Sabarimala issue escalates as two more women denied entry

Thiruvananthapuram: The Communist Party of India Marxist-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala found itself sinking into more trouble as two more women — a journalist from Andhra Pradesh, and an activist from the state — attempted, and failed, to make an entry into the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple on Friday.

The temple — a traditional male preserve because the deity Ayyappa is believed to be a bachelor who does not like to be distracted by the presence of women — was thrown open to all devotees, irrespective of gender, by India’s Supreme Court recently.


However, the state government has been unable to assist any woman to reach the temple, despite three days of efforts after the temple opened for rituals on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, a devotee from Andhra Pradesh identified as Madhavi and a native of Cherthala in Kerala identified as Libi had to abandon their pilgrimage after they were blocked by the traditionalists.

On Thursday, Suhasini Raj who works for the New York Times in India, was heckled, abused and pelted with stones in her abortive attempt to make it to the temple, despite having strong police protection.

On Friday, dramatic scenes were played out near the Sannidhanam, close to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple when Kavita Jakkal, a journalist representing the Mojo television channel in Andhra Pradesh and Rehna Fatima, a Keralite activist, attempted to reach the temple.

Jakkal marched up the hill to the shrine in police riot gear, surrounded by nearly 100 policemen. Fatima, who was in the traditional black attire that devotees wear on the Sabarimala pilgrimage, also had police protection, but they were confronted by a strong contingent of traditionalists at Sannidhanam, preventing further progress.

Inspector General of Police, S. Sreejith, who headed the police team that provided protection to the women attempted to mediate with the protesters, but gave up the effort after advice from the government to beat a retreat for the time being. The two women were then escorted back downhill.

Meanwhile, a bigger problem surfaced for the state government when the tantric at the temple, Kandararu Rajeevaru, said if girls and women in the 10-50 age-group entered the temple, he would lock the temple, give the keys to the Travancore Devaswom Board manager and leave.

He said the decision had been taken after consultation with the senior tantrics of the family which conducts the rituals at the temple.

That decision appears to have left the state government totally stumped even as the federal government insists that the state ought to implement the apex court’s ruling to permit all devotees to worship at the temple.

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