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Sabarimala Temple LIVE Updates: Rain Halts Dalit Woman’s Historic Trek, Cops Conduct ‘Background Check’

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Sabarimala Temple LIVE Updates: Attempting to be the first woman of menstrual age to pray at the Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala, the general secretary of a Dalit outfit in Kerala will not embark on the trek from Pampa today due to inclement weather. Thirty-eight-year-old S P Manju is presently at Pampa Police Control room, where the officers had advised her not to trek today due to heavy rainfall. However, she refused, following which Kerala police said that Manju will be given the same protection as the Telangana journalist. But sources told CNN-News18 that it would be dangerous to continue the journey amid the incessant rainfall.

Her attempt comes a day after three women, including a journalist, were forced to abort their pilgrimage in the face of vehement protests by devotees and an ultimatum by the temple priest to lock the shrine if any female pilgrim entered.

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A day earlier, the Sabarimala temple complex witnessed high drama and tense moments when two women reached the hilltop with heavy police escort, but had to return before reaching the sanctum sanctorum following massive protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees.

As the two were returning, a 46-year-old woman also made an attempt to trek the forest path from downhill Pamba to the temple complex five km away, but retracted following protests from devotees.

In a significant development, the Travancore Devaswom Board, that manages the shrine, said on Friday it would approach the Supreme Court to defuse the tense situation prevailing in the state after the government decided to implement the apex court order on entry of women of all age groups into the shrine.

In an advisory, the Union Home Ministry has asked asked Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to tighten security in view of the continuing protests against the SC verdict.

Earlier in the day, when the two women, one identified as a Hyderabad based reporter in her late 20s, and a Kochi based activist reached the hilltop, a large number of devotees blocked them at Valiya Nadappandhal, the queue complex located a few metres away from the holy ‘pathinettam padi’ (the 18 sacred steps), leading to the sanctum sanctorum.

The devotees, including senior citizens and children chanting Ayyappa mantras, protested the entry of women of menstrual age group into the shrine.

Tension was defused after the women agreed to return as the state government made it clear it did not want to take them to the Sannidhanam, the temple complex, by using force against the protesting devotees.

The firm stand taken by the ‘tantri’ (head priest) that he would close the temple if the women were escorted into the sanctum sanctorum also persuaded them to return as per instructions of the police. Though the women had earlier insisted they should reach the shrine, police later convinced them about the gravity of the situation and conveyed the stand taken by the government and the head priest.

If they had reached the shrine, they would have been the first women from the menstruating age group to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala after the apex court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine. Inspector General S Sreejith, who led the police team escorting the women, later told reporters the women expressed their willingness to go back.

“The tantri has informed me that he will close the temple and go if the women enter the shrine complex. It was conveyed to the women and they have expressed their willingness to go back. We will give them protection in the same manner to climb down the hills,” he said.

State Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who was in Thiruvanathapuram, said the government was not ready to use force and hurt the sentiments of devotees. He also said one of the women was later identified as an activist and holy Sabarimala was not a place to show their strength and activism.

“The government has the duty and responsibility to implement the Supreme Court order and give protection to devotees but not for activists,” Surendran said. “Police should have examined the veracity and background of the women who came to trek to the shrine,” he added. With the protests at Sabarimala intensifying, the state police chief Loknath Behera called on the governor P Sathasivam and updated him about the situation.

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