Tension prevailed on Wednesday morning in Kerala’s Nilakkal, the main gateway to Sabarimala, after the police demolished the tents of devotees and warned those opposing entry of women and girls of menstrual age into the hill shrine.
Acting tough, the police, deployed in large numbers in Nilakkal, some 20 kms away from the Sabarimala hilltop, also removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.
The protesting group of devotees had been staging a sit-in chanting Ayyappa mantra in the shelter in protest against the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.
Strong protests by Sabarimala traditionalists on Wednesday forced a 40-year-old Andhra woman and her family to abandon their trip to the Lord Ayyappa temple.
Madhavi accompanied by her parents and children began their Pamba climb on the Swami Ayyapan road leading to the hilltop temple hours ahead of its opening for the monthly puja rituals.
Ten minutes into their trek, accompanied by a strong police force, the family had to abandon their plans of praying to the Lord Ayyappa inside the temple premises accompanied by Madhavi, who is in the prohibited age group of 10-50.
The protesters had put every impediment on her way, but Madhavi was able to break the barriers at Nilackal and Pamba accompanied by police as she trekked higher.
Police officers climbing along assured her that they would be with her if she wished to proceed and she could go forward.
However, angry protesters were unrelenting. They went after her. Unable to bear the anger Madhavi decided to return.
Wednesday, is crucial for the Kerala government as it pitches to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict allowing all women irrespective of their ages to pray at Sabarimala.
The doors of the temple that would be opened at 5 p.m. would remain open till October 22. This is the first time that the temple would be opening after the apex court’s verdict.
Barring the ruling Left government-led by Pinarayi Vijayan, the Congress, BJP and numerous Hindu organisations are on a war path warning of strong consequences if any temple traditions were broken.
The hardcore devotees of the temple are observing their protests at a few places at Nilackal and are engaged in chanting songs and prayers and it includes representatives from the Pandalam royal family members and also the temple tantri families.
In a related development, a young woman Liby bound to pray at the temple clad in jeans was stopped at the Pathanamthitta bus stand by angry devotees.
“Is this the way a lady should go to the temple. She claims to have observed the penance but if you look at the beads of the customary Sabarimala necklace, it’s very clear that she has worn it today or yesterday. This is not acceptable to us and she won’t be allowed to go,” said angry a group of angry women protesters.
Liby hailing from Alappuzha is being protected by a group of police officials.
“We will not allow the bus that she boards to go to Sabarimala to move from here. We will burn the bus and are ready to face any consequences,” said a young man at the bus stand.
Following the protest, the police took her to the nearby police station.