Three days after the Sabarimala temple opened its doors to the public, devotees continued to lay seige to the holy shrine on Saturday. A massive protest by devotees of Lord Ayyappa broke out near the Sabarimala shrine on Saturday following rumours that a woman from Tamil Nadu below 50 years of age climbed the hills to offer prayers to the presiding deity.
The situation turned tense in the area, where section 144 was clamped, as devotees gathered in large numbers at 'Valiya Nadapandhal' to protest against the woman's entry into the temple.
Sabarimala temple opens, women prevented from entering despite SC ruling; bandh called in Kerala today
However, the tension was defused after the woman, who had come with her family members, convinced the protesters that she was above 50 years, and proceeded to the shrine.
The woman carrying 'irumudikkettu' (holy bundle) climbed the 18 holy steps amid security cover to reach the temple and have 'darshan'.
Meanwhile, Pathanamthitta District Collector P B Nooh said there was no tension at Sannidhanam
Earlier on Friday, journalist Kavitha Jakkal and activist Rehana Fatima were just 500 metres away from the final 18 golden steps leading to the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala when they had to beat a retreat amid threats to close down the temple. Another woman, Mary Sweety had also reached Pamba to visit temple, but was refused protection and sent back by Police. The Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) which manages the temple has it would file a detailed report on the situation to the Supreme Court.
The September 28 Supreme Court decision to end a nearly three-decade-old ban on women of "menstruating age" those between 10 and 50 years from visiting the has sparked violent demonstrations on the roads leading to the complex.
The centre asked the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to tighten security and monitor the dissemination of "adverse" messages through the social media.
HERE ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS:
4:40 PM: Rahul Eswar, who is on a fast, has been shifted to Thiruvananthapuram Medical College hospital after his condition deteriorated.
4:20 PM: Kandararu Rajeevar, the chief priest, said on Friday that he would close the temple and give the keys to the administrators if women in restricted age group came for ‘darshan’ (worshipping) of the deity.
4:10 PM: Heavy rains lash Sabarimala and surrounding areas, making the police’s task more challenging.
3:12 PM: Pambha tense again as protesters gather. High-level police meet in Pambha. ADGP Anil Kanth and IGs Sreejith and Manoj Abraham meet to decide whether to take SP Manju or not.
3:10 PM: Kerala SC Mahila Federation leader SP Manju, 38, arrives in Pambha for trekking to the hilltop. Police may escort her. She has come in traditional attire carrying irumudi kettu, the mandatory offering of coconut, camphor, incense stick, row rice and flowers.
2:33 PM: BJP leaders arrested for defying section 144 at Nilakkal. BJP general secretary AN Radhakrishnan and party spokesperson JR Padmakumar have been held. The BJP said imposing section 144 at the Sabarimala base camps were uncalled for. The protesters had sneaked in wearing the traditional black attire of Ayyappa devotees.
1:44 PM: Rahul Easwar,who is on fast, is serious, says his wife Deepa. She said doctors told her that he may be shifted to Thiruvananthapuram medical college. She said he was treated badly after arrest and bundled in a tractor and taken to the police station.
1:33 PM: Pathanamthitta court rejects bail plea of activist Rahul Easwar. He was arrested on Thursday for sitting on dharna at Pambha. Earlier his wife Deepa had said he was on fast in jail.
1:20 PM: It is not fair to say that the temple will be locked. Moreover, the protest staged on Friday by temple staff and the tantri (chief priest) was wrong and an explanation will be demanded: TDB member KP Shankara Das, reports news agency IANS.
1:00 PM: It’s the Supreme Court that has directed that women within the age group of 10 to 50 will be allowed within the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum. Hence all are duty bound to adhere to it: Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) member KP Shankara Das, reports news agency IANS.
12:58 PM: I welcome Sabarimala verdict, but tradition must be follwed, says Rajinikanth
12:10 PM: Situation tense after rumours spread that five women are on their way to the temple with police.
