Sabarimala row: Journo Kavitha, activist Rehana escorted by police

Pathanamthitta: Two women who were en route to the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala agreed to return after the temple head priest (Tantri) Kandararu Rajeevaru threatened to shut down the temple if they attempted to force their way in.

“We had brought them (journalist Kavitha Jakkal and woman activist Rehana Fatima) till the temple premises but Tantri refused to open the temple for them. While we were waiting, Tantri informed me that if we attempt to take the women ahead they would close the temple,” Kerala Inspector General of Police (IGP) S. Sreejith told ANI.

Sreejith assured that the two women will be taken back in full police protection.

He said, “It is a ritualistic disaster. We took them up to temple and gave them protection but ‘darshan’ is something which can be done with the consent of the priest. We will give them (Kavitha Jakkal and Rehana Fatima) whatever protection they want.”

The Sreejith said that the women agreed to cooperate after he had discussed with them the situation prevailing in the hilltop.

“We have told the female devotees about the situation, they will now be going back. So we are pulling back. They have decided to return,” he said.

As per reports, tempers cooled down after Jakkal and Fatima who had almost made it to the Lord Ayyappa shrine agreed to give up their journey.

Two days after the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala opened its doors for the first time for women in the 10-50 years age group as per the Supreme Court verdict pronounced on September 28, no woman of menstrual age has yet been able to visit the shrine because of continuous protests.

“The Supreme Court‘s point is right that men and women are equal. But, the culture that prevails here is that women in the age group of 10-50 years are not allowed in the temple. It is our custom. We should follow our customs as India is a custom-following country,” a devotee in Sannidhanam had said.

Earlier in the day, a number of devotees had gathered to block the entry of women trekking up to the hill shrine.

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“Police will not create any issue in Sabarimala and we don’t want a confrontation with your devotees. We are only following the law. I will be discussing with the higher authorities and brief them on the situation,” the IGP had earlier said.

Places around the temple such as Pamba, Nilakkal, Sannidhanam and Elavungal have witnessed the majority of the violent protests since the doors of the shrine reopened on Wednesday. Protestors had allegedly vandalised a bus carrying journalists and other passengers at Laka near the Nilakkal base camp. The police were forced to lathi-charge the protestors as they resorted to stone pelting.

Elderly women were seen entering the temple on Wednesday evening, but women between 10 to 50 years of age refrained from visiting the shrine for the sake of their own safety.

Owing to the protests and violence, Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of more than four people) has been imposed in Pamba, Nilakkal and Elavungal.

The temple opened on Wednesday at 5 pm, and it will close on October 22.