angry protesters blocked the women, all reportedly below 50 years of age, leading to a tense stand-off.

Though the women, part of an outfit called Maniti, arrived at Sabarimala with heavy police protection, the devotees converged in no time, blocking them at Pamba base camp. Though the women said they were a group of 40, protesters could identify only 11 and blocked them. Maniti leader L Vasanthi is among the 11.

Senior police officials present at the spot tried to reason with the women, informing them about the volatile situation, but they insisted on going ahead. Prohibitory orders are in place in the hilltop shrine and its two base camps. The devotees, however, defied section 144 to block the women.

Fearing that more protestors will descend at the shrine, police have suspended bus services temporarily. The women said that they came after getting assurance from Kerala police, which the latter denied.

Follow live updates here: Women activists attempt to visit shrine, blocked by angry devotees

Maniti, a Chennai-based women collective formed in the wake of “honour killings”, said on Saturday that at least 40 women, all aged between 22 to 45, will reach Kottayam and Erumeli in small batches and proceed to the temple.

“Most of us are observing customary fast and we are coming as pilgrims, not as activists. We have informed the state government about our pilgrimage and we expect protection to worship at the hill abode,” said L Vasanthi.

But Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an umbrella organisation of multiple outfits opposing the entry of women of reproductive age to the ancient shrine, had announced its plan to block them and its volunteers have fanned out to many railway stations and bus terminals to spot them.

“We will not allow them to crush the age-old customs of the temple. It is not a picnic spot for activists,” said Samiti leader KP Sasikala.

The shrine in Pathanamthitta district has been witnessing violent protests by a section of devotees and right-wing groups since the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict allowing women of all ages to worship at the temple.

Trouble began when the state government rushed to implement the verdict. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) feel the affidavit of the state government supporting women’s entry led to the top court’s verdict.

As the shrine opened for the annual pilgrimage on November 17, the government imposed many restrictions, including prohibitory orders, at the hilltop and the base camps to tackle protesters and deployed more than 10,000 police personnel.

The state also witnessed three shutdowns over the issue and an uneasy calm is still prevailing at the temple area.

A senior police officer had earlier said that the women’s team from Tamil Nadu will be told about the ground situation and requested to return but if they insist, officials will approach the government to take a decision.

Since the pilgrimage is going smoothly now, the Travancore Devasom Board, which runs the temple, is not in favour of vitiating the atmosphere.

Even two months after the verdict. women in the barred age group (10 to 50) were not allowed to worship at the temple. The apex court will take up a bunch of review petitions against its verdict on January 22.

First Published: Dec 22, 2018 18:08 IST