Seen here, visuals from Sabarimala temple. The gates of the shrine had opened on Wednesday after the Supreme Court’s verdict allowed the entry of women of all age groups.
Several teams of journalists were attacked by the protesters. CNN-News18 crew covering the Sabarimala protests was also attacked by a mob at the Nilakkal base camp, the main gateway to the hill shrine, in a cowardly tactic designed to intimidate women devotees ahead of the temple’s opening.
MHA Says State Govt Responsible for Law & Order | The Centre has asked the Kerala government to ensure peace across the state following protests against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups to enter Sabarimala temple, officials said. In an advisory, the Home Ministry said the maintenance of law and order, including providing security to women wishing to visit the temple, was the responsibility of the state government.
Situation Tense, Say Sources | Sources in the police department say the situation for the next two days seems tense. They said that the anger is mostly against the media and police. Upon being asked whether women could travel towards the shrine, they said it was not advisable for women reporters to go to Nilakkal or Pampa.
More police officials to be deployed in Sabarimala and Pamba.
#ALERT | More police officials to be deployed in Sabarimala and Pamba. ADGP & IG ranked monitor the situation round the clock these officials will stay in Pamba additional battalions of armed Police and commandos will be on standby in Thiruvananthapuram. | #DadagiriOrDevotion pic.twitter.com/LyxLtORiRG— News18 (@CNNnews18) October 18, 2018
Rahul Easwar Releases Video | Activist Rahul Easwar released a video saying that he has been sent to police remand and is being taken to Kottarakara Jail. In the video, he says that along with him around 20 people have been arrested on non-bailable charges. He was arrested on Wednesday from Nilakkal base camp and an FIR was registered against him.
The Sabarimla head priest, Kandaru Rajeevaru on Thursday dismissed reports that the tantri family had planned to close down the Lord Ayyappa temple if young women entered it to offer prayers.However, the priest appealed to the women, belonging to the age group of 10-50, who were restricted as per th centuries-old traditions of the shrine, not to come to the Sannidhanam and “create problems”. "We have never said that the temple will be closed if women of the traditionally barred age group enter there. It is our duty and responsibility to carry out the monthly poojas and other rituals. We will not break the custom," Rajeevaru said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweets that those stopping women from proceeding to the Sabarimala shrine are “RSS-backed”. “These attackers are motivated by casteist and feudal ideologies. Encouraging such movements will eventually lead to the banishment of backward classes from places like Sabarimala. All believers must condemn this attack on Sabarimala,” he says.
Sabarimala has a uniqueness that other temples lack; it allows entry for people of all faith. Sangh Parivar and RSS have always been intolerant of this fact. They have made many attempts to erase this distinction of Sabarimala.— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) October 18, 2018
The role they played in eliminating the rituals performed at Sabarimala by Adivasi-Malayaran community is common knowledge. The present troubles must be seen in this light. The RSS backed attackers are obstructing believers and spreading terror.— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) October 18, 2018
These attackers are motivated by casteist and feudal ideologies. Encouraging such movements will eventually lead to the banishment of backward classes from places like Sabarimala. All believers must condemn this attack on Sabarimala.— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) October 18, 2018
Police have also promulgated section 144 of CrPc in four places including Pamba, Sannidhanam to check any kind of protest and violence. The Sabarimala Samarakashna Samithi, an outfit of devotees, has called the hartal to protest the Wednesday 'police lathicharge' against Lord Ayyappa devotees at Nilackal, the base camp of Lord Ayappa shrine in Sabarimala. The BJP and its NDA partners have extended their support to the hartal call. The Congress said it would not join the strike but hold protest demonstrations across the state on Thursday.
Buses and auto-rickshaws are meanwhile off roads in Kerala due to a hartal called by various Hindu outfits against the decision to allow women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple. Special security arrangements have been put in place at various locations including Pamba, Nilackal, Erumeli en route to the Sabarimala temple, located in Pathanamthitta district. However, stray incidents of stone-pelting on Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses were reported from some parts of the state. However, private vehicles were plying in some areas.
Speaking to CNN-News18, NYT journalist Suhasini Raj, who was stopped from going to the temple by protesters, lauds 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. 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 says.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has spoken about the Sabarimala temple row in his Vijayadashami speech, saying devotees should have been consulted before the SC verdict on women’s entry was implanted. Click here for updates on Bhagwat’s speech
A 24-hour bandh called by Pravin Togadia’s Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad and Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi, an outfit of devotees, has begun taking effect in Kerala. Buses run by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) have reportedly been pelted with stones in Kozikode, Cherthala and Aatingal.
OPINION | Sangh's U-Turn on Sabarimala May Help BJP Gatecrash Left's 2019 Party in Kerala
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's decision to implement the SC order - or rather his perceived haste in implementing the order - actually came as a surprise lifeline for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.
Accused of political opportunism over the Sabarimala temple row, the Congress says it stands by "gender equality", adding, however, that its Kerala unit has the right to espouse the sentiments of locals to seek a review of the Supreme Court verdict. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it is the constitutional right of every citizen to seek a review of a Supreme Court judgment and these sentiments are expressed by a multitude of groups in Kerala. "As far as the local sentiments are concerned, it is the duty of the Kerala State Congress Committee to espouse and place forward the sentiments of the people. They are neither violating the law nor the Constitution," he told reporters.
The Lord Ayyappa shrine will remain open for the 5-day monthly pooja during the Malayalam month of Thulam before being closed on October 22. 'Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad' led by Pravin Togadia and the 'Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi', an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal which started at midnight.
