A day before it opened, the Union Home Ministry had warned the governments of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to make adequate security arrangements at the Sabarimala Temple, Republic TV has ascertained from an internal security note. The note has been accessed on Friday, shortly after two women made it within metres of the Sabarimala Temple in the morning but were forced to return after an hours-long deliberation between multiple groups.
The note is addressed to the Chief Secretaries of the three states as well as their Director Generals of Police. It states the requirement of adequate security measures, and also gives a background as to why there would be such a requirement, including descriptions of the groups that intended to oppose the entry of women aged 10-50 to the shrine for the first time in centuries.
The note concludes: All necessary precautionary measures may be taken to maintain law and order and appropriate security arrangements may be made to prevent any untoward incident.
Here is the note, accessed by Republic TV's Priyanka Sharma:
Just a day after the note was issued, when the Temple doors opened for the month and for the first time since the Supreme Court upheld the right to pray of women aged 10-50 who were earlier not allowed within the Temple premises, women and women journalists were confronted with mobs of men and obstructed from proceeding to the temple. Republic TV's South Bureau Chief Pooja Prasanna and her crew was attacked by a 100-strong mob, and faced repeated violence and intimidation through the day. A number of other women journalists were also attacked. It was much later in the day that the police acted, lathi-charging protestors -- this despite Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan's assurance that arrangements would bee made. As a result, no women made it to the Temple on the first day, only managing to begin the ascent starting Thursday morning when the Police began to escort them.
On Friday, two women, journalist Kavitha Jakkal of Hyderabad-based Mojo TV and activist Rehana Fatima, undertook the trek up from Pamba base camp towards the temple, crossing the 1 km mark that a New York Times journalist had made it to a day earlier, and making it to within 500m of the Temple doors at which point they were blocked by devotees. They were accompanied by a 250-police personnel-strong contingent led by Kerala IG S Sreejith. The IG held discussions with those opposing the women's passage, even as the devotees blocked their path and chanted slogans. Even as ministers of the Kerala government, the state's Governor and DGP held their own deliberations over whether or not to proceed, it was the Temple's priest who took matters into his own hands. As per ANI Sabarimala Temple head priest Kandarary Rajeevaru said:
"We have decided to lock the temple and handover the keys and leave. I stand with the devotees. I don't have any other option."
In response to this, the Kerala IG said to ANI:
"We had brought them till temple premises but tantri & priest refused to open the temple for them. While we were waiting, tantri informed me that if we attempt to take the women ahead they would close the temple. It's a ritualistic disaster. We took them up to the temple & gave them protection but 'darshan' is something which can be done with consent of priest. We will give them whatever protection they want."
A short while later, another woman was blocked and had to return to base camp.
The regional BJP, which has also protested against the entry of women in the Sabarimala Temple, has taken exception to activists attempting to make it to the Temple.