Congress, BJP join Ayyappa devotees' protest in Pamba, Nilackal

Saul Bowman
October 18, 2018

Police evicted members of tantri (head priest) family, including elderly women, and the Pandalam royals who were protesting at Pamba, reciting Ayyappa "mantras".

An India Today journalist, Mausami Singh, was heckled, beaten, and pelted with stones today while reporting on protests near Kerala's Sabarimala temple.

Even before the police charge several people could be seen with blood streaming down their faces, suggesting further clashes had taken place with police nearer the temple.

Kerala Minister for Industries, EP Jayarajan, had earlier said that non-bailable warrants are being issued against those who attacked the journalists. The temple opened its door for all women visitors of all age groups for the first time on Wednesday after the historic apex court ruling last month.

This enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with thousands protesting in the days before the scheduled opening on Wednesday afternoon.

Several temples across India have banned women, saying the policy is meant to preserve the purity of their shrines.

But Kerala's provincial government led by the Communist Party of India has declared its determination to uphold the Supreme Court ruling and not give into "the activists 'strong arm tactics".

Chaos erupted hours before the 800-year-old temple, nestled in the greenery of Pathanamthitta district, opened at 5 pm with the chanting of hymns for a five-day ritual.

Activist Rahul Easwar, a front-ranking leader of the protesters and votary of continuance of the tradition barring girls and women between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple, was arrested at Pamba at the foothill from where the trek to the shrine begins.

"'We received the message around 10.30am and were engaged in other duties", said a woman cop, standing in heavy rain, without umbrella or a rain coat.

The series of attacks began close to noon, with a mob surrounding a auto in which the Republic TV channel crew was travelling.

Police protection has been extended to few women pilgrims -a woman pilgrim was blocked by local people-who have started arriving in Pathanamthitta.

Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from entry by some, despite intensifying campaigns by rights activists against the bans.

A huge roar would go up if they found someone.

Among political parties, Shiv Sena has threatened of mass suicides if women are allowed entry into the temple.

The protesters have proved that they will not allow the execution of the supreme court order.

Liby said she would climb the hills and no one had the right to violate the freedom granted by the Supreme Court.

The restriction reflected an old but still prevalent belief among many that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that the deity Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate.

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