Sabarimala temple updates: Hartal turns violent as Sangh Parivar, BJP workers reck 32 KSRTC buses, threaten motorists

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Sabarimala temple updates: Hartal turns violent as Sangh Parivar, BJP workers reck 32 KSRTC buses, threaten motorists
  • 14:35 (IST)

    Activist Rahul Easwar calls for peaceful protests to continue

    Activist Rahul Easwar, who was detained by Kerala Police on Wednesday, released a statement after he was arrested. Claiming that the 20 people arrested with him were framed, and called for peaceful protests to continue.

    Translation: Twenty of us have been arrested and are now being taken to Kottarakara sub-jail on judicial remand. The government is purposely doing this. We have been framed and the plan is to put us behind bars to ensure the protest ends. It is around 3 am in the morning and till now we have not been given any food to eat. This could well be my last message for a long time to come. I only want to say that we should continue our peaceful protest. There should NOT be any violence at any cost. We should only follow the Gandhian methods. No one should resort to abuse or physical violence at any cost. That will only diminish the importance of Lord Ayyappa and bring a blot on our fight for justice. Let us hope that after the Supreme Court reopens this case 22nd, we will get justice.

  • 14:13 (IST)

    Hartal takes violent turn, 32 KSRTC buses thrashed

    A senior official told The Hindu that right-wing groups as well as BJP workers posing as Sabarimala pilgrims threw stones at passers-by, police pickets, and private cars at Pathanamthitta, Mancheri in Malappuram district, Palakkad, and Sasthamkottai in Kerala's Kollam district. Government vehicles, public transport buses were also thrashed, including 32 KSRTC buses.

    Two other KSRTC buses were destroyed by the hartal supporters at Chamravattom and Mini Pampa. A KSRTC bus driver suffered injuries in the attack.

    BJP workers also targeted one Tamil Nadu bus at Pathanamthitta.

    Additionally, two policemen were injured at Tanur after being pelted with stoned. A police force has been deployed in the area following the incident.

  • 13:47 (IST)

    Sec 144 imposed for two days, further decision yet to be taken: District Collector

    Section 144 (prohibits assembly of more than 4 people in an area) has been imposed in Pampa, Nilakkal, Sannidhanam and Elavungal.

  • 13:44 (IST)

    Kerala DGP orders cyber cell to book those posting about violence on social media

    The Kerala DGP has ordered cyber cell to register cases against people who are spreading hatred posts about violence ensuing in Nilakkal and Pamba on social media, ANI reported.

  • 13:41 (IST)

    RSS leader asked cadres to go to shrine disguised as pilgrims, claims Kerala minister

    At a press conference at Sabarimala, Kerala temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran presented an audio message of a senior RSS leader asking the cadres to go to the temple's monthly pooja disguised as pilgrims. The audio clip urged RSS cadres not to go in groups in light of Section 144, and carry irumudi that the devotees take during the pilgrimage.

    The leader also gave a mobile number for further instructions. The minister claimed that this was a call to create trouble at the hill shrine.

  • 13:25 (IST)

     Peaceful protest goes awry after police personnel lathi-charge protestors

    Where protestors were sitting on the side of the pathway leading to the Sabarimala temple and chanting Ayyappa prayers, police forces can be seen intervening in the protest and shutting it down. The protest, which was meant to be peaceful in nature, turned to chaos after police began to lathi-charge protestors and ushering them towards police vehicles.

    Some of the protestors can be seen pleading the cops not to thrash them, but the cops continued on. One aged woman protestor was seen lying on the floor after the lathi charge.

    Eyewitness accounts also say neither were the protestors obstructing anyone from going to temple nor they were creating any trouble.

  • 13:04 (IST)

    Kerala BJP chief says attacks on female journalists 'unfortunate'

    Speaking to media, Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai said that the 300 police personnel responsible for attacks on women journalists had not yet completed their training.

  • 12:35 (IST)

    Public transport suspended, leaves many stranded at bus stands, railway stations

    Public transport in Kerala kept off the roads in most districts of the state. People who came to Kerala without knowing about the hartal are now stranded in bus stands and railway stations in several places across the state.

