Woman begins climbing Sabarimala hill amid protests

A motorcycle rally joined protests against the lifting of ban by Supreme Court

A motorcycle rally joined protests against the lifting of ban by Supreme Court

The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala was meant to allow women from Wednesday following an order last month by India's highest court.

The disheartened female journalist started descending the hills amid protests.

Suhasini Raj is now the woman between 10 and 50 years who has made it the furthest up Sabarimala Hill. Marakoottam is nearly 3/4th the way up but as the protestors created a human wall making it hard for her to proceed, she had to return.

Protesters who spotted Suhasini were chanting "Swami Ayyappa" and then hurling the choicest of abuses at her in practically the same breath.

Pathanamthitta district collector P B Nooh has imposed Section 144 of CrPC, prohibiting all kinds of unlawful assembly, at Nilackal, Pamba, Elavunkal and Sannidhanam for the next two days following the law and order situation in Sabarimala. Hordes of activists of Hindu fringe groups fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.

The Supreme Court had on September 28 ruled that women did have a right to visit the temple.

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The shrine of Lord Ayyappa, traditionally closed to women of menstruating age between 10 and 50 years, opens its doors to women today after following Supreme Court verdict last month. A female reporter was also forced to get down from the bus. Protesters combed buses, stopped women from going near the temple, attacked journalists, vandalised media vehicles and threw stones at the 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.

Kerala's tourism minister K Surendran appealed to protesters not to "convert this holy land into a battlefield".

Madhavi, who was accompanied by her parents and children, began the climb leading to the hilltop temple hours before its opening for the monthly puja rituals. The BJP rejected the allegation, saying the government was responsible for the "collapse" of law and order. Carrying "Irumudikettu" (the sacred bundle containing ghee-filled coconuts they offer to the deity), they calmly walked past security personnel to take their place in the long queue where they would wait for hours on end for a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa.

The chief priest of the Sabarimala temple, 25-year-old Kandararu Maheshwararu Tantri, warned earlier this week that widespread "anger could easily escalate into violence if a few egotistical women try to enter". Though many women tried, but none from this age group could make it to the famed hilltop shrine.

The Sabarimala shrine opened on Thursday morning after a day of ugliness outside its walls.

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