Sabarimala: Women devotees forced to turn back fearing violence

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Social activist Rahul Easwar on Wednesday said that the believers of the old age tradition will stage a peaceful protest to stop women from entering the temple premises.

Chaos and mayhem ruled supreme on the road leading from Nilakkal, the gateway to the shrine, to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees start the arduous trek to Sabarimala, as activists of Hindu fringe groups fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.

Madhavi, 40, a devotee from Andhra Pradesh, tried to enter Sabarimala temple on Wednesday but had to drop her plans and return after protestors heckled and attacked her from entering the shrine, as per local reports. High tension is prevailing at the temple.

TNM reporter Saritha S Balan was in a bus with other journalists when 20 people surrounded the vehicle and made her get down.

On a day marked by protests, scuffles and stone-throwing, troublemakers ignored police warnings and ran riot in Nilakkal and Pamba, two important sites where devotees gather before trekking to the temple in the Western Ghats.

Liby, a woman from Kerala's Alappuzha, also in the "banned" age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal. The police moved her to their vehicle to save her from the wrath of the devotees.

Supporters of the ban have been angered by the state government's decision not to seek a review of the Supreme Court's ruling.

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State Devaswom Minister, Kadakampally Surendran, who held a review meeting at Sannidhanam (temple complex) on the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku-festival beginning from November 17, said the government would face the agitation politically. Would you want your mother and sister attacked.

The BJP rejected the allegation, saying the government was responsible for the "collapse" of law and order. Kerala's CPM-led government has blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP's ideological mentor, for the violence.

The gate of the temple likely to open by 5 pm today.

Journalists also took out a protest march to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram condemning the attacks on media and demanding action against the attackers.

They were outraged by the Sabarimala temple chief's statement that he would allow women to enter only after a machine was invented to detect if they were "pure" - meaning that they weren't menstruating. On Tuesday, devotees took to the streets to "screen" vehicles and prevent girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50 from visiting the holy Hindu shrine.

The temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam. Fearing a flare-up, the district administration imposed restrictions prohibiting the gathering of more than four people under Section 144 of CrPC in trouble-hit areas, including Nilakkal and Pamba. The tents of the protestors under Achara Samrakshana Samithi were cleared by the police.

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