    The Ayyappa devotees who came from neighbouring states for the monthly prayers, also remained stranded in Pathanamthitta.

  • 12:20 (IST)

    Pinarayi Vijayan blames RSS for Sabarimala row

    Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by way of a Facebook post, blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the outbreak of violence at the temple.

    "Sabarimala itself is the opposite of obstacles to a believer's journey, the RSS is spreading terror and trying to discourage them. These movements motivated by upper caste are intended to break the basic character of Sabarimala," he said in the post.

  • 12:00 (IST)

    41 BJYM volunteers arrested for staging sit-in at Nilakkal, taken to Pampa police station

    Forty-one Bharaitya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers, who staged a sit-in at Nilakkal, have been arrested and removed for violating prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 imposed by the Pathanamthitta district administration.

    The BJP youth wing workers made no attempt to resist the arrests. They courted arrest and boarded the police vehicle chanting Ayyappa slogans. They were later taken to the Pampa police station.

  • 11:56 (IST)

    Sabarimala head priest condemns SC verdict, says court does not think about tradition

    Sabarimala head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru told ANI that the situation around the temple is "dangerous." He said that the violence was instigated by others, and not real devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

  • 11:52 (IST)

    It's our job to give protection to all pilgrims, says IGP Thiruvananthapuram

    ANI quoted the Inspector General of Police (Thiruvananthapuram) as saying: "We will put more manpower, and secure all routes."

    Speaking about journalist Suhasini Raj, who turned to go back to Pamba while on her way to the shrine, the IGP said: "she was not forced to come back, she came back."

  • 11:43 (IST)

    Visuals of NYT journalist Sushaini Raj turning back after being stopped by protestors

    Sushaini Raj, a journalist for the New York Times, turned back halfway while on her away to the temple, after she was stopped by protestors.

    As she was climbing up, she kept saying that she did not come to pray but to do her work. Police had to throw a security ring around Ms Raj and her colleague as they made their way back, NDTV reported.

    "We don't want anyone to get hurt here. So we are returning back to Pampa", Suhasini Raj told Asianet News.

  • 11:39 (IST)

    VN Vasudevan Nampoothiri selected as chief priest of Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala

    Malayali Brahmin VN Vasudevan Nampoothiri has been selected as melshanthi (chief priest of Lord Ayyaappa temple at Sabarimala). He was selected through a draw from among nine applicants shortlisted after an interview.

    Nampoothiri, who hails from Chengannur in Kerala's Alapapuzha district, is currently serving as melshanthi at the Srijalahalli Ayyappa temple in Bangalore. He will take charge before the commencement of the pilgrim season from 16 November. The appointment is for one year. 

    The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple, had previously rejected the application submitted by a Dalit priest, saying the post can be given to only Malayali brahmins. Vishnu Narayan, whose application was rejected by the TDB has already moved the Kerala High Court against the discrimination.

  • 11:29 (IST)

    BJP to hold sit-in at Nilakkal, in violation of Section 144 imposed on parts of state

    Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai said 41-selected Bharathiya Janata Yuyva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers will stage a sit-in at Nilakkal, in violation of CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly) imposed in many parts of the state earlier on Thursday. He said that the party had selected 41 people to ensure that outsiders did not infiltrate into the protest and create trouble.

    He said that the party will also conduct prayer meetings at Nilakkal in protest against of the Supreme Court order by the government until the temple is closed after the monthly pooja on 22 October.

  • 11:16 (IST)

    Pathanamthitta Police launch operation to find hidden protestors

    Pathanamthitta Police have launched an operation to flush out protestors hiding in the forests on the way to the Lord Ayyappa temple. A squad has been pressed into action to scan the forests and clear the protestors hiding there.

    The operation has been launched after New York Times reporter Suhasini Raj was prevented from going to the temple. The journalist was blocked by Ayyappa devotees and protestors after she reached Marakkottam, 1 kilometre away from the temple. As the protests mounted, Suhasini returned to the base camp at Pampa.

  • 11:12 (IST)

    Kerala BJP chief says police attacked devotees without provocation, demands judicial probe

    Kerala Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president PS Sreedharan Pillai demanded a judicial probe into the alleged police atrocities against the Ayyappa devotees. Talking to reporters, he alleged that the police had unleashed attacks without any provocation.

