Days after the Kerala government tried submitting in the Supreme Court a list of "over 50 women who entered the Sabarimala temple" since its September order allowing all women of menstrual age into the shrine, the state assembly was told that only two women managed to do so.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran informed the Kerala assembly today that only two women of reproductive age had offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa shrine. He quoted a report of the temple executive officer this time.
The minister was responding to a question on the number of women in the age group of 10-50 years entering the temple after the September 28 verdict.
In January, Kanaka Durga, 42, and 44-year-old Bindu Ammini had walked into the shrine before dawn. The duo were escorted by the police. But their entry led to protests and the two women were threatened. Kanaka Durga was also attacked allegedly by her mother-in-law.
The Kerala Police was told to provide round-the-clock security to the two women after they approached the Supreme Court seeking protection.
When asked about the 47-year-old Sri Lankan woman who had also visited the Lord Ayyappa shrine, Mr Surendran said there was no confirmation yet.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government had tried to file an affidavit in the top court on January 18, saying 51 women of menstrual age had entered the temple during the annual pilgrim season, but the top court had refused to accept it.
The affidavit had said that over 16 lakh devotees registered online to enter Sabarimala and of them 7,500 were women in the age group of 10 to 50 years.
"Around 51 women in the age bracket of 10 and 50 years had utilised the online facility and reached Sabarimala using virtual queue tickets. We could confirm this through their Aadhaar details. We don't have any provision to verify the age of devotees," Mr Surendran had explained on how the government reached the number.
However, controversy erupted after some women on the list were above 50 years of age and at least one of them turned out to be a man.
The annual pilgrimage season witnessed widespread protests by right-wing groups as well as the BJP and Congress over the Left government's decision to implement the Supreme Court's verdict.