Sabarimala traditionalists vowing to undertake a Gandhian protest against the Supreme Court's order, allowing women of menstruating age to enter the shrine, turned violent on Wednesday and attacked four female journalists. A number of Lord Ayyappa devotee groups, including women, have been protesting against the verdict and blocking women from entering Sabarimala temple as it opened for the five-day pilgrimage.
ANI reporter Karam Ingerlose was slapped by protesters, his phone was snatched and broken into pieces by them when he was shooting a video in Erumely. The protesters asked him to apologise for shooting the video and let him go only after he apologised.
A woman reporter of India Today TV was injured when the mob turned against a police van which was passing by the gateway to the Nilakkal Mahadeva temple, where a protest meeting by Sangh Parivar organisations was underway. She was later taken away in the same police van to the Government dispensary at Nilakkal.
The attack took place when the demonstrators were forcibly turning back stray women trying to visit the shrine despite police assurances that no one will be prevented from taking part in the pilgrimage. Police tried to calm the protesters but they pelted stones on them, prompting the lathi-charge.
This further enraged the protesters, who smashed the window panes of a police vehicle which was carrying away the injured female journalists.
In a similar attack, a woman reporter with The News Minute was injured in Pamba. Editor-in-chief of The News Minute, Dhanya Rajendran, took to Twitter and said a reporter of her media house, Saritha S Balan, was attacked while she was near Pamba, from where the trek to the temple in Kerala starts.
The news website reported that Saritha was on board a Kerala State Transport bus speaking to devotees when members of the Sabarimala Karma Samithi stopped the vehicle and pulled her out. Dhanya clarified that the reporter was dressed in plain clothes, not in the traditional black robes that devotees heading to Sabarimala have to don. The reporter was heckled and verbally abused by members of the Sabarimala Karma Samithi.
After this commotion, the local police tried to form a protective ring around Saritha to try and escort her away, but the protesters kicked her from behind, with angry Samithi members taking her photograph and abusing her while chanting slogans in the name of Lord Ayyappa.
The second attack was reported from Nilakkal town, located in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district, where protesters attacked a car carrying reporters and crew of Republic TV around 1.30 pm. The TV channel's South India bureau chief Pooja Prasanna was in the vehicle when the mob began to pelt stones at it. The TV crew was trying to head to the Pamba base camp.
In the visuals aired by Republic TV, Pooja is seen surrounded by around 50 to 60 men abusing her and chanting Ayyappa slogans. The channel reported that protesters slapped their journalist and crew and snatched their equipment.
Another attack was reported from the Pamba base camp — a News18 vehicle was vandalised and their reporter Neethu Reghukumar was heckled. The mob surrounded the car with the reporter and crew inside and started banging on the vehicle. Some even threw stones at it to break the windshield, even as the reporter insisted she had no intention of visiting Sabarimala or the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
NDTV reporter Sneha Mary Koshy and cameraperson SP Babu were heckled and asked to leave, and their camera was snatched at Pamba as they tried to film the police taking cover from the protesters under a canopy.
Reports of these attacks come amid repeated claims from traditionalists that they are following a Gandhian model of protest and will use self-sacrifice to convince women against entering the Sabarimala temple.
Some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti, who stayed back at Nilakkal, which falls before the Pamba base camp on the pilgrimage route, also allegedly prevented media persons from carrying out their professional duty.
Crew of various TV news channels were asked to leave the place. They could return to the spot only after more policemen were deployed in the area.
Around 500 police personnel, including women, have been deployed in Nilakkal to ensure safe passage for the pilgrims heading to the Lord Ayyappa temple. This was even as another group of devotees said it would stage a Gandhian protest in Pamba.
Sabarimala shrine located on the mountain ranges of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats opens later in the evening for the first time after the recent Supreme Court verdict on women's entry inside the shrine.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said no one will be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala. Groups of women, including senior citizens, clad in traditional sarees had stopped every vehicle at Nilakkal on Tuesday. Besides private vehicles, devotees also stopped and inspected buses of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses and asked young women to get out of them.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Oct 17, 2018 17:51 PM