As protests continued in Kerala over the entry into Sabarimala by two women 47-year-old Sasikala from Sri Lanka became the third woman to make it to the hill shrine after the Supreme Court lifted the age-linked gender bar. Sources said that Sasikala, travelling with her husband Saravanan entered the shrine at around 10.45 pm Thursday, minutes before it closed after the day’s rituals. Sasikala, however, claimed Friday that police had turned her away though there were no protests from devotees.
Taking a dig at the Sangh Parivar-backed Sabarimala Action Council, which held a hartal on Thursday to protest against the visit by two women on Wednesday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said: “Why have those who held a hartal after two young women entered Sabarimala not called for another hartal again after the entry of another woman? Will there be a hartal in Kerala every time a woman enters the temple?”
Sasikala’s husband, Saravanan told reporters at Pamba that she was not allowed to offer prayers at the temple. He said only his son and he were able to worship at the temple. “There was no protest from devotees. But police sent me back. I am an Ayyappa bhakata (devotee). They did not allow me to go to the shrine. I am not scared of anyone,” Sasikala told reporters on returning to Pamba, at the foothills of Sabarimala. She also said that she had observed the 41-day “vratham” (penance).
“They did not allow me. Why did they not allow me? Why are you all standing around me now? I am not afraid of anyone. Ayyappa will answer you all. You will come to know who I am,” she said, according to PTI.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that he had only seen TV reports of the Lankan woman visiting Sabarimala while neither the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) nor the supreme priest (thantri) of the temple confirmed Sasikala’s visit.
Early on Wednesday morning, two women in their forties, Bindu and Kanakadurga, had offered prayers at the shrine triggering protests across the state, with protesters blocking roads by placing burning tyres and granite blocks.
Police have arrested 1,718 persons in 1,108 cases registered in connection with the violent protests reported across Kerala and at least 135 police personnel were injured in the attacks. As tension continued in some areas, police have issued prohibitory orders in Manjeswaram in Kasaragod district and Vatakara and Perambra in Kozhikode district.
R R Varma, a senior member of the Pandalam family, which has a stake in traditions at the temple, said: “We don’t believe that the Lankan woman has visited the temple. The government is spreading false information with a hidden agenda. We were looking into the veracity of the visuals. If the woman’s visit is confirmed, we will definitely recommend purification rituals.”
Rahul Easwar, who spearheads the protest against allowing young women entry, said Vijayan was spreading “fake news”. “The Chief Minister wanted to create an impression that more young women are coming to Sabarimala and that young women visiting the temple is becoming a normal affair,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the TDB Friday sought an explanation from the thantri for closing the temple and conducting a purification ritual after Bindu and Kanakadurga offered prayers at the shrine. “His action is against the spirit of the Supreme Court order. He has not consulted the board,” said TDB president A Padmakumar.