Home >politics >policy >Protesters vow to stop women from entering Sabarimala temple

Bengaluru: As Sabarimala prepares to throw open its doors to women on Wednesday, it is becoming increasingly clear that it may not be an easy task for them to step inside the hilltop shrine in Kerala despite a Supreme Court ruling backing their cause.

Thousands of protesting devotees, including women, have virtually laid siege to all major entry points at the temple and are stopping and searching all local vehicles passing by, looking for girls and women, local reports said.

Near Pampa, some 50km from the shrine, three female journalism students from Bengaluru were forcibly taken off a bus by women protestors on Tuesday.

In a video aired by local news channels, the students are seen pleading that they are there to report the event, with the women protestors shouting back that they will not allow any girls near Sabarimala. In Nilakkal, another major entry point some 20km from Sabarimala, a woman protestor threatened to commit suicide by hanging herself from a tree, local reports said.

Conservative Hindus say allowing women into the temple is sacrilegious.

Protestors, organized by local Hindu groups, have been turning up near the temple to physically stop women, turning the area into a battleground.

A senior police official, requesting not to be named, said thousands of protestors have gathered at the entry points over the last 24 hours, forcing the state to deploy more troops and at least three senior police officers, including the force’s seniormost female director general of police R. Sreelekha. Intensifying the protests, leaders of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress in Kerala, who support the protestors, will hold fasts on Wednesday at all entry points.

According to them, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) is to blame for the situation.

“The state government and central government and the (state-run) Travancore temple board (which administers Sabarimala) did not take any steps to resolve the conflict. Instead, they have muddied the waters by deciding not to file a review petition or to bring an ordinance to overturn the verdict," said Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress.

Meanwhile, a meeting between the state-run temple administrative board and Sabarimala head priests to try and break the deadlock ended inconclusively on Tuesday. “The priests wanted the state to file a review petition immediately, which is impossible. However, we have called for another round of discussions on 19 October, where our lawyers will check this demand," said board president A. Padmakumar.

Cornered by the protests, the CPM held a “political explanatory" rally in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday evening, where chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan vowed to take tough action to maintain law and order.

Vijayan tore into the opposition, particularly the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.

“The Supreme Court verdict cannot be overturned by an ordinance or by a review petition. Government does not want a confrontation with the devotees, but we will not allow anyone to take law and order in their hands," he said.

Earlier in the day, he hinted that there has been a deliberate attempt to polarize the people of Kerala, using the court verdict.

The chief minister hinted that the protesters were also attempting to engineer violence. “I have heard someone say that women will be torn in two. How can they make such a statement?" he asked.

“At one point women had no right to cover their breasts in Kerala, the lower castes were made to stand far away from Brahmins... We had many such wrongful traditions. Some traditions need to be broken if needed," he said.

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