Sabarimala temple: 'rain', protests stop woman

The protests broke out due to rumours that a woman from Tamil Nadu below 50 years of age climbed the hills to offer prayers to the presiding deity.

More than 72 hours after the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple opened for monthly pujas, entry to the shrine for women aged between 10 and 50 years — as cleared by the September 28 order of the Supreme Court — remains on paper.

Late on Saturday, Pampa witnessed drama building around plans by S P Manju, a 38-year-old Dalit activist from

Chathannoor in Kollam district, to enter the temple. As news about her visit broke, devotees started gathering on the traditional path to the shrine and at the nadappanthal (pilgrims’ walkway near the sannidhanam) in protest as senior police officials informed Manju about the emerging situation.

IGP S Sreejith told reporters that the activist was asked to return due to “heavy rain” that hit Sabarimala in the evening and the rush of pilgrims heading to the shrine. “We are also doing a background check on her,” the IGP said.

Manju is reported to be facing a series of criminal cases. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran had on Friday said the state government would not allow attempts to make Sabarimala a place for activism. “We’ve told her that it would be difficult for her to take the trek in this weather and for us to escort her,” Sreejith said. The police are set to take a decision on Manju’s trek by Sunday morning.

Manju, a leader of the Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation, told a TV channel that she would return for the trek but did not confirm the date of her visit. She said the police were willing to provide her security but she backed out because protests with children were being planned.   

Earlier in the day, the presence of Latha Kumaran, a 52-year-old woman from Trichy in Tamil Nadu, set off tension at the sannidhanam after she was confronted by protesters acting on rumours that she was aged below 50 years.

Despite assurances from police officials that she had already submitted documents to prove her age, devotees rushed in to block her entry as she entered the walkway with her husband and son, at around 11.10 am. By the time the police managed to convince the protesters and helped her climb the 18 steps to the shrine, she was in tears and visibly unsettled by the commotion. Latha said she had visited the temple last year as well.

The CPM-led state government had assured protection to all woman devotees visiting the shrine but protests against entry of women of menstruating age to the temple have continued. The temple will close after the monthly pujas on October 22.

 

Read more:

Meet the Sabarimala 'warriors': Rehana & Kavitha

EDITORIAL | Rule of law at stake in Sabarimala

Conflicting rights: equality or religion?

 

 

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Sabarimala temple: 'rain', protests stop woman

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