The Pamba base station of the Sabarimala hill shrine on Sunday witnessed tension after 11 women, associated with Chennai-based women’s outfit ‘Manithi’, were stopped from visiting the temple.
The 11-member group reached Pamba early morning via road from Chennai, braving protests and threats from devotees and organisations opposed to the recent Supreme Court verdict allowing entry to women of all ages at the temple.
Agitating devotees blocked the women and staged a protest chanting Ayyappa keerthanams for several hours. Citing prohibitory orders at Pamba, police managed to remove the protesting devotees and tried to dissuade the women from going to the temple. However, the women remained determined to visit the shrine. After a six-hour deadlock, the women devotees began trekking through the traditional forest path leading to the Sabarimala temple. However, they could not move even 100 meters along the path as hundreds of pilgrims trooped to the forest track from nearby areas.
The pilgrims turned against the police personnel escorting the women and mounting protests forced the women to step back even though they had earlier vowed to not return without a darsan. As the protesters turned violent, the women rushed to a police guard room at Pamba.
After holding a discussion with the women, SP Karthikeyan Gokulchandran told the media that the 11-member group was going back at its own will.
However, Manithi leader Selvi said that they were returning as police dissuaded them from visiting the temple. “We would come again… More women are ready… We are not activists but devotees. However, police have now dissuaded us from going to the temple,” she said.
K Ammini, a woman tribal leader from Kerala’s Wayanad district, also tried to visit the temple but could not even reach Pamba due to the protest.
Activists of the Sabarimala Action Council, an umbrella of 40 Hindu organisations, had earlier stated that they would prevent the 11-member team at any cost.
A representative of the erstwhile Pandalam royal family, Sasikumara Varma, said the women have Maoist links. “The CPI(M) government is involved in the conspiracy…,” he said.
BJP workers also protested on the road leading to the CM’s house.
Senior CPI(M) leader and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that it was up to the police and three-member panel appointed by the High Court to decide on taking the 11-member team to the temple. “The government hopes that that the… panel will look into the matter and take a suitable decision,” Surendran said. He later blamed the panel for failing to take a stand.
However, the panel’s chairman, retired Justice S Siri Jagan, said the committee which has been nominated to look into infrastructure at the temple for pilgrims has no role in this issue.