Women Forced to Turn Back from Sabarimala; Centre Issues Advisory

The home of one of the women in Kochi was reportedly vandalised early this morning.

New Delhi: Two women – a reporter from Hyderabad and a social activist – began trekking to Sabarimala hill on Friday amid strong protests by those opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Lord Ayyappa temple, and were turned back. According to Dhanya Rajendran of The News Minute, the thantri said he would close the temple if the women came.

The home of one of the women in Kochi was vandalised early this morning, News18 reported.

Police led by IG S. Sreejith have have thrown a security ring around the women who had requested security to go to Sabarimala Sannidhanam. According to the Indian Express, when Sreejith attempted to reason with the protestors, they said, “We will not allow you to take young women to the shrine. We are ready to die for our Lord.”

A woman journalist returned from her trek to the shrine as protesters blocked her way and pelted stones on Wednesday. Section 144 of the of the Code of Criminal Procedure was imposed in four places en route to the temple, and least six BJP youth activists were detained on Thursday for violating it.

Despite the Supreme Court’s verdict striking down the restriction on women of menstruating age entering the Sabarimala temple, no woman was allowed to enter the hill shrine since the first day of the pilgrimage on Wednesday. Angry and violent protestors heckled, threatened and turned back women devotees and journalists who attempted to trek up the hill.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s had said that there would no hurdles for women who want to make the pilgrimage. However, reports said protestors threatened and attacked at least six journalists at Nilakal and Pamba, the two base camps near the temple. Two women pilgrims were also turned back. Heavy police presence was not enough to control the protestors.

Centre issues advisory

The Centre has asked the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to tighten security in view of the continuing protests against the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala temple.

In an advisory, the Union home ministry also asked the three states to closely monitor the dissemination of various “adverse” messages through social media and the Internet services.

“All necessary precautionary measures may be taken to maintain law and order and appropriate security arrangements may be made to prevent any untoward incident,” the advisory, sent by the internal security division of the home ministry, said.

The advisory said appropriate prohibitory orders be issued and a close watch may be kept on dissemination of “adverse information” through social media and internet services, to ensure that no breach of law and order takes place.

It also referred to campaigns of certain civil and women’s rights activists, Left parties and fronts and pro-Left wing extremism groups in favour of women’s entry into the shrine and actively using women to do so.

While opposing groups and activists have threatened that they would not allow entry of women inside the shrine, Hindu outfits plan to organise protest programmes against apex court order, it said.

“Separately, Ayyappa devotees, Hindu outfits and certain caste-based outfits have been organising state-wide protest against the Supreme Court order. Participation in these protests has ranged from 50-3000, including participation of sizeable number of women. Hindu outfits have also organised a few protest programme in neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka,” the advisory said.

Congress, BJP say government shouldn’t have allowed women

The opposition Congress and BJP on Friday hit out at the Left government in Kerala for allegedly extending support to bring women activists to Sabarimala temple, hurting the sentiments of devotees.

They also alleged the police gave one of the women, who climbed to the hill shrine amid heavy security, their official uniform and helmet.

Attacking the CPI(M)-led LDF government on the issue, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala asked whether the police gave security to the real devotees.

“Has the government taken to the shrine the real devotees? Is the entry of women into the shrine a commando operation? Is this the supreme court order?” he asked.

“The government has extended support to bring activists to Sabarimala, hurting the sentiments of Lord Ayyappa devotees,” Chennithala said.

Earlier in the day, devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran admitted that one of the women who trekked to the shrine was an activist and made it clear that holy Sabarimala was not a place to show their strength and activism.

Referring to the massive protest at the temple complex by the devotees and the ‘parikarmies’, the assistants of the priests, Chennithala said the “illogical” steps taken by the government on the Sabarimala women entry issue had led to this situation.

He also reiterated the UDF stand that the Pinarayi Vijayan government showed “over-enthusiasm” and “hurry” to implement the apex court order permitting women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa temple.

The government unilaterally moved forward on the matter without trying for a consensus among stakeholders, he said.

Chennithala also alleged that the BJP-RSS combine was trying to inflame communal passion over the matter.

Hitting out at the LDF government, BJP state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said the state authorities were trying to make Sabarimala a “clash zone”.

The police escorted two women to the shrine by making one of them wear police uniform and a helmet, without considering the sentiments of the devotees, he alleged.

A large number of devotees blocked the young women and police team escorting them at Valiya Nadappandhal, the queue complex located a few metres away from the holy ‘pathinettam padi’ (the 18 sacred steps), leading to the sanctum sanctorum.

Tension was defused after the women agreed to return as the state government made it clear it did not want to take them to the Sannidhanam, the temple complex, by using force against the protesting devotees.

(With PTI inputs)