Though older women and very young girls could be seen in the crowd, none from the menstrual age was spotted. “No girl or woman in the age group of 10 and 50 has so far visited Sannidhanam (the temple complex) so far,” said a senior official of the Travancore Devaswom Board, the body which manages the shrine.
Meanwhile, chaos and mayhem ruled supreme on the road leading from Nilackal, the gateway to the shrine, to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees begin the arduous trek to Sabarimala, as activists of Hindu fringe groups fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.
Incensed over the Left Front government’s decision not to file a review plea against the Supreme Court’s September 28 order, protesters pelted stones at police with the latter hitting right back with vengeance wielding batons with telling effect, leaving many fallen and writhing in pain on the road. Several protesters were seen being bundled into police vehicles, while siren blaring ambulances carried some to hospitals.
Unfazed by the violence, Madhavi, a woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to climb the hills to reach the temple but was forced to return to Pamba, threatened by agitated male devotees. Liby, a woman from Alappuzha, also in the “banned” age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal. She was escorted to safety by police.
Kerala Religious Trusts Minister Kadakampally Surendran called the protests “politically motivated”.
Hindu outfits call for 24-hr hartal'
The Kerala government on Wednesday tightened security across the State by deploying more police personnel, following escalating protests by a section of Lord Ayyappa devotees and a hartal called by fringe Hindu outfits against the apex court’s decision to allow entry of women into the Sabarimala temple.
Right wing outfit ‘Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad’ led by Pravin Togadia and ‘Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi’, an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal starting midnight. The Congress said it would not join the strike but hold demonstrations in the State on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Pathanamthitta district authorities promulgated prohibitory orders under Section 144 in Pamba and Nilackal following violence and clashes on Wednesday.
10 injured as protesters target female journos
Women journalists were heckled, their vehicles smashed and young female devotees were turned back as hordes of Hindu rights activists besieged the road leading to the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday evening. Women reporters of at least four national TV channels on their way to Pamba for news coverage were blocked by a violent crowd and their vehicles vandalised. TV visuals showed protesters wearing black and saffron turbans running after their cars, violently pounding and kicking the vehicles in a bid to stop them from proceeding to Pamba from Nilackal. The journalists were forced to get out of the vehicles by the crowd of men but police intervened and escorted them to safety. In another incident, a woman reporter of an English online media was asked to alight from a government bus at Nilackal. At least 10 people from the media, including reporters and photojournalists, were injured, said senior Kerala Minister EP Jayarajan. He said cases were being registered against the suspects under sections relating to non-bailable offences.