Several protestors heckled a woman who made it to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on Tuesday morning. The temple, which reopened on Monday, will have rituals to mark the birth anniversary of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last king of the princely state of Travancore.
Unprecedented security was deployed at the temple to prevent a repeat of the protests that took place in mid-October, when it opened for the first time after the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the shrine.
The woman Lalitha, from Tirur, said she was above 50 years of age, but protestors claimed she was lying, Hindustan Times reported. She showed her Aadhaar card as proof that she was 52 years old, after which the police shifted her to a camp, and agitators apologised to her and offered to lead her to the temple. Women over the age of 50 and under the age of 10 have always been allowed entry to the temple.
Lalitha was hospitalised when she complained of uneasiness, PTI reported. She and her family members later returned to the temple to offer prayers. However, according to PTI, some protestors heckled them once again when they were speaking to the media. “We did not expect such a situation,” Lalitha said.
The police said that Lalitha filed a complaint and a case has been registered against 200 “identifiable” persons in connection with the incident.
A cameraperson from Amrita TV, Biju, was injured during protests at the temple over Lalitha’s entry, ANI reported. However, police denied that any such incident had taken place.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Kerala is not the place for those trying to disturb the serenity and harmony of Sabarimala, Manorama Online reported. “Sabarimala is under the control of the police, the calm will be maintained in and around the temple,” he said. “Efforts to shatter the peaceful atmosphere would not work in Kerala.”
The temple closed at 1 pm and reopened at 5 pm.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Valsan Thillankeri, who pacified the angry protestors, allegedly climbed the 18 sacred steps without carrying the customary “irumudikkettu” (sacred offerings to Lord Ayyappa) on his head. In doing this, he violated the temple’s key tradition as a devotee can only go up the steps with “irumudikkettu” on his head.
While television channels showed Thillankeri standing on the steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum, he rejected the allegation and said he carried the offerings while climbing the steps.
Meanwhile, on Monday evening, a 30-year-old woman reached the base camp at Pamba and sought police protection to trek to the hill shrine, PTI reported. The woman was identified as Anju, a native of Cherthala in Alappuzha district. Her husband and her children were with her, an unidentified police official told PTI. Several devotees demonstrated near Pamba Ganapati temple against her entry into the Sabarimala temple.
On Tuesday morning, the woman returned without offering prayers. She reportedly told the police that her husband had forced her to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple.
The Kerala High Court on Monday asked the state government to not interfere in the temple’s daily activities, adding that a department-level inquiry should be conducted against policemen involved in damaging vehicles going to the shrine during last month’s protests.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, that have been in place since November 3, will continue till Tuesday, police said. More than 2,000 police personnel have been deployed at Sabarimala and adjoining areas. They include at least 15 women police personnel above the age of 50 at the temple complex.
On Monday, devotees protested against frequent checking and frisking by police. Anyone entering the temple was required to clear five layers of checks at Nilakkal, Pamba, Elavumkal, Vadasserikkara and Chalakkayam, The Hindu reported.