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Chanting Ayyappa Mantras, Sabarimala Protesters Push Back 3 Women As Cops Look The Other Way

The women were going to the shrine without police protection but the protesters chanting Ayyappa mantras stopped them even as the cops looked on and did not intervene.

Neethu Reghukumar | CNN-News18

Updated:October 21, 2018, 11:41 PM IST
Chanting Ayyappa Mantras, Sabarimala Protesters Push Back 3 Women As Cops Look The Other Way
Representative Image

Sabarimala: As the Sabarimala row in Kerala refuses to die down, Ayyappa devotees on Sunday prevented three women from climbing the holy hills.

The women – all three Telugu-speaking – were going to the shrine without police protection but the protesters chanting Ayyappa mantras stopped them even as the cops looked on and did not intervene.

Balamma, a 46-year-old native of Andhra Pradesh reached up to ‘Nada Pandal’, which is about 500 metres from the temple. She had managed to reach there undetected as she was walking alone.

But the protesters circled her at Nada Pandal and demanded her ID card. Seeing that she was 46 years old, and hence fell in the 10-50 age bracket that was banned earlier, they asked her to go back.

Nervous after being heckled by the crowd, she fell unconscious and had taken to a hospital in Pamba in an ambulance.

Earlier in the day, two more women – 41-year-old Vasanthi and 42-year-old Aadhiseshi- from Andhra Pradesh were also stopped by protesters when they were about 200 metres away from Pamba.

Police said they had initially offered them protection, but the women refused and said they do not want to go further. Both of them were with their families.

The police, which took the women to safety after they were turned back, said that the duo informed the security forces that they came to Sabarimala without knowing the customs of the temple.

The women were part of a pilgrims group visiting temples in Kerala. They have been taken to Nilakkal where their vehicle was parked, police said.

The two women have given in writing to the police that they did not want to break the centuries-old custom of the temple, sources said.

A heavy flow of pilgrims was witnessed at the temple despite intermittent downpour lashing the hills and Pamba.

Though attempts had been made by some young women, including an activist, to enter the temple of the 'Naishtik Brahmachari', the eternally celibate deity, since Wednesday, the devotees backed by priests have stood their ground, saying they would not allow the tradition to be breached.

By all available indications, not a single woman in the age group of 10 and 50 has so far reached the temple which will close Monday at the end of the monthly puja.

Sunday is the fifth day since the temple gates were opened for the monthly puja after the Supreme Court last month lifted a centuries-old ban on women between 10 and 50 years entering the Lord Ayyappa shrine.

Meanwhile, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi has decided to strengthen its agitation against the CPI(M)-led Kerala government's "hasty" move to implement the Supreme Court order.

The Samiti has called for "namajapa yatra" (protest march chanting Ayyappa mantra) to police stations across the southern state against alleged police action on their activists. Hundreds of women participated in one such protest march held in Erumeli, a key pilgrim centre connected with Sabarimala.

BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai urged the state government to convene assembly session to discuss the issue. He claimed that even CPI(M) members in the state were opposing the bid to break the custom of the ancient shrine. A small group of BJP leaders was arrested for violating ban orders in force under Section 144 of the CrPC at Nilakkal, a key entry point to Sabarimala.

CPI(M) politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai said the devotees opposing the apex court verdict were in a minority and they did not have the support of the entire Kerala society. He supported implementation of the court verdict on Sabarimala.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress urged the Centre to bring an ordinance to overcome the Supreme Court verdict.

Kerala state police chief Loknath Behera said the police will conduct a review of the alleged police lapses while handling the issues related to Sabarimala after the doors of the shrine close on Monday after the monthly Pooja.

He said the Sabarimala pilgrim season beginning next month was going to be a challenging one for them. Kerala has been witnessing massive protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple since the government decided to implement the apex court order.

A Dalit woman activist, who was planning to visit the Sabarimala shrine Saturday, had put her plans on hold and left Pamba following heavy rain.

In another development, activist Rehana Fathima, who had made an attempt to enter the temple on Friday, has been expelled from the Muslim community for "hurting the sentiments of lakhs of Hindu devotees", the Kerala Muslim Jama'ath Council said.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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