Kochi: Ending an over 12-hour-long stand-off with devotees opposing the entry of women in the menstrual age group into Sabarimala temple, a team of gender rights activists led by Trupti Desai called off Tuesday night their decision to visit the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa.
Desai announced the decision to go back to Maharashtra after police, citing security reasons, denied them protection amid protests by devotees, members of a right wing outfit and BJP here, against their entry into the shrine.
“We had discussions with the police officers of the Kochi police Commissionerate. Police told us that there is a threat to our life and will be insecure here. So we decided to go back but we will return to Sabarimala. We will continue our fight,” Desai told reporters.
Desai also condemned the attack on activist Bindu Ammini, allegedly by a Hindu right wing activist outside the office of the Commissionerate.
Desai reached here early Tuesday along with five others to proceed to the Sabarimala temple to offer prayers. She had earlier announced that she would leave Kerala only after visiting Sabarimala.
The Kerala government dubbed Desai’s attempt to visit Sabarimala as a ‘conspiracy’.
As soon as the team of activists landed at the airport here, they went to the city Police Commissionerate seeking protection to proceed to the hill shrine. However, police declined to grant protection to them, citing the recent Supreme Court decision to review its 2018 order permitting women in all age groups into Sabarimala.
A large number of Ayyappa devotees, activists of the BJP and Sabarimala Karma Samiti gathered outside the Commissionerate chanting ‘’Ayyappa Saranam’’ mantras protesting against Desai’s visit.
Activist from Kerala, Bindu Ammini, who had joined Desai’s team at the airport, was attacked by a right wing group member using pepper spray when she came out of the office of the commissioner to take some papers from their vehicle, police sources said.
Visuals aired by TV channels showed her being attacked. The man identified as Srinath Padmanabhan has been arrested, police said. He has been charged with a non-bailable offence, they added.
The Pune-based Desai had made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the temple in November last year, weeks after the Supreme Court lifted the ban that prevented women and girls between the age of 10 and 50 from entering the famous shrine.
Reacting cautiously, the CPI(M)-led LDF government condemned the attack on Ammini but made it clear that no women in the age group of 10 and 50 would be given police protection to climb the holy hills unless they get an order from the Supreme Court in this regard.