The doors to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple opened on Wednesday for the first time after the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the hilltop shrine, however, female devotees were halted by a wall of protesters who tried to intimidate journalists and locked horns with the police.
Tension simmers even on day two of the temple being open as protesters continue to block women from entering the temple, irrespective of what the law says.
Suhasini Raj, a Delhi based woman journalist with The New York Times has reached Appachimedu on Thursday morning, the closest to the shrine a woman in the age group of 15 to 50 has reached in the last 28 years, reports suggest. She left Pamba to reach Sabarimala on Wednesday and made it a quarter of the way to Sabarimala Temple before being blocked. Raj was verbally abused by pilgrims around her. She was blocked by protesters upon reaching the halfway point during the trek. Protesters blocked her path by lying down on the ground. Police have thrown a security ring around Raj accompanied by her colleague, a foreigner.
Earlier on Wednesday, mobs had a free run, performing searches on buses for women, blocking their passage, intimidating and unleashing terrifying attacks on women journalists.
Republic TV's South Bureau Chief Pooja Prasanna was among those who were attacked. As many as 100 men surrounded her car, shoved their faces into every transparent surface, shouted obscenities and stole the equipment. Even when Pooja sat inside a police van, with nearby police personnel also quaking in their boots, their lathis snatched away by the mob. Women protesters ambushed her, grabbed her throat and hit her. News Minute's Saritha Balan also faced physical violence at the hands of a mob and recounted the tale to Republic TV, the description of the abuse and kicks she faced positively spine-chilling.
Meanwhile, Sabarimala Karma Samiti had called for a state-wide hartal which will begin from 10:30 am on Thursday against police lathi charge. BJP has also extended their support for the hartal. Ministry of Home Affairs has taken cognisance of the incidents of violence that took place in Kerala. Pathanamthitta district administration has imposed Section 144 at:
The surrounding areas of Nilakkal and Pamba witnessed numerous charges by both protesters, and belatedly, by the police. In the video accessed by Republic TV, Kerala Police was seen vandalising vehicles parked in Pamba and Nilakkal, the base camps of Sabarimala pilgrimage. Police personnel armed with lathis and shields damaging vehicles parked near the camp area. The protestors have stated their intent to keep it going for the entire duration, following which they want a review petition to be heard by the Apex court.