The Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala opened Sunday on the second day of its two-month-long annual pilgrimage season amid tight security. The temple opened yesterday, two days after the Supreme Court referred review petitions on the entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala to a large bench.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran Friday had said the government will not provide security to women as “Sabarimala was not a place for activists to display their activism.” Desai was not allowed to offer prayers last year and was forced to return from Kochi airport following protests.
Ten women of menstruating age were stopped from visiting the shrine Saturday. Police sources said the women were part of a group of about 50 people from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. “They were on a tour of temples in the region, and their itinerary included Sabarimala. Our personnel deployed at the Pamba base station politely dissuaded them from going to the shrine. They agreed to stay back at Pamba, while the others in the group went up to the temple,’’ said a senior police officer.
To stop young women from going to the shrine, police have decided to check all vehicles at Nilakkal — the first base station from where pilgrims are allowed to proceed to Pamba. Women police constables have been deployed in the area.
The latest stand is in stark contrast to the CPM-led government’s position last year when the Supreme Court had lifted the traditional bar on women of menstruating age from entering the temple. This is the second pilgrim season after the Supreme Court’s ruling in September 2018.
Last year, the government had pushed firmly to implement the court order, while equating the entry of young women to the Left’s commitment to ensuring gender justice and protecting the renaissance traditions of the state. However, this move led to largescale protests that contributed to the Left alliance ending up with just one seat out of 20 in the Lok Sabha polls.
On Friday, the Kerala government pointed to “grey areas” in the Supreme Court judgment and indicated that it is “not going to take young women to the temple”.
While scores of young women, including activists, attempted to visit the temple last year, only two are known to have officially entered the shrine with police protection.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines