A woman arrived at the Pamba base camp on Friday afternoon to begin the trek to the Sabarimala temple, but was taken away by the police to a control room. Earlier on Friday, two women discontinued the climb to the hill shrine amid mounting protests. Police escorted them back to Pamba base camp even as protests against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women to enter the temple continued for the third day.
The Sabarimala temple gates opened to devotees on Wednesday amid violent protests against women devotees and journalists. The protests continued on Thursday, and no woman was allowed entry.
Prohibitory orders are in place in four towns of Kerala on Friday. The Centre has asked the state government to maintain law and order.
5.45 pm: Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde says the Supreme Court ruling has pushed “non-believers, paid activists, anti-Hindus and anarchists to play with Hindu religious beliefs and sentiments”.
5.24 pm: Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar says the board has decided to appeal against the Supreme Court verdict to allow women of all ages to enter the temple, ANI reports. “We want peace. We do not want the Sabarimala to become a protest site,” News18 quotes Padmakumar as saying.
5.03 pm: Police detain protestors at Pamba, ANI reports.
4.58 pm: Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar does not clarify on filing a review petition in the Supreme Court. “There are 25 review petitions in the Supreme Court at the moment and the board is party to all of them,” he says.
4.54 pm: Senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi to represent the Travancore Devaswom Board.
4.49 pm: Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar says the board will submit a report to the Kerala High Court as well, reports News 18. “The situation is serious and we have decided to prepare a detailed report and approach the Supreme Court.”
4.45 pm: Travancore Devaswom Board to approach Supreme Court regarding entry of women into Sabarimala. The board will inform the court about the present situation in the state.
4.30 pm: CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says TV crews comprising women were “roughed up” in Sabarimala and claims the pattern is “very similar to the time of the Babri masjid demolition”. “You have the heads of the volunteers wearing saffron bands, the same dress you found there then.”
4.23 pm: “Following [the] Supreme Court verdict, a lot of arrangements had to be put in place, but the BJP is causing hindrance in putting those arrangements in place,” Balakrishnan says.
Balakrishanan says Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s absence is not affecting the state, reports ANI. “Right now, there is nothing happening the state the needs the CM’s direct intervention [and] physical presence. It is possible for him to run the government smoothly from wherever he is.”
Vijayan is on a four-day visit to the United Arab Emirates.
4.21 pm: CPI(M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan says the Congress was earlier in support of allowing entry of women of all ages, reports ANI. They are protesting now because the Left government is in power, he says. “We want to abide by the Supreme Court’s order.”
4 pm: The former Travancore Devaswom Board president says that Sabarimala “is not a place for sex tourism”, according to ANI. “This is agenda driven. Police is also involved in it...This is not a place for sex tourism. This is the abode of lord Ayappa,” says Prayar Gopalakrishnan.
3.35 pm: Sitaram Yechury blames BJP for planting organised protests, reports First Post. “This is the worst form of vote bank politics being played at the expense of destroying social harmony,” Yechury says. “Women were roughed up, and it is being done by RSS. They lost the battle of preventing Sabarimala gates from opening on time and they’ll lose again.”
3.25 pm: Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappally Ramachandran says Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is responsible for the situation in Sabarimala, reports Malayala Manorama. Ramachandran criticises Vijayan for not being present in the state during this crisis.
3.20 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says the state government is doing its job, reports Hindustan Times. He says efforts are being made to disrupt social harmony. “Those disturbing law and order will be dealt with.”
2.14 pm: The Travancore Devaswom Board will meet at 3 pm to discuss the ongoing row over allowing women into the Sabarimala temple, reports Hindustan Times. TDB president A Padmakumar says he’s open to a discussion.
On Thursday, the board offered to file a review petition in the Supreme Court to end the agitations.
1.42 pm: In a letter dated October 16, the Ministry of Home Affairs had asked the chief secretaries and police chiefs of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to take measures to maintain law and order, as Hindutva groups were preparing to protest against allowing women into the Sabarimala temple, ANI reports.
1.14 pm: Fatima says she does not know what happened to her children. “My life is also in danger,” she adds. “But the police have said they will provide protection. That is why I am going back [to the temple].”
