Women pilgrims forced to return without offering prayers at Lord Ayyappa Shrine
Sabarimala(Ker): Faced with unrelenting protests from devotees, two women in their forties, who tried to trek to the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa here Monday, were forced to return without offering prayers.
The attempt by the two women - Bindu and Kanakdurga - came a day after a group of 11 women activists of "Manithi", a Chennai-based outfit unsuccessfully tried to make it to the shrine.
The two women, who reached Pamba at around 4 am, faced massive protests from devotees at Apachimedu and Marakootam, about one km from the 'Sannidhanam' (temple complex), as they were being escorted by police.
Ayyappa devotees surged in large numbers to the narrow pathway while the women were being escorted, and there was a minor scuffle with the police for over an hour.
Police tried to evict the pilgrims who shouted "go back" and chanted Ayyappa mantras and a tense situation prevailed with the restive devotees showing no signs of backing off.
Seeing the growing number of protesters, including young children and to prevent the situation from getting out of hand, the women were advised to return by the police.
The women were earlier stopped at Appachimedu, a place en route Sabarimala, by protesters, who were later evicted by police.
The BJP also held a protest in front of the houses of the two women against their attempt to trek the hill.
Amid reports that Kandakdurga had complained of uneasiness and that she had fainted, Bindu told reporters that it was only a "ploy" to stall their progress to Sabarimala and there was nothing wrong with her.
Bindu alleged the police had forcibly prevented them from reaching the shrine.
Both the women, who trekked nearly 4.5 km, were taken to a hospital in an ambulance for a medical check-up.
Earlier, Bindu told reporters that "our demand is that government implement the September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court. We should be allowed to go to the shrine. We have not done any wrong and are not doing anything illegal."
The women had claimed they had not sought police protection, but it was the responsibility of police to provide security.
"We have not asked for police protection. The Supreme Court has given a verdict. So it is the government's duty to help us climb the hills", Bindu said.
Since the top court verdict, no women in the 10-50 age group, who are traditionally barred from entering the shrine, have been able to enter the 'sannidhanam' and offer worship to the presiding deity Lord Ayyappa, who is a "Naishtika Brahmachari" (perennial celibate).
Kerala had witnessed massive protests by devotees opposing the entry of girls and women in the 10-50 age group into the shrine after the CPI(M)-led LDF government decided to implement the top court verdict allowing all women to offer prayers at the temple.
The main opposition Congress-led UDF and BJP are opposing the entry of young women, saying they are with the devotees.
Four transgenders recently offered prayers at the temple while the attempt by over a dozen young women have been foiled by protesting devotees so far.
The two-month long pilgrim season at the Sabarimala Temple began on November 16 and the first phase will end on December 27.
The shrine has been witnessing heavy rush of pilgrims since the past few days.