    He also questioned the administration's decision to invoke section 144 in a place of worship. The BJP leader said that the police action was a violation of human rights, and that he will bring it to the notice of the Central government.

  • 11:08 (IST)

    Kerala govt prepares for potential violent outbreaks
     
     
    Special security arrangements have been put in place at various locations including Pamba, Nilackal, and Erumeli en route to the Sabarimala temple, located in Pathanamthitta district, PTI reported.
     
    Public transport also stayed off the roads as part of the statewide strike. However, stray incidents of stone-pelting on Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses were reported from some parts of the state, police said. However, private vehicles are plying in some areas.

  • 10:59 (IST)

    Sabarimala chief priest denies rumours that shrine will close if women aged 10-50 enter

    Sabarimala chief priest Kantararu Mohanaru denied media reports saying that he will close the temple if any women belonging to the menstruating category entered the temple.

    “Though there is provision to close the temple temporarily if any acts defiling the temple take place, we will not evoke the provision in the present case,” he said.

    He alleged that the rumours were spread by people with vested interests, and those who are trying to malign the image of the temple. He said trouble had erupted at Nilackal after those same forces infiltrated genuine Ayyappa devotee groups, which were carrying out the protests peacefully.

  • 10:53 (IST)

    'NYT journalist turned back after seeing crowd at Marakoottam': ANI

  • 10:37 (IST)

    Sabarimala chief priest requests women aged 10-50 not to enter temple

    Sabarimala thantri (chief priest) Kantararu Mohanaru has made an appeal to women between the ages of 10 and 50 not to make any attempt to visit the temple during the ongoing monthly pooja. Talking to a Malayalam news channel, he said that the ritual will be marred if the women from the banned group entered the temple. 

    “We have full respect to women. The restriction is only for the women belonging to a particular age group. They must realize the custom being followed by the temple and desist from their attempt to come to the temple,” he added.

    He said that the devotees who are protesting against the Supreme Court verdict might feel hurt if anybody tries to break the custom. Therefore, I appeal to menstruating women not to come to the temple until the issue are resolved.

  • 10:33 (IST)

    KSRTC not operational today after statewide strike announced

  • 10:30 (IST)

    Views of religious leaders, devotees not acknowledged: Bhagwat

    While delivering his annual Vijayadashami address in Nagpur, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Mohan Bhagwat addressed the Sabarimala issue.

    The perspectives of the leaders of religious denominations, as well as the faith of crores of devotees was not taken into account in the Sabarimala case, Bhagwat said.

  • 10:25 (IST)

    RSS chief says men and women treated as equals at Sabarimala temple

    While delivering his annual Vijayadashami address in Nagpur today, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Mohan Bhagwat addressed the Sabarimala issue.

    "We should have built consensus. The devotees should have been consulted," he said.

  • 10:17 (IST)

    Criminal Procedure Code Section 144 imposed at Erumeli


    Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) imposed at Erumeli, one of the base camps of the Sabarimala temple. There is no movement of buses, autos and small shops are open during hartal, The Indian Express reported.

    Ayyappan devotees travelling to the temple were stopped at Erumeli, according to the report.

  • 10:12 (IST)

    FIR for CNN-News18 crew attack case accessed, names of accused not yet revealed

    CNN-News18 on Thursday accessed the FIR that was filed after Radhika Ramaswamy, a journalist working for the news channel, as well as crew members were assaulted amid the protests held outside the temple on Wednesday. The names of the assailants have not been revealed. 

    Ramaswamy had approached the Perinad police on Wednesday after the incident, and the FIR was filed later that evening.

  • 09:59 (IST)

     There are rituals which must be followed: Devotee at Sannidhanam Temple

    Despite a Supreme Court order lifting the ban on entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years into the Sabarimala temple, protesters on Wednesday forcibly turned back women on their way to visit the shrine. Many have said that religious norms must be obeyed.

