The Kerala police on Saturday sent back 10 women aged between 10 and 50 while they were heading towards the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala to offer prayers, according to news agency ANI. The women had come from Andhra Pradesh but were sent back forcefully as they reached Pamba near Sabrimala. The Lord Ayyappa Temple opened for the two-month long pilgrim season on Saturday at 5 pm. Entry of women above the age of 10 years into the Sabarimala was banned until the Surpeme Court, in a landmark verdict removed the ban.
However, several groups, including the temple authorities, had protested against the top court judgment and vowed not to allow women of manstruating age enter into the temple.
The opening of the temple for Mandala Pooja festival comes just two days after the Supreme Court deferred the verdict on the review petition challenging its order allowing entry of women of all ages in the temple. Supreme Court did not stay its previous order which means women of all age groups will be allowed to enter the temple. However, no protection will be given to the women.
Meanwhile, women rights activist Trupti Desai, who has been a vehement critic of the restriction on the entry of women of a certain age group, said she will be visiting the temple after November 20 regardless of whether or not she is provided security cover.
What is the Sabarimala issue?
The Tranvancore Devaswom Board has, since 1951, restricted the entry of women of menstrual age, i.e. between 10 years and 50 years, from entering the Sabarimala temple. On September 28, 2018 the Supreme Court opened the temple to women of all ages. However, massive protests were witnessed on 17 October 2018 when the temple was opened for the first time after the Supreme Court verdict.
Protesters reportedly assaulted women activists, journalists, and other women who were trying to enter the temple. Meanwhile, a review petition was filed against the September 2018 order. A five-judge bench of the apex court, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, referred the issues to a larger bench, to consider the limits of the powers of the apex court in deciding conflicts between religion and other rights.
According to sources, Kerala government has decided that the police will not be providing protection to women activists visiting the Sabarimala temple. Several ministers in the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet have said that law and order must be maintained and "women activists should be kept away from the Sabarimala temple".