Section 144 was imposed and Save Sabarimala’ campaigner Rahul Easwar was arrested on a tumultuous Wednesday in Nilakkal, Kerala, as protesters of the Supreme Court verdict attacked women journalists on their way to Sabarimala Temple.
As the temple threw its doors open to devotees on 17 October, hundreds took to the streets leading to the shrine located in Pamba to prevent women devotees within the age group of 10 to 50 from entering the temple.
A Supreme Court verdict had paved the way for all women, who were earlier banned, to enter the temple.
Easwar, a member of the Thantri family of Sabarimala and president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, was detained by the Kerala Police. He has been leading the protests under a campaign called ‘Save Sabarimala’.
Easwar’s arrest was confirmed by his wife, Deepa Vijayan.
According to Republic TV, whose journalist was attacked by the protesters, Easwar’s wife said that there was no violence and her husband merely questioned three women cops who went beyond Pamba despite the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s assurance.
Easwar told the media on Wednesday that no one will be stopped forcefully and that the devotees would chant prayers and not protest.
“We, the devotees, would stand here very peacefully and pray, following Gandhian ways. We hope that the Devaswom Board and the ministers will hear our prayer,” he was quoted as saying by The News Minute.
But several women were stopped at many parts around Sabarimala. The mob forced the women to retreat and attacked female journalists of a number of TV channels.
The mob reportedly vandalised vehicles and clashed with the police, who tried to stop the mob from causing damage.
Reports say that the activists belong to the BJP, Congress and Hindu groups. Even though the Police tried to calm the protesters, they pelted stones prompting a lathi-charge.
A bus carrying journalists among other passengers was vandalised at Laka near Nilakkal base camp by protesters this evening. Stones were pelted on the bus.
Kerala Minister for Industries and Sports EP Jayarajan said that 10 media personnel, 5 devotees and 15 policemen were attacked and 10 KSRTC buses were damaged.
He accused RSS for the attacks.
“RSS criminals hid in forests and attacked the Ayappa devotees. Devotees from other states were beaten up and sent back. RSS-BJP is behind all of this,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.
The minister reaffirmed that the state government is just following and implementing the Supreme Court order.
Earlier today, at least 50 people including former Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan were taken into custody in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district for protesting against the entry of women into the shrine.
Talks between the Travancore Dewasom Board and the Pandalam royal family, the head priest and the Ayyappa Sewa Sangh earlier on Tuesday had failed to find a solution.
The temple, meanwhile, opened its portals for monthly rituals at 5 pm. A sea of devotees began trickling inside the temple to offer prayers to the deity, Lord Ayappa. Devotees can offer prayers till 10.30 pm today.