After a 14-hour stand-off, social activist Trupti Desai on Friday dropped her plan to proceed to Sabarimala as she was prevented from leaving the Cochin airport by devotees and others protesting entry of menstrual age women into the famed Lord Ayyappa shrine.
Desai, who arrived at the airport in the early hours with young six women colleagues, said she would return as police informed her that there would be law and order problem if she visited the shrine. However, she vowed to come back to the state soon to have darshan of Lord Ayyappa. Follow LIVE UPDATES here.
“We will soon come back to Kerala to visit Sabarimala but we will not declare it in advance and come,” the Bhoomatha Brigade leader she told reporters at the airport after failing to proceed to the temple, which opened Friday evening for two-month long pilgrim season. She also thanked Kerala police for the cooperation they had extended to her during her stay at the airport.
Desai had announced her travel plans, along with six other women, after the Supreme Court refused to stay the September 28 ruling by a five-judge constitution bench to lift restrictions on the entry of women of all ages at the shrine. Earlier, she had said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the state DGP would be responsible if she and her team were attacked.
However, upon reaching at 4.40 am, all the seven women found it difficult to exit the airport as they were greeted by protesters who were determined to not allow them to proceed to the temple. Local BJP leaders, who were also part of the agitating crowd, alleged that Desai and her team had arrived to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that prevented entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50.
“People who indulge in hooliganism are not Ayyappa devotees. This protest is a sign that protesters are scared of me and this also proves my victory. This is a fight for gender equality and I extend my gratitude to all media organizations for supporting me. I’m not going because I’m scared but it is at the request of Kerala police citing security threats,” she said.
TDB to seek more time to implement SC order
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the Sabarimala shrine, held a meeting with legal experts and board members and decided to move the Supreme Court to seek more time to implement its order. TDB president A Padmakumar said the board will move the court either on Saturday or Monday. “If possible, we will move a petition in the Supreme Court either tomorrow or Monday”, he said, adding that the board wants devotees to have a peaceful ‘darshan’.
CM Vijayan, meanwhile, sought cooperation from everyone to ensure that the two-month-long pilgrimage season at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala passes off peacefully. The government’s aim is to uphold the esteem of the Sabarimala temple, he said. “Any untoward incident would only mar the shrine’s reputation and the media must exercise caution and not publish ‘misinformation that cause disturbances,” Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
Earlier, CM Vijayan had said that the Kerala government will abide by the apex court’s order and proposed that certain arrangements be made to facilitate the entry of women into the shrine. The decision, however, did not go down well with the Congress-led UDF and the BJP, who walked out of the all-party meeting held yesterday in this regard.
Security blanket for violence-free ‘darshan’ as temple opens for 3rd time
Amid tight security, the shrine opened at 5 pm today for the third time, ever since the SC order, in the presence of head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru. However, no girl or woman pilgrim in the 10-50 age group could offer prayers so far. A large number of devotees present at the spot chanted “Swamiyae Ayyappa” as they carried the ‘irumedikettu’ (bundle carrying sacred offerings) and rushed to climb the 18 holy steps leading to the Sannidhanam (main temple complex).
The 41-day mandalam festival will conclude on December 27 after Mandala pooja, when the shrine will close after the ‘Athazhapuja’ in the evening. It would reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30. The Makaravilakku festival would be celebrated on January 14 after which the shrine will close on January 20, marking the culmination of the pilgrim season, when lakhs of devotees are expected to throng the shrine.
While the Supreme Court is slated to hear petitions seeking review of its September 28 order in January, it has refused to put a stay it.
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