Two more women headed for Sabarimala turn back as devotees block way

Hindustan Times, Sabarimala | ByHT Correspondent
Oct 21, 2018 05:54 PM IST

Two women from Andhra Pradesh, said to be in their 40s, were stopped at the Sabarimala base camp and decided to turn back as protesters continued to block women aged below 50 from the hilltop shrine

Two women from Andhra Pradesh were Sunday stopped by Ayyappa devotees from climbing up to the Sabarimala temple and decided to return as protests against the Supreme Court order opening the hilltop shrine to women of all ages continued across Kerala.

Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala even as protesters keep women aged between 10 and 50 away despite the Supreme Court order.(PTI Photo)
Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala even as protesters keep women aged between 10 and 50 away despite the Supreme Court order.(PTI Photo)

Since the temple opened on Wednesday for the first time after the apex court order, protesters have managed to stop women aged less than 50 from entering the temple.

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In Sunday’s incident, the women, said to be in their 40s, were part of a pilgrim group visiting temples in Kerala and claimed they did not know the customs of the Lord Ayyappa temple, PTI quoted the police as saying.

As the protesters stopped the women at the Pambha base camp, police escorted them to the control room.

“They were part of a pilgrimage group from Andhra. They had been to other temples also and didn’t know of special rituals in Sabarimala Temple,” inspector general of police S Sreejith told media, adding the women gave a written statement that they did not want to proceed. They were taken back to Nilakkal, where their vehicle was parked.

The incident came a day after protestors stopped a woman devotee from Tamil Nadu right outside the temple, alleging she was below 50 years of age. The 52-year-old Latha Kumar, a teacher from Tamil Nadu’s Trichy who was on her second pilgrimage, was allowed to proceed after she showed them her Aadhaar card.

Woman Dalit leader SP Manju (38), who was planning to visit the shrine Saturday, was asked by police to put her plans on hold following heavy rain and later decided to return.

On Friday, Hyderabad-based woman journalist Kavitha Jakkal and activist Rehana Fathima, escorted by 100 policemen, reached right up to the temple but could not go in as devotees and priests blocked their way and the tantri (head priest) warned he would close the temple if they entered. Another woman, Mary Sweety, who works in the Middle East, was denied police protection.

Madhavi, a devotee from Andhra and New York Times reporter Suhasini Raj had to abandon their trips midway Thursday after protests.

Meanwhile, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, which is opposing entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine, stepped up its agitation against the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government’s “hasty” move to implement the Supreme Court order. It has called a “namajapa yatra” (march chanting Ayyappa mantra) to police stations across Kerala against alleged police action on their activists, said PTI.

BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai urged the state government to convene assembly session to discuss the issue, alleging that even members of the ruling Left were opposing the bid to break the shrine’s long-standing customs.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai however said the protesters did not have the support of the Kerala society.

Meanwhile, Kerala police chief Loknath Behera said a review of the alleged police lapses while handling the issues related to Sabarimala will be conducted after shrine closes on Monday, adding the the Sabarimala pilgrim season beginning next month was going to be a challenging one for them.

In Chennai, Hindu Makkal Katchi activists held a protest outside the Anna Nagar Ayyappa Temple against women who attempted to visit SabarimalaTemple. “They are not clean. They spoiled the sanctity of celibacy of Lord Ayyappa. They’re not devotees. They’ve come for publicity,” said one of the protesters, ANI reported.

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