Right-wing protesters forced two women to abandon their Sabarimala pilgrimage while they were still a few kilometres from the Lord Ayyappa shrine today. Police said they were not informed about their plan to attempt the climb.
While one of the women was 42 years old, the other was in her late twenties. Sources said the first group — which had the middle-aged woman — was just a little over a kilometre from the temple when they were forced to return. The second group — of which the younger woman was a part — turned back after seeing the agitation ahead but still ended up getting heckled by protesters.
Police said the women had neither informed them about their plans nor sought protection. “We came to know about them only after the protests erupted. We escorted them back to the police station and detained three agitators,” a top official told NDTV.
Police have been deployed in large numbers at Sabarimala to prevent untoward incidents.
Sabarimala has been on the boil ever since the Supreme Court quashed an age-old regulation banning women of menstrual age from entering the Sabarimala temple on September 28. While Kerala’s Left Front government said that it would follow the verdict to the letter, many right-wing organisations — including the BJP and RSS — maintained that the judiciary or the state government has no right to interfere in religious matters. The Congress also opposed the state government on the issue.
Several women tried to enter the temple when it opened its gates to devotees the next month, only to be forced back by violent agitators. As tensions rose, BJP chief PS Sreedharan Pillai was heard describing the Sabarimala issue as a “golden opportunity” for his party to enhance its footprint in the state.
Mr Vijayan, however, remains firm in resolve. After holding interactions with various social organisations today, he declared that women from various parts of the state will soon come together to form a human chain from the state’s northern to southern tip — Kasargode to Thiruvananthapuram — to send across the message that “Kerala will not return to the dark ages”.
The controversy does not seem to have provided the BJP with any immediate electoral dividends either. The Left managed to emerge victorious in the recently held local body bypolls, winning 21 of 39 seats while the Congress got 12 and the BJP a paltry two.