Kerala is witnessing some tense moments as Sabarimala base camps in Nilakkal and Pamba turns into battlegrounds between women devotees who seek entry and angry protesters who are adamant to not allow women.
Madhavi, 40, a devotee from Andhra Pradesh, tried to enter Sabarimala temple on Wednesday but had to drop her plans and return after protestors heckled and attacked her from entering the shrine, as per local reports. The temple opened for the first time for women between the age of 10 and 50 on Wednesday, turning over the age-old custom of not admitting them based on a 28 September Supreme Court verdict.
The woman was escorted by the police for about 50 meters from Pamba, 5 km away from the shrine, when she was attacked by the protestors, after which she returned, as per local reports. In the morning, another woman devotee, Leby, was reportedly stopped from entering Pamba at Pathanamthitta town, some 40kms away. On Tuesday night, another woman devotee from Tamil Nadu, Panchami, was forcibly taken off a bus to Pamba by the protestors. She was physically dragged to sit with them on a dharna, before the police came for her rescue, television reports showed.
Charged by a freshly formed pro-Hindu organization ‘Acharya Samrakshna Samithi’ (Organisation to protect rituals), thousands of protestors have laid siege to Pamba and Nilakkal, the base camps for the hilltop shrine respectively 5 km and 20 km away, over the last 24 hours. The Sangh Parivar organisations, along with Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, are also protesting on the two sites.
The scenes are in stark contrast to the assurances of the state. “No one will be stopped from going to Sabarimala," said Kerala’s police chief Loknath Behra told television reporters on Wednesday. Over 1000 additional police personnel are positioned in Pamba and Nilakkal, he said.
On Wednesday morning, the police had beefed up security and taken strong action against protestors stopping vehicles to check women. About 16 people were taken into custody for attacking protestors on Wednesday, and a protest venue was removed from Pamba. However, the protestors reconstructed the venue a while after, as per local reports.