Sabarimala: After two Keralite women, both in 40s, entered the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala in the wee hours of Wednesday, protests erupted in various parts of the state. A Sabarimala Karma Samithi worker, Chandran Unnithan, was killed in stone pelting allegedly by CPM workers in Pandalam.
Road blockades and intense protests were reported from Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Alappuzha. Clashes were reported outside the Secretariat, where the agitators burned tyres and shouted slogans against the Kerala Chief Minister. After CPM-BJP workers hurled stones at each other, police burst tear gas shells to disperse the agitators. However, the protesters refused to back down. Four women, who breached the security and entered the premises, were detained. Road blockades were reported from various parts of the state. Protesters blocked MC Road in Chengannur and Mavellikara in Alappuzha. While vehicles were vandalised at Mala and Kodungalloor in Thrissur, BJP-RSS-Sabarimala Karma Samithi workers forced owners to shut shop in Kottarakara. Huge protests were reported in Kasaragod.
The Sabarimala Karma Samiti has announced a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala on Thursday. The BJP said it will back the strike and observe a two-day protest in the state. The UDF has also said it would observe black day Thursday. The All-Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti, a major merchants' body, said it would not cooperate with Thursday's shutdown. Several exams scheduled for Thursday have been postponed.
Holding Ayyappa portraits and chanting hymns, protesters marched through the streets at several places including Kochi, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. Black flags were shown to Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran at Guruvayur and Health minister K K Shylaja at Kannur by the BJP and its youth wing activists. Protesters allegedly attacked police and media personnel in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.
CM confirms women's entry
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed that - Kanakadurga (44) from Angadipuram in Malappuram and Bindu (42) from Koyilandy in Kozhikode - entered the temple. Pinarayi said in a televised news conference that the two women, who had previously tried but failed to enter the temple because their way was blocked by devotees, faced no obstruction on Wednesday.
The women reportedly arrived at Pamba around 1 am Wednesday and entered temple around 3.30 am. This is the first time that women in the banned age group of 10-50 entered Sabarimala after the Supreme Court allowed women of all groups to enter the shrine.
Videos circulating on social media showed the women, wearing the traditional black dress with their head covered, entering the temple. Bindu and Kanakadurga were whisked away to an undisclosed location. Bindu later said the duo faced no protests from Ayyappa devotees, either during the climb or while offering prayers.
"Unlike in the past, there were no Namajapa protests when we climbed the hills this morning. Only devotees were there and they did not stop us or stage any protests. Police offered us protection from Pamba, the foothhills," she told a TV channel. She said they wore the attire meant for women for Ayyappa darshan.
The two women had attempted to visit the Sabarimala shrine December 24. They were forced to abandon the trip after protests erupted. They had on Tuesday again sought security to enter the temple. The police had reportedly not arranged any special security cover for the women.
A large posse of police personnel have been deployed in front of the house of Bindu in Koyilandy. The house is locked and Bindu's husband Hariharan and their seven-year-old daughter are away. Bindu is also a CPI(ML) activist. Kanakadurga's house in Angadippuram is also under tight security.
Temple shut for one hour for purification rituals
Soon after the CM confirmed the women's claims, tantri Kandararu Rajeevaru after holding discussions with temple officials decided to shut the temple for Shudikalasam (purification rituals). The temple was reopened after one hour.
CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told media that the two women have entered the shrine as per the apex court order and the closure of the shrine was against the law of the land. "People should accept the development as a reality," Kodiyeri said.
Leader of opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said CM Pinarayi and the state government were challenging the people of Kerala by allowing two activists to enter the shrine. He alleged a conspiracy that hurt the sentiments of the believers behind the government's move to give protection to the two women.
BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said the Pinarayi-led government will have to pay a hefty price for its atheist stance. He said the wounds in the believers' minds will never heal. He likened Pinarayi to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who implemented the Jizya tax on non-Muslim subjects. Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar, who has been opposing the Supreme Court verdict, blamed the Kerala Police for protecting the women.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Udit Raj welcomed the young women's entry at Sabarimala. "How can women be deemed as impure when they give birth to men? God is omnipresent, his presence is felt everywhere - even outside the temple. As per the Constitution, both men and women are equal," he said. Raj is also the National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations.
Activist Trupti Desai, the leader of Bhumata Brigade who led the campaign for women to be allowed to offer prayers in Maharashtra's Shani Shingnapur temple, Haji Ali Dargah, Mahalakshmi temple and Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple, hailed the courage of the two women.
The Supreme Court had on September 28 allowed women of all age groups to enter the temple, lifting a centuries-old ban. The right-wing outfits had protested the government's move to implement the verdict. Though around a dozen women, in the 10-50 age group, had attempted to visit the temple under police protection, they had to abandon the trip after protests erupted.
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