#SabarimalaProtest: Situation tense as mob stops women devotees, police push back agitators

Braving the ban on gathering of more than five people in Sannidhanam, Pamba, Nilakkal and Elavungal, the furious mob continued stopping women devotees from entering the hill shrine of Sabarimala. The situation is tense, but under control, as a 12 hour state wide shutdown has been called by a group that calls itself the Sabarimala Protection Committee, NDTV reported. Vehicles are off the roads and many shops are shut. The Kerala unit of the BJP is extending support to the shutdown, while the Opposition leader and Congress senior leader, Ramesh Chennithala termed the issue in hand at Sabarimala was “not one of gender equality.” Except the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Congress, BJP and few Hindu groups are opposing the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning the centuries-old bar on mensturating women between ten and 50 years entering the hilltop Sabarimala Temple of Lord Ayyappa.

Chenithala said that the CPI (M) led LDF Government in Kerala has not even bothered to file a review petition, while the BJP and RSS were out to create issues. The issue here, according to him, was of faith and traditions. The temple opened to devotees yesterday and the protesters blocked women from entering the shrine and clashed with the police and even attacked women journalists. Meanwhile, the State Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan had warned that no one would be allowed to stop devotees going to Sabarimala.

It was for the first time after the SC verdict came on September 28, 2018 that the Sabarimala shrine was opened yesterday to facilitate devotees to have darshan. By ending the age old ban on mensturating women from entering the Sabarimala Shrine, citing that the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa is Naisthika Bramachari (Eternal Celebate), the judges opined that ‘devotion can’t be subject to discrimination.’

Humongous crowds took to the route leading to the hilltop shrine to block women. The frenzied mob resorted to violence and vandalised media vehicles and pelted stones at the police. Women health workers and police constables on duty were targeted too by the angry mob, who pelted stones at the police and were in turn cane charged at Nilakkal and Pamba. Those indulged in arson and vandalism were rounded up by the police. According to Loknath Behra, Chief of Kerala Police, there was heavy presence of police in and around Sabarimala. “None will be stopped nor will anyone be allowed to take law into their hands. Anyone can come and pray.” the officer said.

The LDF Government has accused the attacks as politically motivated. Meanwhile, Kadakampally Suredran, the Minister in charge of Devasoms, who was at the hilltop shrine overseeing the arrangements, urged the protesters to stop creating trouble. “The Sabarimala issue should not be allowed to flare up. The Government has no other option other than to ensure that the Supreme Court’s order is implemented,” the Minister added.