Sabarimala Shrine opens its door to women of all ages amidst protest

Amidst raging protest, the door of the Sabarimala shrine opened in the evening to women of all ages. Violence errupted in and around Sabarimala by the frenzied mob, which opposed the Supreme Court order in allowing women of all age groups to enter the temple. The Kerala police clamped prohibitory orders that banned large gatherings. Protesters unleashed reign of terror by stopping the KSRTC buses that ferried the devotees from nearby places to the shrine. The mob also attacked the media persons who went there to report the historic temple entry of women from all age groups. The frenzied mob checked all the buses, stopped women from going near the temple, attacked the journalists and vandalised their vehicles in addition to pelting stones on the police posse.

The ruling CPI-M led Government has fixed the blame on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for fomenting violence. As the raging mob demanded that women between the age group of 10 and 50 be kept out of the shrine and started pelting stones at the police, who had to chase the former through the forests with batons.

In spite of the presence of armed police along the route, protesters supporting the ban scanned all the buses and women were seen pushed out, few of them being assaulted and chased away these hapless women from Nilakkal. Two of the reporters from the Republic TV and The News Minute were assault by the raging mob. As per Republic channel’s account, its reporter Pooja Prasanna was encircled by a 100-strong violent mob, while Saritha S Balan, the report of TNM was assaulted by the mob and one of them had even kicked on the reporter’s spine.

Meanwhile, Sneha Mary Koshy, the reporter of NDTV was waylaid by the mob including the camera person and after snatching the camera, the crew was asked to leave the place by the agitated mob. Also under attack were the television crew from CNN News 18 and Aaj Tak.

The ruling LDF Government has swung into action and posted as many as 500 police personnel including 100 women at Nilakkal. Yesterday, the angry mob further pulled over traffic to look for women of menstural age, forcing a group of female journalism students off a KSTRC bus.

As the top police officer Manoj Abraham put it, “We were actually taken aback yesterday, but from today, we are fully geared up to handle any eventuality. Every devotee will be allowed safe passage.”

Overall, the police had made seven arrests, three connected with the assault on a woman and her husband from Tamil Nadu. The Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan has asserted that his Government will not give in to attempts to prevent women from entering the shrine and police will help uphold the Supreme Court judgement.

The BJP and the Congress have demanded a review of the SC verdict, but the state government is not keen on doing so, as it wanted to implement the SC order. The state government is blaming both the BJP and the Congress for politicising the issue and polarising the society for electoral gains, a charge that is denied by both the parties.