By Prarthana Mitra
The woman who started her uphill trek to the Sabarimala Temple on Monday decided to return to base camp, as protestors mobilised themselves along the way to obstruct any woman undertaking the pilgrimage, and after the police explained the risks to her. A group of young women from Andhra Pradesh also had to return following protests Tuesday morning, while 52-years-old Lalitha Ravi was heckled on her way to the shrine. Around 200 devotees were later held in connection to her complaint.
However, the fact remains. Once again, no woman of childbearing age has made it past the temple gates as they closed for the second time since the Supreme Court verdict calling any gender-based ban on entry unconstitutional.
Section 144 proves futile in face of mob frenzy
When doors to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple opened Monday for a two-day ritual, the state government imposed Section 144 in the neighbouring districts to implement the controversial verdict. But over the day, mobs continued to stage protests at various stops of the route, preventing the handful of women who were seen at the starting point earlier on Monday.
RSS leader from Kannur Valsan Thillankery was seen proclaiming, “If traditions are violated, naturally there will be protests by the devotees. Devotees must not be seen as terrorists here. Section 144 should not have been imposed.”
— arun prabhakaran (@aruntirur) November 6, 2018
Moreover, frequent clashes between devotees suspected as potential troublemakers and the 2000-strong police personnel deployed destroyed the sanctity of the temple town, according to the BJP and the Congress. Both opposition parties held the Pinarayi Vijayan government responsible for the fortification of Sabarimala and the unrest therein, especially during the Athazha puja.
It begat orders from the Kerala High Court asking the state government not to interfere with the temple’s day-to-day activities or stop devotees and media from approaching the temple. After protests broke out again, the court further ordered for a departmental enquiry against those police officers responsible for damage of property and vehicles of devotees. Many groups also expressed anger at the paucity of buses available for ferrying pilgrims to and from the shrine.
What happened in October?
When the temple opened for the first time after the ruling, during the holy week of October 17-22, members of the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, supported by 50 other Hindu outfits, heckled and abused 15 women including journalists who attempted to enter the temple, and even attacked journalists. They flagged down cars carrying women and forced them to turn back. Law and enforcement failed the women who made it past the mob to undertake the trek from Nilakklal to the hilltop shrine.
The police have, so far, arrested 3,505 protestors for intimidating and attacking women who legally arrived at the shrine to offer their prayers and make history. Shortly afterward, BJP chief Amit Shah threw in unbounded support for the protestors who upheld the shrine’s age-old traditions with intimidation and a flagrant obstruction of justice.
Fifty retired IAS and IFS officers have written to the EC, SC, PM Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind demanding that action be taken against BJP chief Amit Shah for his speech in Kerala on Sabarimala that was unconstitutional https://t.co/bPuYoHYhYG
— National Herald (@NH_India) November 6, 2018
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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