Four women hailing from Andhra Pradesh were on their way to the Samarimala temple to pray to the presiding deity Lord Ayyappa, when angry protesters blocked their path on Sunday and turned them away.
At 10 a.m., two women accompanied by a male devotee were the first to face the wrath of the traditionalists. The pilgrims were about to enter the main pathway at the foothills of the temple town to begin their trek to the shrine at the hilltop when protesters surrounded them.
Sensing trouble, police officials formed a security cordon around the two ladies and took them to the police control room at Pamba.
Inspector General of Police S. Sreejith told reporters that the two ladies said that they undertook the pilgrimage to Sabarimala after they came to know that the Supreme Court had allowed the entry of all women into the temple.
“These women were part of a pilgrimage group from Andhra Pradesh and are visiting various temples in Kerala. When they were told about the protest, they decided that they would like to return and we took them to a vehicle parked at Nilackal,” said Sreejith.
The Supreme Court had on September 28 overturned a centuries-old practice that barred women of menstrual age (10-50 years) from entering the hill temple, where a celibate deity Lord Ayyappa is worshipped.
Protesters have blocked the entry of women in the age group of 10-50, in defiance of the SC order, and ignoring the state government’s efforts to ensure the entry of women into the shrine.
Soon after turning away the two ladies, protesters found another lady who had already hit the pathway to the temple. They stopped her too, asking her to go back.
As the commotion continued, policemen reached the spot. Upon finding out from her Aadhaar card that she was 47, the protesters were further infuriated.
The woman felt a bit uneasy amid the ruckus, and was taken to a clinic. She subsequently returned without paying her obeisance to the temple deity.
A fourth lady, who used the services of a palanquin to make it to the hilltop, was identified by protesters about a kilometre from the temple.
As the protesters milled around her, police came to her rescue, taking her to Pamba.
Meanwhile, State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai on Sunday said that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should convene a special session of the Assembly, and recommend to the Centre to promulgate an Ordinance to nullify the SC order.