Protesters opposed to the entry of women in the 10-50 age group to the Sabarimala temple clashed with police and heckled women journalists as the pilgrimage season opened on Wednesday, with no woman in that group making it to the hill shrine despite police assurances. Many of them are today sad that the temple has been opened to women of all ages as ordered by the Supreme Court recently.
The Supreme Court on September 28 had ruled that women will be allowed entry into Sabarimala temple in Kerala. She had to be escorted back by police.
Even though the police personnel gave them protection and allowed them to move further, the family, after walking a short distance, chose to return as angry activists of Ayyappa Dharma Sena surrounded them and asked them to go back. "Those who do so will have to walk over our dead bodies", one of the women protesters said as they "cleared" a bus of Ayyappa pilgrims, as reported by Indian Express.
The restriction reflected an old but still prevalent belief among many that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that the deity Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate.
Madhavi was the first young woman attempting to enter Sabarimala.
The BJP and its NDA partners have backed a 12-hour "hartal" called by Sabarimala Action Council to protest the police action against devotees.
The situation remained tense after nightfall, with police reinforcing the 500 officers already present ahead of likely another dramatic day on Thursday on the road to the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.
Liby, a woman from Kerala's Alappuzha, also in the 10-50 year age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal.
Meanwhile, another group of devotees said they would stage a Gandhian style peaceful protest in Pamba.
Although the couple had said that they would go only up to Pamba and not climb Sabarimala, the activists prevented them.
A couple from Tamil Nadu, aged 45 and 40, on their way to Pamba, were forced to get off from the KSRTC bus Monday night allegedly by some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.
Crew of various TV news channels were asked to leave the place.
Scores of protesters, including women and various right-wing organisations, have been camping in Nilackal town to protest against the SC decision to allow entry of women inside the temple. Even as cops at the spot looked on, more protesters joined in.
Kalyani Jacob, a student and devotee of Lord Ayappa in New Delhi, said: "We don't mind not being allowed in".
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, facing a tough time tackling the highly emotive religious issue which has also acquired political overtones, issued a stern warning to those who dared block devotees from entering the temple.