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NYT Journalist Abandons Trek to Sabarimala Amid Widespread Protests, Prepares to Return to Kochi

She had to end her journey at Marakkoottam after protesters blocked her way. Earlier, she was blocked at Pamba by protesters who were chanting hymns of Lord Ayyappa, but she managed to get past them after showing her ID card.

News18.com

Updated:October 18, 2018, 1:53 PM IST
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NYT Journalist Abandons Trek to Sabarimala Amid Widespread Protests, Prepares to Return to Kochi
Had Raj been able to climb the hill, she would have become the first woman of the menstrual age group to visit the Sabarimala Temple after the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.
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New Delhi: New York Times journalist Suhasini Raj was forced to abandon her journey to the Sabarimala temple after protests, despite being given police protection. Raj was trekking to the hill with a colleague, a foreigner.

She had to end her journey at Marakkoottam after protesters blocked her way. Earlier, she was blocked at Pamba by protesters who were chanting hymns of Lord Ayyappa, but she managed to get past them after showing her ID card.

Reports said she was came to the hill shrine as part of her job and not as a devotee.0

Speaking to CNN-News18, the NYT journalist lauded Kerala Police. “I was given an escort by Kerala Police; they had done a fantastic job. During my trek, we encountered protesters who were against my presence there,” she said.

Reporters of Malayalam news channels who followed the journalist to the temple reported that Raj’s presence caused widespread agitation, with some devotees shouting slogans like ladies go back.

Some even allegedly hurled abuses and pelted stones at her, opposing her entry. Police had thrown a security ring around the woman and her colleague and offered to provide her security but she decided not to climb the hill further.

“They pelted stones at us. Kerala Police protected me. They were ready to call in additional forces, but I decided against it and called off my trek to Sabarimala. When I was brought back to the police station, I was offered medical help and now I have been given a police escort to Kochi,” she said.

Had Raj been able to climb the hill, she would have become the first woman of the menstrual age group to visit the Sabarimala Temple after the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.

Suhasini Raj is the third woman who has been stopped midway the trek. On Wednesday, Madhavi, a woman in her 40s from Andhra Pradesh, tried to trek the hill to reach the Lord Ayyappa temple but was forced to return to Pamba by angry male devotees.

Liby, a woman from Kerala's Alappuzha, also in the 10-50 year age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal. She was escorted to safety by police.

On Wednesday, women journalists were heckled, their vehicles smashed and young female Ayyappa devotees turned back as hordes of activists of Hindu fringe groups besieged the road leading to the temple.
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