  • 09:51 (IST)

    Visuals of devotees climbing Pathinettam Padi to enter Sabarimala temple

  • 09:40 (IST)

    Subramanian Swamy says this is a fight between 'Hindu renaissance and Hindu obscurantism'

    BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday described the Sabarimala issue as a fight between "Hindu renaissance and Hindu obscurantism" as he asked people to side with the rule of law and uphold equality before the law. "The fight in Sabarimalai issue is between Hindu Renaissance and Hindu Obscurantism," Swamy said, adding that "we of VHS must side with the rule of law and uphold equality before law". "By obstructing women who wish to worship at Sabarimalai, some Hindus in Kerala it seems, have been brainwashed by years of Communist rule to become doctrinaire in the thought process," he said.

     
    Replying to a query on Twitter, he said the Centre must intervene to enforce law and order if the state government is incapable of ensuring women devotees free access to the temple. 

  • 09:37 (IST)

    Kerala ministers show support to devotees, police says no one will be allowed to take law in hand
     
     
    Senior Minister in Kerala government, EP Jayarajan said agitators would invite "Ayyappa dosham" (the wrath of Lord Ayyappa) for blocking devotees who go to Sabarimala after taking vrata (penance). He also said the ongoing agitation was "anti-people, anti-constitutional and anti-law". "The government will give protection to devotees who are coming to offer worship at Sabarimala," he said in Thiruvananthapuram. State Devaswom Minister, Kadakampally Surendran, who was at the Sannidhanam to hold a review meeting with officials, said the government would not allow anyone to take law into their hands and block devotees from coming to Sabarimala.
     
     
    Meanwhile, Director General of Police (DGP) Loknanth Behera warned that people who blocked the vehicles carrying Ayyappa devotees would be arrested and booked.
     

  • 09:35 (IST)

    Women stopped mid-way to the shrine; angry protestors force them to return
     
     
    A woman named Liby, who was reported to be a journalist, and said to be in the below 50 years age group, was on the way to the temple armed with the Supreme Court order but was stopped from proceeding at the Pathanamthitta bus terminal by passengers. The passengers including women chanting Ayyappa mantra urged the woman her not to violate the centuries-old custom of the shrine where women in the menstruating age group are not allowed. Liby said she would climb the hills and no one had the right to violate the freedom granted by the Supreme Court. The woman was later escorted out to the bus station by the police.
     
     
    Police have strengthened security in Pamba, Nilackal and Erumelithe, which are important centres to be covered before reaching Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. Some people were taken into custody by police at Nilackal for staging protests against the decision to allow women in the menstruating age into the Ayyappa shrine, PTI reported.

  • 09:35 (IST)

    Women stopped mid-way to the shrine; angry protestors force them to return
     
     
    A woman named Liby, who was reported to be a journalist, and said to be in the below 50 years age group, was on the way to the temple armed with the Supreme Court order but was stopped from proceeding at the Pathanamthitta bus terminal by passengers. The passengers including women chanting Ayyappa mantra urged the woman her not to violate the centuries-old custom of the shrine where women in the menstruating age group are not allowed. Liby said she would climb the hills and no one had the right to violate the freedom granted by the Supreme Court. The woman was later escorted out to the bus station by the police.
     
     
    Police have strengthened security in Pamba, Nilackal and Erumelithe, which are important centres to be covered before reaching Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. Some people were taken into custody by police at Nilackal for staging protests against the decision to allow women in the menstruating age into the Ayyappa shrine, PTI reported.

  • 09:30 (IST)

    Tribals oppose women's entry, say 'vested interests playing politics on the issue
     
     
    Meanwhile, the tribals living in the hills around Sabarimala have alleged that the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board were trying to demolish centuries-old customs by allowing entry of women in the 10-50 age group into the famous Sabarimala temple. They claimed that restrictions imposed on women in the menstruating age group were part of a custom prevailing in tribal societies living in the forests in Kerala.
     
     
    They also claimed several rights of the tribal communities over the Sabarimala temple and the places associated with the hill shrine were forcibly taken away from them by the authorities of the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the temple. The tribals and dalits believe that if the women in this particular age-group climbed the hill violating the custom would bring a bad omen for them. They feel that some vested interests were utilising the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala to play politics over the issue.
     
    "We live a few miles away from the temple. Our women in this age group have never attempted to go to the temple," she said. The women said they could not agree with the top court verdict permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.

