Women forced to make U-turn at Sabarimala

The women are activists and not devotees, says Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran

Kavita, a journalist from Andhra Pradesh and Rehana Fathima climb the hill in Sabarimala with high police security. (Video grab/Mathrubhumi News)

Amid intense protests from devotees, two women, who reached metres away from the Sabarimala shrine, decided to abort the attempt to enter the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple after an hour-long discussion with police and protesters.

On Friday morning, a journalist from Mojo TV from Hyderabad Kavitha Jakkal, and woman activist Rehana Fathima began the trek to the Sannidhanam (Sanctum sanctorum) of Sabarimala with high police security.

LIVE UPDATES Day 3 Sabarimala: 2 women abort attempt to enter Sannidhanam

Police Inspector General (IG) Sreejith IPS told reporters that both women were convinced to abort their decision to enter the sanctum santorum of the forest shrine Ayyappa temple. In an unprecedented move, the priests in the temple stopped pujas and started a protest in front of the 18 steps.

 The IG also said Kavita was ready to return but Rehana Fathima was adamant. She also claimed that she had converted to Hinduism and had followed all the rituals including the 41-day fast.

Rehana told reporters that she was fully ready to proceed but the violent protests against their move forced them to return. "No way I could proceed to shrine because people are attacking my house in Kochi, my children are also in danger," said Rehana.

 

 

A full company of police officers are accompanying both the women in their three-hour return trek.

At least 150 police personnel led by IG Sreejith were with the women through the journey. According to reports, the women were metres away from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Thousands of devotees assembled at the 'Nada Pandal' to block the women from entering the temple. IG Sreejith was attempting to pacify the protesters.

Jakkal was interested in climbing the hill Thursday evening but the police advised her to put off her journey till Friday morning.

The New York Times reporter Suhasini Raj was on Thursday attacked at Appachimedu and forced to return to the base camp in Pampa. On Wednesday, a woman from Andhra Pradesh also stopped her plan to go to the temple after protests from devotees.

Devotees staged protests at Nilackal, Pampa and other places en route to Sabarimala to block any woman approaching the temple. Protesters, on Wednesday, targetted media persons and several journalists got injured including those from national media.

'Protection only to devotees not activists'

Earlier, the government asked the police to abort their attempt to enter the sanctum santorum of the temple.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told media persons that the government intends to protect only devotees and not activists and asked the police to abort the attempt to take the two women to the temple. The minister also said that 'activists' should not make Sabarimala a war zone.

"The government has the duty and responsibility to implement the Supreme Court order and give protection to devotees but not for activists," Surendran said. 

The minister also criticised the police for their failure to check the background of the women. He said he got to know about the details of the women two hours into their expedition.

"Police should have examined the veracity and background of the women who came to trek to the shrine," the minister added.

At the same time, another minister had a different opinion. EP Jayarajan, Minister for Industries and Sports, said that the government is committed to implementing the Supreme Court order in any way possible. He declined to comment on the Devaswom minister's statement.

Kerala Governor Justice (retired) P Sadashivam met Director General of Police Loknath Behra at the Raj Bhavan earlier on Friday.

'Ritualistic disaster '

I G Sreejith, who led the police force accompanied two women to Sabarimala, termed the unsuccessful mission is a 'ritualistic disaster', reported news agency ANI.

"It's a ritualistic disaster. We took them up to temple and gave them protection but 'darshan' is something which can be done with the consent of priest. We will give them (journalist Kavitha Jakkal and woman activist Rehana Fatima) whatever protection they want: Kerala IG S Sreejith," he said while returning back from the ancient temple.

He also added the priests informed him that they would close down the shrine if the police proceed with the women to the  Sannidhanam. 

Police have ensured to give protection to both women till they reach their homes.

Another woman turns back

A third woman, Mary Sweety (46) from Thiruvananthapuram, also decided to abort her plan to go to Sannidhanam after police declined to give her protection. Employed in Dubai, Mary wanted to get 'darshan' of Ayyappa on Vijayadashmi day. She said she is a devotee of Ayyappa.

'Will break law and order if needed'

BJP state general secretary K Surendran on Friday warned the government saying that the party would break law and order if there is an attempt to destroy the sanctity of the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple by allowing the entry of women aged between 10 and 50.

"These are atheist activists who tried to enter the temple today. This is part of the LDF government's conspiracy to demolish the shrine. If it continues the party will stop its peaceful protest and will break law and order," he said while addressing a press conference at Thiruvananthapuram.

Surendran also questioned giving police self-protection shields to the women. BJP state president Advocate P S Sreedharan Pillai demanded action against those responsible, who allowed two activist women to reach the Sannidhanam.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also questioned the government over how the women reached near the Sannidhanam.

"Sabarimala is not a tourist spot, only devotees go there. Right now what Kerala police is doing is wrong," Chennithala told media persons.

 

He also said if his party, the Congress, was ruling the state, there would not be any violence regarding Sabarimala.

"Had our government been in power, we would have handled the situation better. We would have talked to the devotees, there would have been no violence," he added. 

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Women forced to make U-turn at Sabarimala

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