Eleven women, part of a fifty-member group, from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal decided to undertake the Sabarimala pilgrimage as a large group on Saturday. This after more than a dozen women, between 10 and 50 age groups could not enter the temple since the Supreme Court's September 28 verdict, allowing all women to enter Sabarimala.
Hundreds of protesters are camping today at the Pamba base camp, raising Ayappa slogans, in a bid to block the women from starting their walk to the shrine.
"The police should back off if they can't take us to the shrine," said Selvi, who is from a Tamilnadu-based women's empowerment group. Alleging that the protesters are right-wing groups and not genuine devotees, Selvi said, "They are RSS members. Look at the devotees; they quietly go to the shrine. We are Lord Ayyappa's sisters, let us in and don't block us".
Meanwhile, the police are waiting for instructions from seniors. "It's a sensitive issue and we are waiting for instructions," an officer told NDTV.
In the past, the chief priest of the temple had told the Kerala government that he would shut down the temple if there was any breach of tradition. "The Kerala Chief Minister had given a fitting reply that the temple is not a petty shop owned by the chief priest," Selvi told NDTV.
Kalimuthu, a protester denied the allegations. He says, "Women should respect the traditions. The court should not have interfered in this. Let's see what the top court will say when it hears the review petition in January."
Both the national parties - the BJP and the Congress - are on the same page on the Sabarimala issue. Though the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan government says, it's committed to enforce the Supreme Court order, many claim the state's actions doesn't reflect its determination as it's worried about the impact on the vote bank.