Sabarimala Temple Protests: The Sabarimala temple has traditionally barred all women of menstruating age. The reasoning behind the ban is that menstruating women are seen as “impure”.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Protests intensified around Kerala’s famous Sabarimala temple as the shrine to
Lord Ayappa got ready to open its doors to women of reproductive age following a Supreme Court order
overturning the centuries-old ban. Crew from four media companies was attacked and two women, who had
started the 7-km trek towards the hilltop shrine, had to turn back. Despite the heavy police presence
along the route, devotees backing the ban screened buses and women were pushed, manhandled and
violently turned away from the base camp at Nilakkal, around 20 km from the shrine.
NDTV reporter Sneha Mary Koshy and cameraperson SP Babu were stopped from covering the protests midway.
They were heckled and asked to leave. The crew from CNN-News 18 and Aaj Tak was also attacked.
Two reporters — one from The News Minute and one from the Republic TV — were also attacked by anti-
women protesters when they had gone to cover the protests near Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. Republic TV
said its reporter Pooja Prasanna was surrounded by a 100-strong mob. Saritha S Balan of The News Minute
was “kicked on her spine” by a protestor, the website said.
The police baton-charged protestors at one of the two base camps, Nilakkal, after they allegedly
started throwing stones. On Tuesday, devotees pulled over traffic to check for women of menstrual age,
forcing a group of female journalism students off a government-run bus.
Top police officer Manoj Abraham said: “We were taken by surprise yesterday, but from today we are
fully equipped to handle the situation. Every devotee will be allowed safe passage.”
A woman travelling to Sabarimala by bus was stopped at the bus stand near the gateway by a group of
protesters. The woman, Libi, said: “When democracy and the Supreme Court order are being defied by
protesters, I have come with the firm intent of visiting Sabarimala. I am not scared.”
A family of four from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, including at least one woman, was shielded by
policemen carrying sticks after protesters shouting slogans prevented them from reaching the temple.
Overnight, the police cleared hundreds of protesters from a site in Nilakkal and said no protesters
would be allowed to gather near the temple. There were seven arrests — three were in connection with
an assault on a woman and her husband from Tamil Nadu.
The restrictions on women entering the Sabarimala shrine reflects an archaic belief that menstruating
women are “impure” and the deity Ayyappa is celibate. Many take a vow of celibacy for 41 days before
beginning a trek through the mountains to the temple.
The temple’s head priest, Kandaru Rajeevaru, said they were “disappointed” by the court order but
accepted it. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the temple, had however, said the top court
should steer clear of judging sensitive religious matters.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said his government will not give in to attempts to prevent
women from entering the temple and police will help uphold the Supreme Court order. The BJP and the
Congress have demanded a review of the court order.
Kerala Cops Vandalise Parked Vehicles
Protesters, including elderly women, first blocked their way and even screened vehicles for women of
menstrual age and asked them to stop right there, at Nilakkal, the base camp and the main entrance to
Sabrimala, which is about 20 km from the hilltop temple.
Then some of the protesters resorted to vandalism, attacked women journalists and the vehicles they
were in, damaged buses and threw stones at cops. The Kerala police personnel had a hard time
controlling the mob. They had to use batons to disperse the crowds.
Amid the violence, a video has emerged in which the policemen can be seen taking out their anger on
vehicles parked on the side of the trek.
They push stationary motorcycles to the ground and even smash their rear-view mirrors with sticks. An
autorickshaw was also attacked as a big group of police personnel, some of them in protective gear,
carrying shields, passed through Pamba at the base of Sabarimala.