12.53 pm: “I wanted to continue the trek, but the situation did not allow for that,” Rehana Fatima tells reporters. “I’m very happy that I got this far. I wanted to see Lord Ayyappa, but the so-called devotees did not allow me to.” Jakkal and Fatima have returned to Pamba under police protection.
12.45 pm: “We are feeling very proud to come here,” Kavita Jakkal, one of the women who abandoned the trek, says. “You have seen how dangerous a situation we faced today. We walked five km to Sabarimala, only to be stopped 100 metres from the temple. If we want, we can go to the temple. The police have promised us protection. But so many small kids are there.”
Jakkal says she wants to fight for her rights, but not by creating danger for the children. “Because life is very important,” she says.
12.34 pm: Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac claims not devotees, but BJP volunteers are indulging in violence. “There was no women devotee at the scenes of violence, but only women journalists and that too kilometres from the temple,” he says on Twitter.
12.28 pm: The Congress has also sought action against the police. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala says the party met Kerala Governor P Sathasivam and explained the situation at Sabarimala to him. “Not only Hindus but people from all religions are going there,” he says. “Everyone is worried. The woman activist [Rehana Fatima] was given a police uniform. This is wrong.”
Chennithala claims Sabarimala “is not a tourist spot”. “Had there been our government we would’ve handled the situation better,” he claims. “We would’ve talked to devotees, there would’ve been no violence.”
12.17 pm: Inspector General S Sreejith tells ANI that though the police took journalist Kavitha Jakkal and activist Rehana Fatima up to the temple, the darshan can be offered only with the priest’s consent. “We will give them whatever protection they want,” he adds.
12.08 pm: BJP General Secretary K Surendran criticises the government and the police for the chaos at Sabarimala, the Hindustan Times reports. He claims the situation has taken a communal turn due to the actions of activist Rehana Fathima. “It is a move against Hindus... Who enacted this drama? Government or police?” he asks.
11.59 am: Police take Mary Sweety to the control room in Pamba. Police say they cannot provide her security for the trek.
11.57 am: Protestors begin march to Inspector General Manoj Abraham’s house in Thiruvananthapuram, reports Malayala Manorama.
11.49 am: A large crowd gathers as one more woman, Mary Sweety, arrives at Pamba entry point. Police tell her that they cannot provide her security and that she can begin the climb to the temple on her own.
11.41 am: Inspector General S Sreejith says the two women, who earlier returned from the temple, were taken back to the temple, but they can only do the “darshan” with the consent of the priest, reports ANI.
“It’s a ritualistic disaster [if the priests close the temple],” says Sreejith.
11.36 am: Police ask Mary Sweety to wait at the Pamba entry point.
11.31 am: A woman arrives at Pamba to begin the climb to Sabarimala temple. Mary Sweety, a 46-year-old woman, tells media that she is a devotee. “Knee pain has started disturbing me. If not now when can I climb Sabarimala,” she says.
11.29 am: “This venue [Sabarimala] should not be used as a place for activism,” says minister KK Shailaja. “No activist, entering the premises, will be given any kind of support,” she says, according to News 18.
11.24 am: BJP workers will take law into their hands to protect Sabarimala’s sanctity, says state general secretary K Surendran.
11.22 am: “We have decided to lock the temple and handover the keys [and] leave,” says Sabarimala chief priest Kandararu Rajeevaru. “I stand with the devotees. I do not have any other option.”
11.19 am: Health Minister KK Shailaja claims the state government will follow the Supreme Court’s order. But she adds, “Government is not interested in violating rights of devotees, and it’ll not force its way through,” according to News 18.
11.03 am: Hyderabad-based journalist Kavitha Jakkal and a woman from Kochi, Rehana Fatim, return from Sabarimala temple, reports ANI.
11 am: “We have told the female devotees about the situation, they will now be going back,” Inspector General S Sreejith tells News 18. “So we are pulling pack. The female devotees have been informed and they have decided to return.”
10.57 am: Rehana Fatima, one of the two women who attempted to enter the temple on Friday, says there was no option but to return.
