Thiruvananthapuram: Tension continues to brew in some parts of Kerala ahead of the opening of the ancient Sabarimala Temple for monthly prayers on Wednesday evening with devotees opposing the Supreme Court order stepping up protests. Also Read - 'Avoid Coming to Sabarimala,' Urges Temple Board as More Coronavirus Cases Surface in Kerala
The angry protesters targeted women media persons who had gone to cover the protests near the Sabarimala Temple and even vandalised their vehicles. According to reports, women journalists from at least four media organisations were targeted in presence of police who stood as mere spectators. Also Read - Sabarimala Temple Issue: Nine-judge Bench of Supreme Court to Hear Matter From Jan 13
The journalists were forced to get out of the vehicles by the crowd of men, protesting against the apex court order lifting the ban on entry of women in the age group of 10-50 to enter the famous hill temple of Lord Ayyappa at nearby Sabarimala. Police intervened and escorted them to safety. Also Read - Woman Activist Who Entered Sabarimala Attacked Outside Top Cop's Office in Kochi
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The National Commission of Women (NCW) took cognisance of the attack on women journalists and demanded strict action against the agitators inciting violence.
In another incident, a woman reporter of an English online media organisation was asked to get down from a state-owned KSRTC bus.
Meanwhile, with the protesters swelling up near the Sabarimala Temple, police stepped up action and drove off the agitating protesters from Nilakkal and Pamba.
Earlier, two women devotees could not proceed to the shrine in wake of the protests.
Unfazed by violent protests, Madhavi, a gutsy woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to climb the Sabarimala hills to reach the Lord Ayyappa temple but was forced to return to Pamba, menaced by agitated male devotees. She had to be escorted back by police.
Hundreds of policemen could be seen in Pamba, Nilackal and Erumeli–the important landmarks on way to Sabarimala. According to reports, some cops, including a senior official, were injured in a scuffle with the protesters near the Sabarimala Temple.
Some people were taken into custody by police at Nilakkal for staging protests against the decision to allow women in the menstruating age into the Ayyappa shrine.
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behera said in Thiruvananthapuram that no one would be allowed to disturb the law and order situation in the state.
Liby, a woman from Kerala’s Alappuzha, also in the “banned” age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal. She was escorted to safety by police.
Both the Congress, the main opposition party in Kerala, and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict.
A group of BJP leaders held ‘namajapa’ (prayer) meeting at Pamba soon after police removed the members of tantri (head priest) family and Pandalam royals, the custodian of the shrine, who were protesting against the government’s decision to enforce the top court’s order.
BJP state general secretaries, K Surendran, M T Ramesh and Shobha Surendran were among those present.
They alleged the police removed the members of the tantri and royal families without any provocation.
State Congress working president K Sudhakaran led his party workers in a protest at Nilakkal to express solidarity with Ayyappa devotees.
The shrine located on the mountain ranges of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats opens later in the evening for the first time after the recent Supreme Court order.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said no one would be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala.
Groups of women devotees including senior citizens, clad in traditional sarees, had stopped each and every vehicle at Nilakkal Tuesday.
Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get off them Tuesday.
Very few police personnel were present when the incidents happened.
Protesting women had said no women belonging to the banned age group of 10-50 will be allowed to travel further from Nilakkal and offer worship at the shrine.
The temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam.
The Supreme Court had on September 28 passed a historic judgement lifting the ban on entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the temple, a verdict that was hailed by rights activists but opposed by traditionalists.