A day after Sabarimala in Kerala saw massive protests over attempted entry by three women in the age group of 10-50, the hill shrine enjoyed relative calm and peace on Saturday – a 42-year-old woman from Kollam district returned from the base camp without visiting the temple after the police said it will be difficult to provide escort given the inclement weather.
The woman, S P Manju, who was earlier associated with Kerala Dalit Maha Federation, left Pamba in the evening and told the media that she has not abandoned her attempt to get to Sabarimala temple now that the Supreme Court has allowed entry to women of all ages. “I will come again. Two more days are left for visiting the temple. Due to heavy rains, the police have advised me not to go up the hill,’’ she said.
There was a brief spell of tension as devotees were suspicious about the age of a pilgrim from Tamil Nadu. The protests subsided after the woman, Latha, who had travelled with her family, showed her official identification card to prove that she was past 50.
Protesting devotees subsequently allowed to go up to the shrine.
At Pamba, after Manju claimed that she was a genuine pilgrim, and demanded police protection for the 5-km trek up to the temple, the police cited adverse weather conditions and heavy rush of pilgrims along the route.
Having faced flak on Friday for escorting Rehana Fathima, a women’s rights activist who has taken part in several mass protests, and after state Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran subsequently stating that the government cannot provide protection to “activists who come to prove their power in Sabarimala”, the police decided to check background of all young women approaching them for protection.
On this, Inspector General of Police S Sreejith said the police have learnt that S P Manju, the woman who wanted to visit the temple on Saturday, faced multiple criminal cases at her home town Chathannur, in Kollam, and thus the police could not provide her security for the final trek to the temple. A final decision will be taken only after examining her antecedents, he said.
On Friday, two young women had trekked up to the temple with police escort but could not enter after the tantri (priest) threatened to close the shrine if tradition was violated.
Section 144, some arrests
With prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 extended to Sabarimala, Pamba, Nilakkal and Elavunkal until Monday, the day the temple closes after the monthly rituals, there were no protests or agitations on Saturday.
Some BJP workers were arrested at Nilakkal for violating Section 144, PTI reported.
Police and administration officials denied rumours on social media that groups of young women were planning to trek to Sabarimala during the weekend. Officers remain posted on the entire road stretch from Erumeli to Nilakkal to check vehicles to look for protesters.
Pathanamthitta collector P B Nooh said no woman between the age of 10 and 50 had approached the police for security on Saturday.
Rehana ‘ousted’ from Muslim community
The Kerala Muslim Jamaat Council on Saturday claimed that Rehana Fathima has been ousted from the Muslim community on “charges of insulting sentiments of lakhs of devotees of Lord Ayyappa” in Sabarimala.
The Council’s president, A Pookunju, said every Muslim person above the age of 18 is a member of the Council, which has power to take action against any errant member. He alleged that Rehana has insulted the sentiments of Hindus and lakhs of Sabarimala devotees by trying to enter the temple and thus the Council, which he claimed is affiliated to the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, decided to oust her and her family from the community.
Stating that the Council supports people from Hindu faith in the Sabarimala issue, Pookunju said, “We request the government that a case be registered against Rehana for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.”