The doors to Sabarimala Temple finally closed on Monday night, six days after opening for the first time since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on entry of women of menstruating age. Despite the apex court's verdict not a single woman, aged between 10-50, managed to enter into the Lord Ayyappa temple.
Over the past six days, a dozen of women, including activists and journalists, attempted to reach the temple despite being heckled, hassled and threatened, but they were forced to retreat.
The iron gates to the shrine were opened on Wednesday and every day since then women of the "barred" age group madebrave but futile attempts to enter the shrine. Six women were prevented from entering the temple Sunday alone.
Kerala women's rights activist Rehana Fathima and Hyderabad journalist Kavitha Jakkal, wearing helmets and khaki, and surrounded by a police contingent, could manage to go up to Valiya Nadappandhal, the queue complex located a few metres away from the holy 'pathinettam padi', the 18 sacred steps, but not beyond.
Several people, including journalists, were injured on Wednesday as police cracked down on protesters who were up inarms against Kerala's Left Front government for its decision to enforce the Supreme Court order.
On Monday, another woman trying to enter into the temple was forced to retreat by agitated protesters amid tight security arrangements.
On Monday, police officials asked the media to vacate the areas in and around Sannidhaman and Pamba as they had received inputs of a targeted attack being planned on the media.
Bindu, a Scheduled Caste activist, who was proceeding to Pambaat the foothills of Sabarimala temple from where devotees under take an arduous 5 km trek to the shrine, was given police protection at her request, officials said.
However, when the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus she was travelling on with police personnel was about to reach Pamba, a group of BJP workers and those opposing the entry of girls and women aged between 10 and 50 years into the temple, blocked the road and forced her to alight.The woman was escorted to safety in a police jeep.
The police said they would provide protection to the women devotees to reach the temple, but cannot help beyond that. “Darshan is something which can be done with the consent of the priest,” said Kerala Inspector General S Sreejith had said.
(With agency inputs)