  • 09:09 (IST)

    Protesting women stop vehicles at Nilackal
     
     
    Groups of women devotees including senior citizens, clad in traditional sarees, have stopped each and every vehicle at Nilackal so far. Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out of them and very few police personnel were present when the incidents happened. Protesting women had said no women belonging to the banned age group of 10-50 will be allowed to travel further from Nilackal and offer worship at the shrine.
     
     
    Meanwhile, another group of devotees said they would stage a Gandhian style peaceful protest in Pamba.

  • 09:04 (IST)

    Reporters, elderly couple stopped at Pampa amid protests
     
     
    A couple from Tamil Nadu, aged 45 and 40, who were on their way to Pamba on Wednesday, were forced to get down from the KSRTC allegedly by some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti. Although the couple had said that they would go only up to Pamba and not climb Sabarimala, the activists prevented them.
     
    The crew of various TV news channels were also asked to leave the place. They could only return to the spot after more policemen were deployed in the area.

  • 08:55 (IST)

    NYT scribe says she didn't want anyone to get hurt as protests grew and thus returned back

    "We don't want anyone to get hurt here. So we are returning back to Pampa", Suhasini Raj told Asianet News .

  • 08:46 (IST)

    BJP's Tamilisai Soundararajan says Kerala govt should bring an ordinance to reinforce the ban on women's entry

    Tamil Nadu BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan on Wednesday said the Kerala government can consider bringing an ordinance to reinforce the ban on women of menstrual age from entering Sabarimala temple. She also accused the LDF government of acting against Hindu sentiments, Times Now reported.

  • 08:40 (IST)

    Kerala police in talks with Suhasini Raj to discuss her next move

    Suhasini is at the Pampa police station currently. Inspector General Manoj Abraham is talking to her to see what her immediate future plans are. The police is ready to give her full protection if she wants to climb again.

  • 08:34 (IST)

    Suhasini was offered proceed with full police protection but she chose to return after seeing the protests

    According to reports, police offered to take Suhasini all the way up to the shrine but seeing the protests her friend who was accompanying her suggested that they return. She also took the decision not to proceed further and returned to the base camp.

  • 08:24 (IST)

    Suhasini Raj being escorted massive police protection as she descends 

    A huge force of police, including commandos, is escorting Suhasini Raj as she heads back to the Pampa base camp. However, she has refused to react to the situation. She has arrived at Pampa now.

  • 08:21 (IST)

    Protestors merge with devotees even as police tries to enforce Section 144

    According to sources, there is now no way to differentiate between the devotees and protestors. So devotees can't be restricted even if there is Section 144 in play and the protestors are using that opportunity.

  • 08:19 (IST)

    Section 144 in force, yet police not able to stop protestors

    Though Section 144 was in force, police did not take any steps to prevent grouping of protestors and now they are about a thousand in number. Those protesting now are the devotees themselves carrying the 'irumudi' which are the traditional offerings for Lord Ayyappa. 

  • 08:14 (IST)

    Suhasini Raj stopped at Marakoottam, one kilometre away from the temple; returns back to base camp at Pampa

    Raj was stopped at Marakoottam, 1 kilometre from the Ayyappa shrine. She is now returning to the base camp at Pampa. Marakoottam is almost 3/4th the way up but as the protestors created a human wall making it difficult for her to proceed, she had to return.

  • 08:11 (IST)

    NYT Journalist cancels plans to trek to the temple as protestors create ruckus, manhandle her

    About 1,000 protestors created a huge ruckus as Suhasini Raj made her way to the shrine, They created a human wall and tried to manhandle her and thus the journalist has now abandoned her journey.

  • 08:01 (IST)

    NYT scribe Suhasini Raj abandons her journey, says 'don't want to create trouble'

    Journalist Suhasini Raj has abandoned her journey and is returning from Marakkoottam to Pampa. Asianet quoted Suhasini as saying that "she did not want to create trouble" and is thus abandoning her trek to the shrine. 

    A 50-member police team remained helpless as large number of protestors mobbed her and chanted that she goes back.

