An entry point near the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala on Friday virtually turned into an area of confrontation. A large number of devotees opposing the entry of women of the menstrual age group, early on Friday blocked two women -- a reporter from Hyderabad and another said to be an activist from Kerala -- at the Valiya Nadappandhal near Sabarimala Sannidhanam.
The two women who began trekking to Sabarimala hill in Kerala accompanied by at least a 100 policemen led by IG S Sreejithhave were forced to return after male devotees and priests joined in the protests.
Inspector General S Sreejith heading a team of police personnel providing security cover to the women assured the protesting devotees chanting Ayyappa mantra that they would not like to move forward to the Sannidhanam with the women, hurting the sentiments of devotees.
Amid mounting pressure, Devaswom Minster Kadakampally Surendran said in Thiruvananthapuram the activists should not try to make the holy land of Lord Ayyappa a place to prove their strength. "There are some people like activists trying to enter. It's impossible for govt to figure out who is who. We know there are two activists. One is believed to be a journalist as well. Pople of all ages will be allowed to go there. But at the same time we won't allow it to be a place where activists can come and showcase their power. It can't be a place where they prove certain points of theirs," said Surendran.
Speaking to the devotees who were protesting, Sreejithhave said that the police will not create any issue in Sabarimala and they didn't want a confrontation with the devotees. He further said that the police is only following the law and added that he will brief them on the situation after discussing with the higher authorities.
The attempt to reach the shrine came a day after a New Delhi-based woman reporter of a foreign media outlet made a failed bid to visit the temple. Police led by IG S Sreejithhave have thrown a security ring around the women who had requested security to go to Sabarimala Sannidhanam.
The woman reporter is in her late 20s while the details of the second woman, who was carrying Irumudikkettu (holy bundle), was not immediately known. If they could have climbed the hills, they would have been the first women from the menstruating age group to visit the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa after the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.
Speaking on the protests, Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac took to Twitter saying that those resorting to violence were not devotees but alleged that they were BJP volunteers who have gathered in the guise of devotees.
He tweeted, "They are not devotees who are indulging violence but BJP volunteers who have gathered in the guise of devotees.There was no women devotee at the scenes of violence butonly women journalists and that too kilometres from the temple. Violence at Sabarimala is BJP’s manipulation.
On Thursday, the New Delhi-based woman journalist was stopped midway by devotees opposing the entry of women of menstrual age into the hill shrine. The journalist accompanied by her male colleague, a foreigner, descended the hills from Marakkoottam area in the face of mounting protests. A case has been registered against devotees who allegedly prevented her trekking and forced her to climb down the hills.
The protesters have been protesting vehemently saying that they are protecting the shrine by keeping women and girls outside. At Sannidhanam, protesters said, "No woman between 10-50 years of age will enter here. We are protecting Sabarimala."
Another devotee said, "Point of the Supreme Court is right that men and women are equal. But here some culture is going on that women in age group of 10-50 years aren't allowed in the temple. It's our custom. We should follow our customs as India is custom-following country."