Protesters stop women devotees and journalists from Sabarimala temple. The police push back protesting devotees.
SABARIMALA, KERALA: A day after protests and violence in Kerala against the entry of women of
menstruating age at the famous Sabarimala temple, the state government has banned the gathering of
more than five people in Sannidhanam, Pamba, Nilakkal, and Elavungal – the base camps from where
devotees head to the hill-top shrine. A 12-hour state-wide shutdown has been called today by a group
that calls itself the Sabarimala Protection Committee. Many shops are shut and vehicles are off the
The state BJP has decided to support to the bandh, while Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has said
that the key issue in Sabarimala was “not one of gender equality.” Barring the Left government, the
Congress, BJP and Hindu groups are ranged against the Supreme Court order last month overturning a
centuries-old ban on women between 10 and 50 years entering Sabarimala, the temple of Lord Ayyappa.
“The CPI-M-led government has not even cared to file a review petition while the BJP and RSS are out to
create problems. Here the issue is of faith and traditions,” said Mr Chenithala.
As the temple opened to devotees yesterday, protesters attempting to block women from visiting the
shrine clashed with the police and even attacked women journalists. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has
said no one would be allowed to stop devotees going to Sabarimala.
The Sabarimala temple opened for the first time yesterday after the Supreme Court’s historic September
28 order ending what the judges called, “devotion can’t be subject to discrimination.” Large crowds
took to the route leading to the temple to block women. Protesters vandalized media vehicles and threw
stones at the police. Women health workers and police constables on duty were also not spared.
Protesters threw stones at the police and were in turn lathi-charged at Nilackal and Pamba, the two
main access points on the way to the shrine. More than a dozen protesters were arrested. Kerala Police
chief Loknath Behra said there is very strong police presence in and around Sabarimala. “None will be
stopped nor will anyone be allowed to take law into their hands. Anyone can come and pray,” Mr Behra
The Left government has called these attacks politically motivated. Kadakampally Surendran, the
Minister for Devasoms, who was at the temple town overseeing the arrangements, asked the protesters to
stop creating trouble. “The Sabarimala issue should not be allowed to flare up. The government has no
other option but to ensure that the Supreme Court’s directive is implemented,” Mr Surendran told