Protesters on streets, agitate over women's entry to Sabarimala temple

Sabarimala temple

Visuals of heavy security deployment near Nilakkal the base camp of Sabarimala Temple

Kerala: A woman attempted to hang herself from a tree in Thiruvananthapuram in protest against the Supreme Court's verdict over the entry of women of all age group in #SabarimalaTemple.

Chennai: A woman devotee hailing from Kollam district in Kerala was sacked from her job in a private firm after she announced her proposed pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple, which opened its doors to females of menstruating age from Wednesday following a Supreme Court order last month.

Crowds of agitated protesters in Kerala attacked female devotees, many of whom turned back as a result.

Around 1000 police personnel, 800 men and 200 women, have been deployed in Nilakkal to ensure a safe passage to the pilgrims to the Lord Ayyappa temple.

Media personnel, mostly women reporters from national news channels, on Wednesday came under violent attacks from protesters belonging to the sangh parivar and fringe groups at Nilackal, the hub of protests against the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala shrine of Lord Ayyappa.

I can predict what is going on there, I think it is intentional, it's dirty politics they (protesters) are playing.

The News Minute, an Indian digital newspaper, said reporter Saritha Balan was physically attacked while embedded with a group of devotees traveling to Sabarimala on a bus. Female journalists have also been attacked.

"We have registered three cases and seven people have been arrested", he said. She was escorted to safety by police.

State Congress working president K Sudhakaran led party workers in the protest at Nilakkal to express solidarity with believers.

Nikita Azad, who started the campaign, told the BBC at the time that there was no "right time" to go into a temple and that women should have the right to go "wherever they want to and whenever they want to".

He also alleged that the BJP-RSS was trying to create tension in the state and destroy the peaceful atmosphere for "political gains".

The BJP rejected the allegation, saying the government was responsible for the "collapse" of law and order.

The Kerala government has said it will uphold the supreme court ruling. Nilakkal and Erumeli, the two base camps for the Sabarimala pilgrimage, are located at the foothill.

The restriction reflected an old but still prevalent belief among many that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that the deity Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate. Until then girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age were not permitted to pray at the hill temple.

Wednesday is the first day that the temple, set on top of a hill in the Western Ghats mountain range, will open since the court order. 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.

A couple from Tamil Nadu, aged 45 and 40, on their way to Pamba, were forced to get down from the KSRTC bus Monday night allegedly by some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.

The BJP and its NDA partners have backed a 12-hour "hartal" called by Sabarimala Action Council to protest the police action against devotees. The protesters also used abusive slogans against her, laced with Aiyyappa chants.

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