10.55 am: Devaswom Minister Kadakampayy Surendra claims people of all ages will be allowed to go to the temple, reports ANI. “But at the same time we won’t allow it to be a place where activists can come [and] showcase their power.”
10.51 am: Inspector General S Sreejith says police are escorting the women back from Sabarimala.
10.47 am: Two women who began trekking to Sabarimala temple on Friday return amid protests.
10.35 am: Inspector General S Sreejith says police do not want a confrontation with devotees, reports ANI. We are only following the law. “I will be discussing with the higher authorities and brief them on the situation,” he says.
10.33 am: Governor P Sathasivam summons Kerala Director General of Police Loknath Behera, reports Hindustan Times.
10.28 am: Sabarimala chief priest Kandararu Rajeevaru says the temple will be closed if the women reach the ‘pathinettam padi’ (18 sacred steps) and the keys will be handed over to the Pandalam royal family, reports Malayala Manorama. He says further decisions will be taken later.
10.24 am: Police escort Kavitha Jakkal and Rehana Fatima to an office where they will meet Inspector General S Sreejith, reports ANI.
10.17 am: Sabarimala priests stop rituals, stage a sit-in protest.
10.15 am: Two unidentified people on motorbikes hurl stones at the house of Rehana Fatima, one of the two women attempting to enter the hill shrine, reports Hindustan Times.
10.13 am: Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran says the government’s intention is to protect the rights of devotees, not activists. “I request activists not to use this shrine to prove your point and power,” he says.
One of the two women trekking to the shrine is reportedly an activist, although the woman’s partner says she is an engineer.
10.07 am: Hyderabad-based journalist Kavitha Jakkal and a woman from Kochi, Rehana Fatima, continue their journey to Sabarimala amid police security, reports ANI.
A person who identified as the partner of the woman from Kochi says the woman is not an activist. “She is a devotee. She took vrutham (penance) for 21 days. This is her constitutional right. Many people come to Sabarimala without following penance. Sabarimala has become a hub of criminals.”
9 am: Inspector General of Police S Sreejith urges protestors to calm down. “We are here in our uniforms not to stop you or remove you,” Sreejith says, according to News18. “We are also Lord Ayyappa devotees. But, we are not here to just protect your faith. We are here to protect the law as well. You can continue be here. We are not evicting you.”
8.37 am: However, protests against the entry of women into the shrine continue.
8.35 am: About 150 police personnel are providing protection to Kavitha Jakkal, reports Manorama.
8.30 am: A woman journalist from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Kavitha Jakkal, begins trek to Sabarimala temple with police protection, reports The News Minute. Another woman devotee also joins Jakkal, according to News18.
If they climb the shrine, they will be the first women of menstruating age to enter the temple since the Supreme Court judgement.
On Thursday, protestors stopped a journalist from Delhi from entering the shrine. Suhasini Raj, a reporter for The New York Times, was accompanied by a foreign colleague.
8.25 am: The Kerala Police on Thursday registered cases against protestors who allegedly stopped a Delhi-based reporter for The New York Times, Suhasini Raj, from entering the shrine earlier in the day. The police also arrested six BJP youth wing activists in Nilakkal for staging a protest while prohibitory orders were in place.
8.20 am: “We have never said that the temple will be closed if women of the traditionally barred age group enter there,” Sabarimala head priest Kandaru Rajeevaru said on Thursday. “It is our duty and responsibility to carry out the monthly pujas and other rituals. We will not break the custom.”
8.15 am: The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala, offered on Thursday to file a review in Supreme Court to end the agitations. The board is expected to meet on Friday to finalise its stand.
8.10 am: The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory to the Kerala government on Thursday, saying that maintaining law and order and providing security to women wishing to visit the temple is the state government’s responsibility.
Last month, the Supreme Court allowed the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the Sabarimala temple. The Left government in Kerala has decided to implement the court ruling and not file a review, while the Opposition Congress and the BJP have accused the state of showing “undue haste” in implementing the order. The National Ayyappa Devotees Association and the Nair Service Society have filed review petitions in the top court.