  • 07:51 (IST)

    More than 500 police personnel deployed at Nilackal

    The police took strong action against the protesters after some of them checked the vehicles heading to Pamba and prevented the women in the age group of 10 and 50 from entering the hill shrine. Around 500 police personnel, including women, were deployed in Nilackal to ensure a safe passage to the pilgrims to the Lord Ayyappa temple, PTI reported.

  • 07:47 (IST)

    Sit-in protests seen across way to the shrine, vehicles screened en route
     
     
    The protesting group of devotees had been staging a sit-in chanting the Ayyappa mantra in the shelter in protest against the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine. The protesting people, who were less in numbers, ran from the spot when the police initiated action in the early hours on Wednesday when they tried to block the buses from the key entry point to the temple.
     
    Vehicles were screened to check if they were carrying any women devotees in them. 
     

  • 07:38 (IST)

    Violent protests erupt in Nilackal, the main gateway to Sabarimala
     
     
    Tension prevailed on Wednesday in Kerala's Nilackal, the main gateway to Sabarimala, after the police used force to disperse devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the hill shrine. Acting tough, the police, deployed in large numbers in Nilackal, some 20 kilometres away from the Sabarimala hilltop, also removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.

  • 07:33 (IST)

    The New York Times journalist, Suhasini Raj to be the first 'young' woman to pray inside Ayyappa temple

    Suhasini Raj, New Delhi bureau chief of The New York Times, is likely to be the first women to enter the Lord Ayyppaa Temple since the Supreme Court verdict. Suhasini, who is below 50 years, is currently trekking the hilltop with police protection. Though some devotees tried to stop her, police provided protection.

    Suhasini, who is a resident of Lucknow and is working with The New York Times since 2014, is likely to reach the temple by 8 pm. She is proceeding steadily with police protection. However, unconfirmed reports suggest her age to be around 46 years. A group of media persons is also following her in her journey to the and so far no protestors have reached her.

Sabarimala temple updates: A senior official told The Hindu that right-wing groups as well as BJP workers posing as Sabarimala pilgrims threw stones at passers-by, police pickets, and private cars at Pathanamthitta, Mancheri in Malappuram district, Palakkad, and Sasthamkottai in Kerala's Kollam district. Government vehicles, public transport buses were also thrashed, including 32 KSRTC buses.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by way of a Facebook post, blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the outbreak of violence at the temple.

"Sabarimala itself is the opposite of obstacles to a believer's journey, the RSS is spreading terror and trying to discourage them. These movements motivated by upper caste are intended to break the basic character of Sabarimala," he said in the post.

The 41 selected Bharathiya Janata Yuyva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers, who staged a sit-in at Nilakkal, in violation of CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly) imposed in many parts of the state, were arrested.

The BJP youth wing workers made no attempt to resist the arrests. They courted arrest and boarded the police vehicle chanting Ayyappa slogans. They were later taken to the Pampa police station.

Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai said 41-selected Bharathiya Janata Yuyva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers will stage a sit-in at Nilackal, in violation of CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly) imposed in many parts of the state earlier on Thursday. He said that the party had selected 41 people to ensure that outsiders did not infiltrate into the protest and create trouble.

He said that the party will also conduct prayer meetings at Nilakkal in protest against of the Supreme Court order by the government until the temple is closed after the monthly pooja on 22 October.

Journalist Suhasini Raj from the New York Times, on her way to the Sabarimala temple, returned midway after being stopped by protesters. Police sources were quoted as saying, "when she reached Marakoottam, she decided to come back after seeing the crowd. Police was ready to take her."

Sabarimala thantri (chief priest) Kantararu Mohanaru has made an appeal to women between the ages of 10 and 50 not to make any attempt to visit the temple during the ongoing monthly pooja. Talking to a Malayalam news channel, he said that the ritual will be marred if the women from the banned group entered the temple.

Police lathi-charge on protestors after they opposed the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple. PTI

Police lathi-charge on protestors after they opposed the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple. PTI

Journalist Suhasini Raj has abandoned her journey and is returning from Marakkoottam to Pampa. Asianet quoted Suhasini as saying that "she did not want to create trouble" and is thus abandoning her trek to the shrine. Raj was stopped at Marakoottam, 1 kilometre from the Ayyappa shrine. She is now returning to the base camp at Pampa. Marakoottam is almost 3/4th the way up but as the protestors created a human wall making it difficult for her to proceed, she had to return. A huge force of police, including commandos, is escorting Raj as she heads back to the Pampa base camp. 

