Trupti Desai mobbed at Kochi airport as Sabarimala protesters threaten to vandalise her vehicle

Social activist Trupti Desai, who announced that she will attempt entering the Sabarimala shrine on Saturday, was stranded at Kochi airport after protesters gathered there and threatened to vandalise her cab. Desai landed at the Kochi airport at 4.40 am on Friday, where she was surrounded by a huge mob of protesters opposing the Supreme Court's order allowing women between the age of 10 and 50 years to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine, News18 reported. The group, reportedly, could not make an exit from the airport even three hours after their arrival.

 Trupti Desai mobbed at Kochi airport as Sabarimala protesters threaten to vandalise her vehicle

File image of Trupti Desai. PTI

The Ayyappa devotees comprising women and BJP workers, assembled in large numbers outside the airport, continued their protest chanting Ayyappa mantra.

Desai told ANI, "Protestors should not resort to violence. Once we reach there, we'll see what level of security state gives us. Even if the state doesn't give us any security, We'll still go, but I can be attacked. I have received so many threats of attack and killing."

Speaking to News18, Desai said that the BJP will be responsible if something happens to her and the six other women accompanying her. She said that it was BJP and RSS workers that had gathered outside the airport and not real Sabarimala devotees.

Meanwhile, protesters from the BJP gathered outside the airport said that they won't let any vehicle ferry Desai to her destination. They alleged that Desai and her team came here to violate the centuries--old custom of the temple that prevents entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50.

"She (Desai) came here not for darshan but for disturbing a peaceful Sabarimala pilgrim season beginning Saturday," they said.

"We won't allow Trupti Desai to go out from airport using police vehicle or other govt means.Airport taxies also won't take her. If she wants,she can use her own vehicle.There will be agitations all along her way even if she goes out from airport," MN Gopi of the BJP told ANI.

Desai had planned to take a cab from the airport to Kottayam from where she wanted to proceed to Sabarimala on Saturday.

However, the group's attempts to secure a vehicle have been futile so far as no taxi driver has come forward to take the group. Taxi drivers at the airport said they would not take Desai and her colleagues outside the airport due to the threat posed by the protesters.

This was the case despite a huge police presence at the domestic terminal of the airport to deal with the situation. "We have been trying for over a couple of hours to find a private taxi to transport her to Kottayam but no one has volunteered yet. As time goes by the the number of protesters is swelling and their demand is also changing,” said J Himendranath, Deputy Commissioner of Police told The Hindu.

Desai had written to the Kerala chief minister on Wednesday announcing her plans and seeking police protection to visit the shrine. Desai informed Pinarayi Vijayan that she along with six other women would be arriving in Kerala on Friday for a visit at the temple on Saturday. She sought police protection right from the time she lands in Kerala till they leave the state, saying "we will visit the temple whatever be the resistance". "Some devotees of Ayyappa Swamy/some party activists may try to create a disturbance. And they can put blame on us that we are responsible for these disturbances. Therefore, the request of police to closely monitor everybody's action (sic)," Desai's letter read.

Desai has also sent a mail to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure security for her trip to the hill shrine. She has been spearheading the campaign for women to be allowed into various religious places, including Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple and the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple.  "We will not return to Maharashtra without darshan at the Sabarimala temple," she said, adding, "We have faith in the government that it will provide security for us."

The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups and temple tantri and officials ever since a Supreme Court verdict on 28 September, allowed women of all ages to pray at Lord Ayyappa temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.

While Rahul Eashwar, President of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, which is among the organisations protesting against the entry of women of all ages into the shrine, said he and his officials along with Lord Ayyappa's true devotees would ensure that none were able to break the tradition of the temple. "We will lie down before the women who come to break the temple's tradition."

The temple will open on Friday evening for the Mandala Mahotsavam and she has asked to be escorted right from the airport to their rooms in Kottayam, where they will rest for the day. The police must then provide protection when they head for the hilltop temple on Saturday.

Updated Date: Nov 16, 2018 08:46:09 IST