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Trupti Desai Decides to Return from Kochi Airport After Daylong Standoff With Sabarimala Protesters

Trupti Desai along with six women pilgrims, all aged under 50, arrived in Kerala from Pune at 4.40 am on Friday. However, she was not allowed to move out of the arrival terminal of the airport.


Updated:November 16, 2018, 6:53 PM IST

New Delhi: Gender equality activist Trupti Desai, who had vowed to visit the Sabarimala temple on November 17, has decided to return to Pune. She was forced to stay inside the Cochin International Airport on Friday as over 500 protesters blocked the exit gates.

Desai had reportedly sought time from the police to decide on her further course of action. She is likely to announce her decision by 6:30 pm.

Owing to law and order situation, the police had told Trupti Desai that they can't take her to Sabarimala temple. "The manner in which she publicised her visit and came is a major problem . She publicised the time, date," police sources said. They said that safety of other passengers at the Cochin International Airport is also to be taken into account.

Desai along with six women pilgrims, all aged under 50, arrived in Kochi from Pune at 4.40 am on Friday. However, she was not been allowed to move out of the arrival terminal of the airport so far. Taxi drivers also refused to take the group on their onward journey as they "fear for safety".

"We are not being allowed to book a cab by the protesters. We are being threatened that our cars will also be vandalised," the activist told News18, adding that the protesters were members of the BJP and the RSS.

The temple opened on Friday evening, for the third time since the apex court verdict on September 28 allowed women of all age group to offer prayers at the hilltop Lord Ayyappa temple though none could do so following stiff resistance from devotees and activists, opposing any change in the temple traditions.

The protesters alleged that Desai and her team came here to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that prevents entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50. "She (Desai) came here not for darshan but for disturbing a peaceful Sabarimala pilgrim season beginning Saturday," they said.

The Ayyappa devotees, comprising women and BJP workers, assembled in large numbers outside the airport, continued their protest chanting Ayyappa mantra.

Kerala BJP leader MN Gopi said they would not let Desai go to Sabarimala, but the protest would remain “peaceful”. “We have told the airport cab services to not give her a ride out of the airport. We know that she has police protection but if the police try to bring her out or try to escort her out of the airport then we will agitate,” he said.

Police in large numbers have reached the airport to control the situation. Police officers held discussions with Desai and protesters but both sides stick to their stand.

Desai, who spearheaded the campaign for women to be allowed into various religious places, including Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple and the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, had sent an email to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking security as she fears an attack on her life during her visit to the hill shrine.

"We will not return to Maharashtra without darshan at the Sabarimala temple.We have faith in the government that it will provide security for us," she said "It is the responsibility of the state government and the police to provide protection and take us to the temple as the Supreme Court has allowed women of all ages to offer prayers at the shrine," she added.

Nearly 700 women have signed up to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple, which opens on Friday evening for the Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season. Protesters have vowed to stop the women, with Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar saying they would guard the temple for the next 60 days.

| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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