Protestors on Sunday stopped a group of 11 women from proceeding towards the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala despite police security. The women had set off towards the temple accompanied by police personnel after authorities arrested some protestors for defying prohibitory orders. Earlier, the protestors had gathered at the base camp in Pamba to stop the group.
After being forced to head back to Madurai, the women alleged that police had sent them back. The women are all below 50 years of age, and are members of a Chennai-based group called “Manithi”. They had earlier said they would not go back without offering prayers. There was tension in the area for the last few days after the group had said around 50 of its women would visit the shrine on Sunday.
Here are the day’s updates:
1.40 pm: Pamba Special Officer (Law and Order) Shaji Sugunan says pilgrims stopped the 11 women from progressing, ANI reports. “The women devotees have returned now,” he says. “We can’t use force. It might create a law and order problem.”
12.52 pm: The women had trekked hardly 100 metres with police protection when the protestors stopped them and forced them to return, according to Mathrubhumi.
12.44 pm: Two cases have been registered in connection with the incidents this morning, special police officer Karthikeyan says.
12.40 pm: “The police forcefully sent us back,” alleges Manithi leader Selvi. “We will come back again.”
12.35 pm: The 11 women have decided to go back to Madurai, police say. “They are proceeding back to Madurai, we will give them security,” says Karthikeyan, special police officer in charge of security at Sabarimala.
12.23 pm: Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala accuses the government of allowing the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to unleash violence in the name of Sabarimala, according to Online Manorama.
12.20 pm: Special police officer Karthikeyan, who is in charge of security at Sabarimala, holds discussions with the 11 women pilgrims. “We will talk to them and provide whatever they want,” he tells reporters.
11.30 am: The women come back to the police post after being attacked by protestors, who chase away police personnel as well.
11.27 am: The group of 11 women starts their trek to Sabarimala with police protection.
11.26 am: The police begin arresting protestors after they refuse to disperse.
11.25 am: Police officials say although it is difficult to provide security to members of Manithi, they won’t be asked to return, reports Online Manorama.
11.25 am: Manithi group leader Selvi says the group has been in Pampa since 3.30 am. “Police had said that they will provide us with protection but now they are not providing us protection to trek to the temple,” she says.
11.22 am: Pandalam palace representative Sasikumara Varma says that the “tantri”, or chief priest, will take an appropriate decision if the women entered the temple, according to Mathrubhumi. If customs are violated, they will hold discussions with the chief priest and take further action, he says.
11.17 am: Protestors block Dalit leader and Adivasi Vanitha Sangham President Ammini at Pala. She is also planning to enter the shrine today.
11.12 am: BJP leader K Surendran claims a government conspiracy is the reason behind the women attempting to enter the shrine, reports Mathrubhumi. He accuses the police and the state government of bringing “Manithi” members from Tamil Nadu to the shrine.
11.09 am: More “Manithi” members from Andhra and Karnataka are on their way to join the group at Pamba base camp, according to Online Manorama.
11.05 am: Kerala Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran says a three-member committee appointed by the Kerala High Court will take a decision on the matter. “The committee will take the decision and the government will implement it,” he says.
A division bench of the court had earlier directed that no protests or demonstrations should take place at Sabarimala. The court also said the police can take “appropriate measures” to manage the crowd depending on its intensity and without inconveniencing pilgrims.
11 am: “We will go back if the police officially inform us that they cannot provide security for us to offer prayers at Sabarimala,” Manithi leader Selvi tells Asianet News television channel. “Then we will challenge it in court.”
10.50 am: Police officials ask protestors to disperse from the entry point to the temple as prohibitory orders are in place.
9.40 am: Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district magistrate has directed that prohibitory orders be imposed till December 27 to prevent the unlawful gathering of people and protests between Elavungal and Sannidanam.
9.30 am: The Pandalam royal family says it will not allow the women to flout the age-old custom of the temple, according to the Hindustan Times. The supreme priest and the royals threatened to close the shrine when the women approached it.
9.15 am: Hindu Aikya Vedi President KP Sasikala has warned that the right-wing group will stop the women from proceeding once they reach Kottayam, The News Minute reports.
“Wherever these ladies land, they will be surrounded by devotees,” said Hindu Aikya Vedi General Secretary Biju ES. “It will be just like how Trupti Desai was stranded at airport.”
9 am: Kerala Police officials are holding discussions with representatives of the outfit.
8.50 am: The women, who were blocked by protestors, have started a sit-in demonstration at the entry point to the temple. Manithi leader Selvi says they will not go back without offering prayers.
8.45 am: The women reached the Pamba base camp early on Sunday to start their trek to Sabarimala. “Please give us way, we will visit the temple and return back soon,” ANI quotes them as saying.
8.30 am: The group had earlier said that 50 women, all below the age of 50, would visit the shrine on Sunday. They comprise women from various states, including Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka and Kerala. Their announcement had led to tension in the area in recent days, according to PTI.
The police had on Saturday confirmed that the group will offer prayers at the temple.
8.20 am: A group of 11 women from a Chennai-based group called “Manithi” reached within 5 km of the hilltop Sabarimala shrine early on Sunday. Protestors gathered to stop them at the base camp in Pamba, and began chanting Ayyappa hymns, but the group has said it will not go back without offering prayers.
The group reached Pamba at 3.30 am through the Idukki-Kambamedu route on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, PTI reported. Their leader, Selvi, said they had written to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and informed him of their intention to trek to the shrine. The group had also sought permission from police before starting its journey and had been offered protection.
Tensions have run high in the state after the Supreme Court in September removed the entry restriction on women between the ages of 10 and 50. The temple has been open since November 16 – this was the third time the shrine opened to devotees since the verdict, but women in the traditionally restricted age group have been unable to reach the shrine because of massive protests. Prohibitory orders are in place in and around the temple area.