Hours after armed, slogan-shouting crowds attacked the media over women's entry to Sabarimala temple, the police lathicharged the mob at Nilakkal, the base from where the trek to the hilltop shrine begins. The protesters are supporting the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of reproductive age to the temple, which was overturned by the Supreme Court last week. This evening, the temple opened its doors to women.
But few women have been able to reach the temple. Since morning, protesters have been flexing muscles at Nilakkal, the base from where the trek to the hilltop shrine begins. Others held fort at Pamba, several kilometers up the winding track to the shrine.
At Nilakkal, the last stop for buses carrying pilgrims, protesters had been combing the buses and intimidating women. News agency ANI said reporter Ayushmaan Kumar was attacked at the Nilakkal base camp. All of this had been taking place in front of the police, eyewitnesses said.
Kerala: ANI reporter Ayushmaan Kumar was attacked by protesters at Nilakkal base camp when he was taking the pictures of women checking the buses for women devotees. Police was also present at the spot when the attack took place. #SabarimalaTemple— ANI (@ANI) October 17, 2018
In Pamba, the protesters went on rampage, attacking women reporters and vandalising television vans. All of this took place in presence of the police, who at one point, was seen taking cover from the stone-throwing protesters. NDTV was blocked, heckled and forced to leave in the middle of a live telecast and their cameras snatched as the crew tried to capture the attack.
In the evening, the police hit back with a baton charge at the protesters at Nilakkal. Fifty protesters -- including former Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan - were detained and taken into custody. Activist Rahul Easwar was arrested and a First Information Report has been filed against him under non-bailable sections.
Apologising for the attack on journalists, Rahul Easwar said, "I didn't hit any woman... I was moving to the other direction. It's a vendetta against me".