Sabarimala row: Protesters return as Trupti refuses to budge



Right wing activists returned to resume their protests at the Kochi City Police Commissioner's office on learning that Trupti Desai and her six-member team had stayed put there, refusing to return to depart from the city without offering prayers at the Sabarimala temple, despite a 12-hour standoff.

The activists had earlier called off the protest after the police assured them that she would be sent off and won't attempt to visit Sabarimala.

She and her team after arriving at the Kochi airport around 5 a.m. drove to the Kochi Police Commissioner's office and sought protection to visit the temple, located about 200 km from here.

The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala has stated that it will not make any effort to ensure entry of women into the temple.

While initially, according to sources, Desai had agreed to return without praying at the temple, she has been changing her stance frequently.

The police had agreed to escort her back to the airport. But in the afternoon, Desai wanted in writing from the police that they were unable to take her to Sabarimala. When the police refused to entertain her demand, she refused to return.

If Desai remained adamant on visiting the shrine, the police might shift her to a nearby state-run women's home, sources said.

Her arrival was announced by the right wing-backed TV channel Janam. It also recorded her statement as soon as she landed at the airport. She said since the apex court had not stayed the verdict, they had come to pray at the temple.

"Today is the Constitution Day and with no stay on the entry of women, we should be allowed to pray at the temple," said Desai before entering the Commissioner's office.

Earlier in the day, terming Desai's arrival for a visit to the Sabarimala temple as a conspiracy, Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran said certain vested interests were behind her visit.

"It seems to be a scripted event and some vested interests are behind this. It's part of a conspiracy to unsettle peace in Kerala," said Surendran.

According to Surendran, even experts see lots of ambiguity in the apex court verdict that came early this month. "When the verdict came last year, the Kerala government took a position as the verdict was clear. But this time it's not clear," Surendran said.

State Culture Minister A.K. Balan said the state government would not allow anyone to break the temple tradition.

During the day, Sabarimala devotees on spotting near the Commissioner's office Bindu Ammini, one of the two women who on January 2 became the first women in the 10-50 year age group to pray at the temple, vented their anger by spraying pepper on her. She was taken to a health facility by the police for medical attention.

Srikanth, a Hindu activist, has been taken into custody by the police.

Ammini later told the media she would file a contempt petition as the state government was not implementing the apex court directive.

Though the Supreme Court, earlier in November gave a 3:2 verdict referring the Sabarimala review pleas to a larger seven-judge Bench, it maintained that it had not stayed its September 28, 2018 order allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. The temple bans entry of women in the 10-50 year age group.

Since the beginning of the two-month Sabarimala festival on November 17, seven women in the banned age group, all from outside Kerala, who sought 'darshan' were not allowed entry to the temple by the police.

Devotees returning after praying at the temple, when heard about Desai's presence, turned furious and vowed to protect the temple traditions. "We will not allow anyone to break the tradition. All these activists are trying to destroy the sanctity of this hallowed temple," said an angry pilgrim.IANS