The attempt by a 45-year old woman from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh to trek to the Sabarimala temple Wednesday failed as protesters prevented her from proceeding to the hill shrine at Pamba, one of the main entry points.
The attempt by a 45-year old woman from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh to trek to the Sabarimala temple Wednesday failed as protesters prevented her from proceeding to the hill shrine at Pamba, one of the main entry points. As the countdown started for the opening of the temple for the five-day monthly pooja in the evening, the agitation of Ayyappa devotees spread to Nilackal and Pamba, the two main base camps of Sabarimala. The woman, identified as Madhavi, a native of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, would have been the first female to trek the Sabarimala hills after the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The incident happened despite the heavy deployment of police personnel in and around Pamba. Madhavi, along with her family members, attempted to reach the holy hills in the morning via the Swamy Ayyappan road, one of the two forest trekking paths to Sannidhanam (the temple complex) but the group was forced to retreat after protesters blocked their way.
Even though the police personnel gave them protection and allowed them to move further, the family, after walking a short distance, decided to return as angry activists of Ayyappa Dharma Sena surrounded them and asked them to go back. Tension prevailed at Pamba for some more time after police tried to disperse the protesters, who had gathered in large numbers. Meanwhile, members of tantri (head priest) family and the Pandalam royal family took part in the namajapa (prayer) strike of devotees at Pamba.
Devotees including women sat by the roadside and chanted aloud mantras of Lord Ayyappa, even as armed police personnel were deployed in large numbers at the base camp. Talking to reporters at Sannidhanam, temple tantri Kandaru Rajeevaru said the centuries-old rituals and traditions of the Lord Ayyappa shrine should be protected. While Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, M T Ramesh said the government and police were trying to make Sabarimala a “war zone”.
“It is important to protect the sanctity of the Lord Ayyappa Temple. The government is not taking into consideration the sentiments of Ayyappa devotees who are coming in large (numbers) to Nilackal and Pamba,” he told reporters in Pamba. Senior Minister, E P Jayarajan said agitators would invite “Ayyappa dosham” (the wrath of Lord Ayyappa) for blocking devotees who go to Sabarimala after taking vrata (penance). He also said the ongoing agitation was “anti-people, anti-constitutional and anti-law”.
“The government will give protection to devotees who are coming to offer worship at Sabarimala,” he said in Thiruvananthapuram. State Devaswom Minister, Kadakampally Surendran, who was at the Sannidhanam to hold a review meeting with officials, said the government would not allow anyone to take law into their hands and block devotees from coming to Sabarimala.
Meanwhile, Director General of Police (DGP) Loknanth Behera warned that people who blocked the vehicles carrying Ayyappa devotees would be arrested and booked. The apex court had on September 28 passed a historic judgement lifting the ban on entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the temple, a verdict that was hailed by rights activists but opposed by traditionalists.