Both the Congress, the main opposition party in Kerala, and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict. State Congress working president K Sudhakaran led his party workers in a protest at Nilackal to express solidarity with Ayyappa devotees. An embattled Left Front government has reacted sharply to the protests, with the state's religious trusts minister Kadakampally Surendran calling them "politically motivated". Surendran, who reviewed the situation and preparations for the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku-festival beginning November 17 at Sannidhanam (Sabarimala temple complex), said the government would tackle the agitation politically.
Suhasini Raj is the third woman who has been stopped midway the trek. Yesterday, Madhavi, a gutsy woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to trek the Sabarimala hills 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.
Activist Rahul Easwar, a front-ranking leader of the protesters and votary of continuance of the tradition barring girls and women between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple, a custom which the Supreme Court overturned on September 28, was arrested at Pamba. Incensed over Kerala's Left Front government's decision not to file a review plea against the Supreme Court verdict, protesters pelted police with stones and the latter hit right back with vengeance wielding batons with telling effect, leaving many fallen and writhing in pain on the road. Several protesters were seen being bundled into police vehicles, while siren blaring ambulances carried some to hospitals.
The temple gates had reopened for monthly prayers yesterday, the first time since the Supreme Court allowed women of menstrual age to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine. Women journalists, including a CNN-News18 reporter and her crew, 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, abode to Lord Ayyappa, its eternally celibate deity. Chaos and mayhem on the road leading from Nilackal, the gateway to the shrine, 20 km away, to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees start the arduous 6-km trek to Sabarimala reigned supreme, as activists of fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.
UPDATE | New York Times journalist Suhasini Raj has been 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, who is reportedly 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. She had said that she was came here as part of her job and not as a devotee, Mathrubhumi reported.
It’s the first morning following the tense opening of the temple doors in Sabarimala and a woman, said to be a Delhi-based journalist of a foreign media outlet, began trekking to the hill amid protests by devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the hill shrine. Police have thrown a security ring around the woman accompanied by her colleague, a foreigner. However, there is no confirmation regarding her age. Local TV crew said she is in her late 40s and if she climbed the hill, she would be the first woman of the menstrual 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.
Seen here, women above 50 years of age entering Sabarimala temple on Wednesday evening. Women between the ages of 10-50 did not arrive as protests opposing the SC verdict broke out, preventing women’s entry into the shrine. Women journalists were also heckled and attacked.
Kerala:Women above 50 yrs of age were seen entering #SabarimalaTemple this evening.Women b/w 10-50 yrs of age didn't arrive there today due to security concerns,in the light of protests opposing entry of women of all age groups at the temple.Its portals will stay open till Oct 22 pic.twitter.com/aG8bSYW6SL— ANI (@ANI) 17 October 2018
ALSO READ | Mob Attacks News18 Woman Journalist, Others Covering Sabarimala Protests as Cops Look On
Two reporters - one from The News Minute and one from the Republic TV - were also attacked by the anti-women protesters.
Meanwhile, Kerala Union of Working Journalists has taken out a protest march in Thiruvananthapuram against the attack on journalists near the Sabarimala temple. Earlier today, women journalists were attacked and their vehicles were damaged as hordes of protestors occupied the road leading to the Sabarimala temple whose gates opened for women of menstrual age today for the first time after the Supreme Court's verdict.
Sabarimala: Melsanthi Unnikrishnan Nampoothiri opens the Sabarimala temple for the five-day monthly pooja on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (PTI Photo)
The anti-women protesters surrounded the car in which News18’s reporter Radhika Ramaswamy was travelling and abused her verbally, asking her to turn back. Even as cops at the spot looked on, more protesters joined in. They tried to pull her out, attacked the car, broke the window panes and hit the vehicles with sticks. The goons also vandalised the camera equipment that the crew was carrying.
Two women who tried to enter the Sabarimala shrine on Wednesday were also stopped by angry devotees as Kerala remained on the edge over protests against the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry into the shrine to women of all age groups.
Madhavim, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, and Libi, a journalist from Kerala, dared to break the centuries-old custom and enter the temple but were forced to turn back.
Tension prevailed in Kerala’s Nilakkal, the main gateway to Sabarimala, on Wednesday after police used force to disperse devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age.
Acting tough, the police removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group named Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti. However, within a few hours, the group was back at the spot, chanting Ayyappa mantra in protest against the Supreme Court order. They also detained activist Rahul Easwar, who is spearheading the protests against the Supreme Court verdict.
Hours ahead of opening of the hill shrine for the monthly prayer, police said they would not let anyone block the movement of devotees. Taking full control of Nilakkal, police also warned against those who create hurdles in the ways of pilgrims to the hill shrine.
The situation on the ground, however, seemed to belie the claims of the police. Angry demonstrators pelted stones at vehicles after cops did not allow them to carry a search operation and stop women in the 10-50 age group from entering the shrine.
Women cops, too, faced backlash from protesters, who questioned their deployment. Three female police personnel were stopped by Easwar and his supporters at Pamba. A bus carrying police personnel was also stopped by the protesters.
As the protesters resorted to violence, Kerala Police baton chargeed them at Nilakkal. In retaliation, the mob pelted stones at cops.
The former Travancore Devaswom Board president and the wife of Kandararu Maheshwararu Tantri were taken into police custody at Pamba for protesting against the Supreme Court verdict and 50 people were booked for trying to attack a journalist. Around 500 police personnel, including women, have been deployed to ensure a safe passage to the pilgrims to the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The shrine located on the mountain ranges of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats will open at 5pm for the first time after the recent Supreme Court. The temple will be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said no one would be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala.
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