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Two Kerala women stopped metres from Sabarimala temple; police lathi-charge protesters

Earlier on Sunday, 11 women, all from Tamil Nadu, had come to Pamba base camp ready for a trek to the shrine to pray to Lord Ayyappa, but were stopped by protesters.

SNS | New Delhi |

Two Kerala women devotees in the banned age group were stopped barely one kilometre from the Sabarimala temple on Monday by thousands of protesters, who had to be lathi-charged by the police as tension broke out here.

The incident comes a day after 11 women from Tamil Nadu had to be sent back in the face of steep protests mounted by traditional Lord Ayyappa devotees.

Trouble broke out early on Monday, when police accompanying the two women clashed with angry pilgrims after they created hurdles for the two women devotees, who are below the age of 50, from proceeding ahead for their ‘darshan’.

The police had to resort to lathi-charge and shield Bindu from Malappuram and Kanaka Durga from Kannur as angry Ayyappa devotees chanted slogans and approached them menacingly.

The 100-men from the police team managed to take the two up the pathway but have been stuck since 8 a.m. about one kilometre from the shrine as more than a thousand pilgrims have created a wall, chanting Ayyappa hymns and shouting slogans — determined not to allow the two to go any further.

The policemen shielding the women are waiting for more police force to arrive before they move forward.

Earlier on Sunday, 11 women, all from Tamil Nadu, had come to Pamba base camp ready for a trek to the shrine to pray to Lord Ayyappa. The women were adamant that they won’t return without offering prayers.

Read | Sabarimala: Protesters force 11 women from Tamil Nadu to retreat from Pamba

Their arrival sparked a fresh round of protests by devotees prompting the police to increase security in the area.

Hundreds of angry protesters kept chanting slogans and sang hymns to Lord Ayyappa asking the women to retreat.

“We will give our lives to protect the customs and traditions of the Sabarimala temple. Under no circumstances will these women be allowed to go up the hill,” said angry pilgrims.

Even the priests refused to prepare the holy kit that is carried on the pilgrims head, following which the women prepare it on their own.

Sabarimala has been witnessing protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, including those from the hitherto banned age group.

Around three dozen women from that particular age group have already tried and failed to go up the pathway leading to the temple after the top court’s verdict, following protest from the Ayyappa devotees.

The present two month long pilgrim season began on November 16 and compared to the previous ones have seen an uneasy calm. The number of pilgrims has dwindled drastically and temple revenues have also dipped.

The Supreme Court has twice declined to stay its September 28 verdict. It has however, agreed to hear all the review petitions on January 22.