Sabarimala priest appeals to women not to take up ‘temple challenge’ being promoted on social media
Thiruvananthapuram: For the second day since the Sabarimala temple opened for prayers after India’s Supreme Court gave a historic verdict permitting women’s admission into the temple, violent protesters continued to block women from entering and praying there.
Across the state, normal life was seriously disrupted as Hindu activists enforced a hartal (strike) to protest police action on Wednesday, when women attempting pilgrimage were blocked by traditionalists.
Despite a flurry of assurances from the state government and the police authorities, no woman could get past the protesters stationed at Marakoottam, about 3 kilometres from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
With prohibitory orders in force from Wednesday evening, it was thought that the police would finally be able to provide security to women pilgrims, but those expectations were shattered by a mob that threatened and abused the lone woman — a journalist — who attempted to reach Sabarimala on Thursday.
Suhasini Raj, who works with The New York Times, attempted the trek up to Sabarimala from Nilackal, accompanied by a male colleague and a strong posse of policemen, but she had to call off the trek at Marakoottam. She later filed a complaint with the police about being threatened, abused and pelted with stones by traditionalists who prevented her from carrying out her duties as a journalist.
On Wednesday, two women, one identified as Madhavi from Andhra Pradesh and the other, Libi, a native of Cherthala in Kerala, had attempted to go up to the Sabarimala Ayyappan temple, but were prevented by a violent mob that heckled and abused them.
Curiously, the Pathanamthitta district collector, the state police chief and the state government have all continued to maintain that full protection is being provided to women pilgrims attempting the pilgrimage to the temple that has traditionally been out of bounds for girls and women between the 10-50 age group.
Meanwhile, the tantric of the temple, Kandararu Rajeevaru, appealed to women not to take up the “temple challenge” that is being promoted on social media. “I would request all women not to make the pilgrimage, considering the sentiments of the Ayyappa devotees,” he said, adding that he was aware that the law permitted women to pray at the temple. “This is only a request”, he told media persons on Thursday.
Speaking from the UAE where he is undertaking a tour to collect funds for rebuilding Kerala after the floods, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were plotting the destruction of Sabarimala.
During the statewide hartal called to protest the developments in Sabarimala, violence was reported from different places. Protesters pelted buses with stones in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram.