The Kerala Police on Saturday reportedly turned back 10 women under the age of 50 who had arrived in the town of Pampa to trek to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple. The temple was opened to devotees for the annual two-month pilgrimage season at 5 pm. According to Mathrubhumi, the women were from Vijayawada city in Andhra Pradesh.
However, the police officers who verified the women’ ages claimed the devotees decided to abandon the plan to trek uphill to Sannidhanam “on their own volition” and were not compelled to go back, The Hindu reported.
Two days ago the Supreme Court had referred to a seven-judge Constitution Bench a batch of review petitions challenging its last year’s verdict allowing women of all ages enter the hilltop shrine.
Meanwhile, security has been tightened in Sabarimala, with more than 10,000 police personnel posted in and around the temple. The state government on Friday said it would not protect women’s rights activists who plan to visit the temple. Kerala Devaswom Board Minister Kadakampally Surendran said those seeking protection to visit the shrine would have to get a court order.
The state police on Saturday said they were tracking the travel plans of women such as activist Trupti Desai, who has said she will visit the shrine on November 20. “Yesterday, the government said that they won’t provide security to women, so women are going to Sabarimala temple without protection,” Desai told ANI. “Now, women are being stopped, so I think the government is working completely against women.”
Desai had made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the temple in November 2018, weeks after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50.
State police chief Loknath Behera told reporters that he would seek legal opinion from Advocate General CP Sudhakar Prasad on the matter of entry of women. As many as 45 women of menstrual age have made online bookings to enter the temple this year, according to reports.