Two young women entered the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala under police cover in the early hours of Wednesday, triggering anti-government protests across the State.
The women in their 40s — Bindu from Kozhikode and Kanakadurga from Malappuram — reached the foothills around 1.30 a.m. at Pampa, from where they were escorted to the temple by plainclothes policemen. This is the first time that women in the 10-50 age group have managed to enter the temple following the Supreme Court verdict of September 28.
Protesters owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar and Bharatiya Janata Party took to the streets, blocked roads, threw stones and clashed with the police, leading to tense situations at several places. The Sabarimala Karma Samithi has called for a Statewide dawn-to-dusk hartal on Thursday.
CM confirms darshan
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan later confirmed the entry of the two women. “Yes, they have had darshan.” The temple chief priest, Kandararu Rajeevararu, closed the sanctum sanctorum at 10.35 a.m. to perform ‘purification’ rites in the wake of the official confirmation of the entry of the two young women. The temple reopened after the hour-long rites.
Both the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP came out against the government, accusing it of “masterminding” the operation and “hurting” the religious sentiments of Ayyappa devotees.
Alleging that the government was behind the “violation of the temple traditions”, the BJP announced that it would support the hartal on Thursday.
The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee too has decided to observe a ‘black day’ on Thursday, protesting against the government for allegedly violating the ritualistic practices at Sabarimala and “hurting religious sentiments.”
Taking strong exception to the Tantri’s decision to close the temple, Travancore Devaswom Board president A. Padmakumar said the purification rituals were held without obtaining the board’s consent.
Left Democratic Front leaders including Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Tantri’s decision was a violation of the court verdict allowing women of all age groups to enter the temple. The Tantri said the rites were required as “tradition was violated.”