“No young woman is going to climb up to Sabarimala Sannidhanam… We would prevent them at any cost. Let police use firearms on us, we are ready to die for Lord Ayyappa,’’ said a youth, among the 70-odd protesters hiding along the forest path leading to the Sabarimala temple from Pamba base camp to prevent women between 10 and 50 years of age from entering the temple.
The youth, who did not wish to be identified, is one of the volunteers of the Ayyappa Dharma Raksha Samithi floated by Shiv Sena in Kerala.
Samithi leader Chenkal Sreekumar said, “These persons are staunch Ayyappa devotees, who are willing to face any situation. Many of them have volunteered to join our squad deployed at Sannidhanam, Pamba, Nilakkal and Erumeli to prevent women. At any cost, they would not allow the entry of women of all ages at the temple. There are men who are ready for suicide if women enter the shrine. We have packed our men in such a manner that no woman climbs up to the shrine.”
A section of volunteers function as informers while the other ensure logistical supply for the squads in the forest, Sreekumar said. He said the volunteers cannot be distinguished from devotees as they are wearing the same attire.
Sreekumar said around 100 more volunteers from various parts of the state would join the mission on Friday as the vigil would continue until the temple is closed after the monthly ritual on October 22.
Another volunteer claimed that his team was involved in sending back the woman journalist who tried to trek to the shrine on Thursday morning. “When she was about to reach the shrine, our men came down from Sannidhanam to block her,” he said.
Substantiating the presence of squads of other Hindu organisations, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran disclosed an audio clip of a conversion in which a person, who identified himself as a leader of Pravin Togadia’s Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad, could be heard saying that Ayyappa devotees should not come in groups due to prohibitory orders and should carry travel pouches and wear black clothes like pilgrims. The voice in the audio clip says the devotees would get necessary support at Nilakkal upon dialling a mobile number.
Surendran said the BJP and RSS were trying to stir violence at Sabarimala. “What political gain is the BJP going to make by fomenting trouble,” he said.
Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary E S Biju said almost all Hindu outfits are involved in the agitation. The Sabarimala Action Committee has 41 outfits, including community associations apart from Sangh Parivar groups.