In what could give rise to another round of confrontation in hill shrine Sabarimala, a 12-member group from Chennai is all set to visit the controversial Kerala temple on Sunday, violating its controversial ban against admitting menstrual age women inside.
After the ban was struck down by Supreme Court recently, at least 12 women sought entry but had to back off following rigorous protests by various groups.
The group, belonging to Chennai-based rights activist forum Manithi, is planning to take one of the two trains on Saturday afternoon to Kerala’s Kottayam, said Selvi, a 44-year old ‘Manithi’ member, who is part of the visiting group. The plan is to reach Kottayam by Sunday morning, and travel by road to the Sabarimala temple (about 90km away), she said.
The visit is expected to trigger severe backlash from right wing groups who have been protesting against women entry. Already, the BJP has started ferrying its supporters to major stops between Kottayam and the temple, in order to block the women, said a local leader, requesting not to be named.
The Manithi members claim to be not coming as rights activists but as devotees of the temple’s diety called “Ayyappa Swamy". “We have requested the Kerala government for help and is hoping the police will provide us security," said Selvi.
The temple has been a battleground between the rights activists and conservative believers ever since it opened for its annual pilgrimage season in December, putting the state’s police force and the left front government in a spot.
Although the government has extended theoretical support to allow women, in practice it has been following a path of mediation with the protestors and eventually asking women who sought entry to abandon their trips citing security.
The fate of Manithi may not be much different, said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.
“It will be difficult to get them entry. This is the peak pilgrim season in Sabarimala. There are just too many people on the hill, many of who would join political protestors against allowing women," the person said.