11:50 AM: The woman was forced to show her Aadhaar card to prove her age. She could continue with the trek after police assured protection. Later, some devotees were seen apologising for the trouble.
11:44 AM: The woman has been identified as Latha from Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu. A relative said she is 52 years old and this is her second visit to the hilltop shrine. Latha is a college teacher by profession.
11:33 AM: Woman devotee moves ahead with police protection as protesters chant nama japam (hymns and mantras).She is allowed after the protesters are convinced that she is above 50.
11:30 AM: Pambha tense again after a woman started trekking to the hilltop. She told protestors that she is 52 but they insisted that she is not above 50.
10:49 AM: Activist Rahul Easwar, a prominent face of the campaign that challenged the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 at Kerala's famous Sabarimala Temple was arrested from Nilakkal base camp on Thursday.
09:38 AM: Visuals of heavy security deployed at Nilakkal ahead of day four of Sabarimala temple's opening. Nilakkal is the main entrance to Sabarimala.
Kerala:Janani,9-yr-old girl from Madurai,at #SabarimalaTemple with placard reading 'she'll come to temple again after 50 yrs of age.Her father says,"We don't know what SC ordered.Once my daughter completes 10 yrs of age,she'll wait till 50 yrs of age&then she can come to Ayyappa" pic.twitter.com/EziWdfFVta— ANI (@ANI) October 20, 2018
08:15 AM: CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury demanded to know why the Centre was not applying the yardstick of equal treatment of women it used on the triple talaq issue to the Sabarimala row and blamed the BJP for whipping up communal passions for electoral gains.
The top Marxist party leader said roughing up of women journalists and the stir led by groups wearing saffron head bands at Sabarimala indicated a pattern seen during the demoliton of Babri masjid (1992) and blamed the RSS for it.
Kerala has been witnessing massive protests by LordAyyappa devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple since the government decided to implement the apex court order.
The devotees had intensified the agitation at the shrine complex and nearby areas including the base camps,Nilackal and Pamba, since the shrine was opened for the five-day monthly puja on October 17.
The opposition Congress and BJP on Friday hit out at the Left government in Kerala for allegedly extending support to bring women activists to Sabarimala temple, hurting the sentiments of devotees.
They also alleged the police gave one of the women, who climbed to the hill shrine amid heavy security, their official uniform and helmet.
Attacking the CPI(M)-led LDF government on the issue, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala asked whether the police gave security to the real devotees.
"Has the government taken to the shrine the real devotees? Is the entry of women into the shrine a commando operation? Is this the supreme court order?" he asked.
"The government has extended support to bring activists to Sabarimala, hurting the sentiments of Lord Ayyappa devotees," Chennithala said.
Referring to the massive protest at the temple complex by the devotees and the 'parikarmies', the assistants of the priests, Chennithala said the "illogical" steps taken by the government on the Sabarimala women entry issue had led to this situation.
He also reiterated the UDF stand that the Pinarayi Vijayan government showed "over-enthusiasm" and "hurry" to implement the apex court order permitting women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The government unilaterally moved forward on the matter without trying for a consensus among stakeholders, he said.
Chennithala also alleged that the BJP-RSS combine was trying to inflame communal passion over the matter.
Hitting out at the LDF government, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said the state authorities were trying to make Sabarimala a "clash zone".
The two women, identified as a journalist from Hyderabad and a Kochi-based activist, trekked Sabarimala and reached a few metres away from the holy 18 steps with police escort but had to return due to massive protest by devotees.
A large number of devotees blocked the young women and police team escorting them at Valiya Nadappandhal, the queue complex located a few metres away from the holy 'pathinettam padi' (the 18 sacred steps), leading to the sanctum sanctorum.
Tension was defused after the women agreed to return as the state government made it clear it did not want to take them to the Sannidhanam, the temple complex, by using force against the protesting devotees.