Sabarimala: After waiting for hours barely one kilometer from the Sabarimala temple, two Kerala women devotees were escorted down the hill, as thousands of Ayyappa devotees on Monday put up a massive protest causing one of the women to faint.
Bindu from Malappuram and Kanaka Durga from Kannur, both from the hitherto banned age group, were stopped at 8 a.m., barely 1000 meters away from the shrine as even a 100-policemen contingent could not pass through a massive wall of Ayyappa chanters.
Despite the police resorting to a lathi-charge, the situation did not change. In fact, tension escalated and more security force was requested to be deployed at the spot.
As the commotion reached its pitch, Kanaka Durga fainted and the police were forced to take her back on a stretcher, even as Bindhu rooted herself to the ground refusing to be intimidated by a surging group of menacing Ayyappa men.
With the protest mounting as the day progressed, the Pathanamthitta district authorities around 10.15 a.m. decided along with the police to halt efforts of progressing any further towards the Sabarimala shrine.
There appeared no scope for taking the two women forward so we decided to bring back them back, an officer shielding the woman on the pathway told the media.
Bindu, an advocate, was seen screaming that she would not go back. But after being pacified by senior police officers, she agreed to go back but only on condition that the police will escort her back.
While walking down, sensing the charged atmosphere prevailing among the massive crowd of devotees the police team called an emergency vehicle to take the two women back to Pamba.
Bindu was seen shouting to the media that they are being forcefully taken back, against their wishes and the fainting of Kanaka Durga was nothing but a ploy by the police to take them back.
In the commotion, a few media personnel were also hurt.
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra told the media in Thiruvananthapuram that every effort was on to ensure the implementation of the September 28 apex court directive allowing all women to pray at Sabarimala.
“The police did not do anything to unsettle law and order situation there,” said Behra.
However, after the Monday’s incident, it was now over three dozen women who have failed to pray at the Lord Ayyappa shrine despite police presence and assurances.
Monday’s incident came a day after 11 women from Tamil Nadu had to be sent back in the face of steep protests mounted by the traditional devotees, who have been up in arms ever since the Supreme Court verdict and have not allowed any breach in the temple’s tradition.
Trouble broke out early on Monday when police accompanying the two women clashed with angry pilgrims after they created hurdles for the two Kerala women devotees, who are below the age of 50, from proceeding ahead for their darshan.
The police had to resort to lathi-charge and shield Bindu and Kanaka Durga as angry Ayyappa devotees chanted slogans and approached them menacingly.
State Minister for Devasoms (temples) Kadakampally Surendran said just as the police were trying to implement the apex court directive, they also have the responsibility of ensuring safety to the women.
The leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala though attacked the Kerala government for their double standard.
“It’s most unfortunate that all this happening during the most hallowed time of the ‘Mandala Puja’. It’s sad the government has not learned anything from the massive protests yesterday when a group of women had to return.
“The government for some reason is adamant that they want to break the traditions and customs of the temple,” said Chennithala to the media.
Earlier speaking to the media, Bindu slammed Sabarimala tantris. “I want to pray at the temple and I don’t think the law of tantri is above the law of the land,” she said.
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, including those from the hitherto banned age group of 10 to 50 years.
On Sunday, 11 women from Tamil Nadu in the 10-50 age group failed to reach the temple, after massive protests broke out against them forcing the police and the women to flee to safety.