Sabarimala standoff: Two women brought back to Pampa camp amid protests; duo was within a kilometre of Sannidhanam

Two women in their mid-forties, who attempted to enter Sabarimala temple on Monday morning, were brought back to the Pampa base camp amid strong protests. The women, from Kerala's Malappuram and Kozhikode cities, had reached within a kilometre of Sannidhanam — the entrance to the Sabarimala shrine — after the Kerala Police removed protesters at the site attempting to create an obstacle at Appachimedu, which is a part of the temple complex.

On Sunday, the Sabarimala foothills had witnessed high drama as hundreds of devotees had blocked the path and driven away a group of 11 women who were escorted to the hill shrine by the police.

On Monday, too, Bindu and Durga were heading to the Sabarimala shrine under heavy police protection. "We are here to seek 'darshan' (offer prayers) of Lord Ayyappa. The Supreme Court order must be enforced, and we hope the police will provide us security," Bindu told reporters en route to Sabarimala.

Kerala had witnessed massive protests by devotees and the BJP opposing the apex court verdict of 28 September permitting women of all age groups into the shrine.

Thousands of devotees have gathered at the foothills of the shrine as the first phase of the annual pilgrimage season to Sabarimala comes to an end in the next three days.

Bindu and Durga, escorted by police, had reached Marakootam, about a kilometre from the Sannidhanam early on Monday. The women were earlier stopped at Appachimedu, a place en-route Sabarimala, by protesters, who were later removed by police.

The BJP started protesting in front of the houses of these women against their attempt to trek the hill.

The bid of the 11 women, who were members of a Chennai-based women empowerment outfit, 'Manithi', to reach the shrine to offer prayers was unsuccessful on Sunday as they were forced to return by protesting devotees.

The trek to Sabarimala starts from Pampa, which is around four kilometres from the hilltop shrine. The first phase of the 41-day long annual pilgrim season at the Lord Ayyappa temple will culminate on 27 December with the puja.

Over a dozen women, including a journalist and an activist, had also earlier tried to trek to the shrine, nestled in the Western Ghats forests, but could not make it due to protests by devotees and right-wing activists.

The Kerala High Court earlier this month had appointed a three-member committee, vesting them with powers to oversee law and order and other problems faced by pilgrims during the ongoing annual season.

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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2018 15:41:45 IST

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