"We don't want anyone to get hurt here. So we are returning back to Pampa", Suhasini Raj told Asianet News .

Amid violent protests, the doors of Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened on Wednesday for the first time since the Supreme Court lifted the centuries-old ban on entry of women of menstrual age but by available indications, none from this age group made it to the famed hilltop shrine.

Women journalists were heckled, their vehicles smashed and young female Ayyappa devotees turned back as hordes of activists of Hindu fringe groups besieged the road leading to the temple, abode to Lord Ayyappa, its eternally celibate deity, officials said. Chaos and mayhem on the road leading from Nilakkal, the gateway to the shrine, 20 km away, to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees start the arduous 6-km trek to Sabarimala reigned supreme, as activists of fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.

The Pathanamthitta district authorities promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC banning assembly of four or more people in strife-torn Pamba and Nilakkal following the violence and a strike called by right-wing outfits on Thursday.

Activist Rahul Easwar, a front-ranking leader of the protesters and votary of the continuance of the tradition barring girls and women between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple, a custom which the Supreme Court overturned on September 28, was arrested at Pamba. Incensed over Kerala's Left Front government's decision not to file a review plea against the Supreme Court verdict, protesters pelted police with stones and the latter hit right back with vengeance wielding batons with telling effect, leaving many fallen and writhing in pain on the road. Several protesters were seen being bundled into police vehicles, while siren blaring ambulances carried some to hospitals.

Simmering tension prevailing in Nilakkal since morning erupted into raucous rowdyism as scores of activists of fringe groups heckled women journalists of at least four national TV channels and vandalised their vehicles. Protesters wearing black and saffron turbans chased their cars, violently pounding and kicking the vehicles in a bid to stop them from proceeding to Pamba from Nilakkal on way to Sabarimala. At least 10 people from the media, including reporters and photojournalists, were injured and equipment of several of them damaged, senior minister EP Jayarajan said. Denouncing the attacks on media, he said cases were being registered against the suspects under sections relating to non-bailable offenses.

Unfazed by the unfolding violence, Madhavi, a gutsy woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to trek the Sabarimala hills to reach the Lord Ayyappa temple but was forced to return to Pamba, menaced by agitated male devotees. Liby, a woman from Kerala's Alappuzha, also in the 10-50 year age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal. She was escorted to safety by police.

Both the Congress, the main opposition party in Kerala, and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict. State Congress working president K Sudhakaran led his party workers in a protest at Nilakkal to express solidarity with Ayyappa devotees. An embattled Left Front government reacted sharply to the protests, with the state's religious trusts minister Kadakampally Surendran calling them "politically motivated". Surendran, who reviewed the situation and preparations for the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku-festival beginning November 17 at Sannidhanam (Sabarimala temple complex), said the government would tackle the agitation politically. "The BJP-RSS are trying to create tension and destroy the peaceful atmosphere in Kerala for political gain. We know the agenda of the RSS and BJP very well," he said and insisted the government did not want any confrontation with believers. The BJP rejected the allegation, saying the government was responsible for the "collapse" of law and order.

Even as streets in Nilakkal and Pamba erupted in tumult, thousands of bare-chested Ayyappa devotees waited patiently in the vast concourse outside Sabarimala for its gates to open at the appointed hour — 5 pm. Carrying "Irumudikettu" (the sacred bundle containing ghee-filled coconuts they offer to the deity), they calmly walked past security personnel to take their place in the long queue where they would wait for hours on end for a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa. Though older women and very young girls could be seen in the crowd, none of the menstrual age was spotted. "No girl or woman in the age group of 10 and 50 has so far visited Sannidhanam (the temple complex) so far," a senior official of the Travancore Devaswom Board, the body which manages the shrine, told PTI wishing not to be named.

The shrine will remain open for the 5-day monthly pooja during the Malayalam month of Thulam before being closed on 22 October. 'Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad' led by Pravin Togadia and the 'Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi', an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal starting midnight.


Updated Date: Oct 18, 2018 16:48 PM

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