A 46-year-old Sri Lankan woman who was reported to have entered the temple on Thursday night clarified on Friday that she did not and was sent back by the police mid-way. Sasikala, who was accompanied by her husband and children had informed the police about their decision to enter beforehand and submitted documents proving her age. Sasikala has a Sri Lankan passport and police sources said her passport showed she was born in 1972.
The Hindu reported that the woman was given protection, including women constables who were not in uniform. However, Sasikala claimed she was sent back under heavy police protection from Marakkuttam.
On January 2, two women – Bindu and Kanakdurga – entered the temple resulting in large-scale violence across the state. A video of the two women, in their early 40s, entering the shrine went viral on WhatsApp. After the news became public, the head priest closed the temple for an hour for “purification rituals.” Women in menstruating age were barred at the shrine citing the celibate nature of Ayyappan, the presiding deity. The Supreme Court in September lifted the age restriction.
Violent protests broke out in Kerala soon after. The BJP and state Congress attacked CM Vijayan for breaking the temple traditions. A dawn-to-dusk hartal was also called by several Hindu outfits. During the protests, two police stations were attacked and scores of CPI(M) offices were vandalised by agitators. Crude bombs were hurled into police station in Thiruvananthapuram rural district. In many places, the protest turned into a street fight between the BJP and CPI(M). Police were forced to use teargas to disperse the BJP activists, and 31 policemen were injured and around 100 buses of the state-owned transport corporation were damaged since Wednesday noon.
Meanwhile, six BJP workers were stabbed in different incidents. In one incident, at Vadanappally in Thrissur, three BJP workers were stabbed, allegedly by activists of the right-wing Muslim party Social Democratic Party of India, when the BJP workers tried to prevent shops from functioning. An official communication from the police said as many as 745 persons had been arrested, while 628 others had been taken into preventive custody in connection with the violent incidents.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that the Sangh Parivar was trying to torpedo the Supreme Court order. “Today is the fifth hartal by the BJP against the Supreme Court verdict. People are familiar with the violence unleashed by the Sangh Parivar at Sabarimala. The government would strongly deal with the violence. The government would not take any women by force to Sabarimala. At the same time, it would give protection for those who want to visit the temple,” he said. The clashes led Kerala Governor P Sathasivam to ask the state government for a report on the law and order situation.