Hartal Against Allowing Women Into Sabarimala Temple Begins In Kerala
Kochi: Vehicles stayed off the road as a hartal against the Supreme Court’s decision to allow women of all age groups into Sabarimala Temple began in Kerala on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the situation continued to be tense following a showdown between protesters and police a day after the hill shrine opened to devotees for the first time after the apex court allowed women of all ages to enter the hill shrine.
Amid the protests, two women journalists were stopped midway while trekking up the hills.
Suhasini Raj, a Delhi-based New York Times journalist, had retreaded as people appeared helpless after angry devotees blocked her path at Marakootum.
She was among thousands of male devotees making the trek uphill to the temple as protesters, led by the Sabarimala Samrakshna Samiti, called for a 24-hour state-wide shutdown.
A tribal chief of the area said, “Lord Ayyappa is our God. Restrictions imposed on women of a certain age group from entering the shrine is part of our custom. Following the custom is very important for worshiping at the Lord Ayyappa temple situated in the dense forests. It should not be violated. Impure women should not be allowed into Sabarimala temple.”
With state BJP supporting the shutdown, the protests has taken on political colours.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted, “Sabarimala has a uniqueness that other temples lack; it allows entry for people of all faith. Sangh Parivar and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) have always been intolerant of this fact. They have made many attempts to erase this distinction of Sabarimala.”
“The role they played in eliminating the rituals performed at Sabarimala by Adivasi-Malayaran community is common knowledge. The present troubles must be seen in this light. The RSS-backed attackers are obstructing believers and spreading terror,” he added.
“These attackers are motivated by casteist and feudal ideologies. Encouraging such movements will eventually lead to the banishment of backward classes from places like Sabarimala. All believers must condemn this attack on Sabarimala,” he further said.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said “The CPI-M-led government did not even care to file a review petition while the BJP and RSS are out to create problems. Here the issue is of faith and traditions.”
The Supreme Court on September 28 had lifted the ban on women entering the temple terming the custom as ‘almost like untouchability’.
Amid protesters throwing stones at media vehicle and police, Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra said “None will be stopped nor will anyone be allowed to take law into their hands. Anyone can come and pray.”