Sabarimala tense 4th day in row; woman shows Aadhaar card to prove age, Dalit leader retreats

October 21, 2018

Sabarimala and its two base camps were tense for the fourth consecutive day Saturday as devotees opposing the entry of women of all ages to the hilltop temple stopped a woman from Tamil Nadu to verify her age, while a Dalit woman leader was asked by police to defer her plan after heavy rains in the area and later said she was going back.

A day after two women, protected by police, were forced back from just outside the temple after devotees and temple priests blocked their way while the tantri or chief priest said he would close the temple if they entered, devotees gathered in large numbers at the ‘Valiya Nadapandhal’ following rumours that a woman aged less then 50 years was on her way up the hill.

Latha Kumar who trekked up with her family was near the temple when some protesting devotees saw her and blocked her way.

She was allowed to enter after she showed her Aadhaar card to prove her age. “This is my second pilgrimage to Sabarimala. I came here last year too,” said the teacher from Tamil Nadu’s Trichy. Her husband said he was a regular pilgrim for 25 years while his wife started accompanying him since last year and they never imagined they would face such a situation at their favorite shrine.


Latha, carrying the ‘irumudikkettu’ (holy bundle containing the mandatory offering of coconut, camphor, incense stick, raw rice and flowers), climbed the 18 holy steps amid security cover to reach the temple and have ‘darshan’.

Pathanamthitta District Collector PB Nooh however said there was no tension at the Sannidhanam (the temple complex).

“A woman came for darshan. Some news channels followed her…Then a crowd gathered…That was the only issue,” he was quoted by PTI as saying.
The collector also dismissed as “rumours” reports that some young women were planning to trek the hills to reach the shrine.

Later Saturday, Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation leader SP Manju (38), dressed in traditional attire and carrying the ‘irumudikettu’, arrived in Pambha. As protesters gathered, additional director general of police Anil Kanth and inspectors-general of police S Sreejith and Manoj Abraham met to decide whether to escort her or not after Friday’s backlash over the two women – journalist Kavitha Jakkal and activist Rehana Fathima.

Manju, who has been in the forefront of many Dalit movements in the state, told police that she was an ardent devotee of presiding deity Lord Ayyappa and took 41-day fast for the pilgrimage. They stopped her from proceeding Saturday in view of the rain, but police sources said that since she was insisting on going ahead, they would consider her plea to worship at the temple on Sunday.

Kerala police said that Manju has 14 cases against her and that she told them she is going back.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party workers, led by state general secretary AN Radhakrishnan and spokesman J Padmakumar courted arrest at Nilakkal base camp, defying prohibitory orders. Fasting activist Rahul Eswar, the grandson of a former tantri, was shifted to the medical college hospital in Thiruvananthapuram after his condition worsened. He had been arrested on Thursday and sent to two weeks judicial custody.

The state’s Left Democratic Front government and the Travancore Devasom Board criticised tantri Rajeevaru Kandararu for threatening that he will close the temple if women of menstrual age were allowed to enter. “The tantri is showing his feudalist behaviour,” said state PWD minister G Sudhakaran warning him not to intimidate the government.
Veteran actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder-president Kamal Haasan Saturday refused to be drawn into the Sabarimala controversy, saying it won’t be proper to seek an opinion from him on the matter as he has never been to Sabarimala.

“It won’t be proper to seek an opinion from me on this matter. I will stay in the centre and say about things good for women. I don’t understand the (Ayyappa) devotees’ stand. So it is better not to interfere in that,” he told reporters in Chennai.

On the other hand, actor Rajinikanth said there should be no “interference” in temple traditions being followed for a long time.

Speaking to reporters in Chennai, he said there was no second opinion on equality for women in every sphere. “But when you talk about a temple, every temple has its time honoured rituals, besides traditions being followed for a long time. My humble opinion is that no one should interfere in that,” Rajinikanth said, reported PTI.

After the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict allowing women of all ages to worship at the temple, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said his government was committed to implement it and promised security to any woman who wished to visit the shrine. The haste in which his government is trying to enforce the verdict is turning a big embarrassment for it but for the opposition BJP it is turning a goldmine, say political analysts.

The drama and tension around the shrine situated in the midst of Periyar Tiger Reserve in Pathanamthitta district is slowly helping a Hindu consolidation and the saffron party is playing its cards well worrying the main opposition Congress, they say.

Despite the government’s claims that women would be given security, the first three days saw two women – Madhavi, a devotee from Andhra and New York Times reporter Suhasini Raj – abandoning their trips midway following protests. On Friday, the government found itself in a big embarrassment after a top police officer escorted Fathima to the temple. As her activist credentials started coming out, the government distanced itself, saying it cannot support activists to “just prove the power of activism”.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran later alleged that Fatima had been propped up by Sangh elements to stoke communal trouble in the state.

Source : Hindustan times 

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