500 metres away from Sabarimala temple, 2 women asked to turn back

“I can proudly say that I am a winner. I will come back again, after some days,” said Kavitha Jakkala, a Hyderabad journalist who was asked to return.
500 metres away from Sabarimala temple, 2 women asked to turn back
500 metres away from Sabarimala temple, 2 women asked to turn back
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Two women who set out to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Kerala's Sabarimala temple had to return after they were stopped 500 metres away from the steps.

24-year-old journalist Kavitha Jakkala, a Hyderabad-based news anchor, along with a three-member crew, had set out on Friday morning up the Sabarimala hill, accompanied by Inspector General Sreejith and 80 policemen. She was later joined by another woman, identified as Rehana Fathima from Ernakulam.

They had almost reached the sanctum sanctorum when they were stopped and the police were instructed not to take them any further.

A group of devotees had staunchly protested against the women entering the temple. Though IG Sreejith, who had accompanied the two women, spoke to the crowd twice, he could not convince them to disperse.

The Kerala government then stepped in, informing the Director General of Police that it was not right to hurt the sentiments of devotees and insisted that the women should not be allowed to enter, since they are activists and not devotees.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampalli Surendran informed the Director General of Police that the temple was not a place for activism and that it would be irresponsible for the police team to take the women further. "Two activists have reached near the temple, it is not possible for us to identify each person. The government's interest is to protect the interests of the devotees. Sabarimala is not a place for you to prove the power of your activism. I plead to all activists to not misuse the judgment like this. If true devotees come, the government is committed to take them to the sannidhanam. The government is not responsible for providing security to activists," he said.

The government seems to have arrived at the decision keeping in mind two factors: The protests by devotees at the sannidhanam; and the fact that Rehana had made a controversial post a few days ago on social media which had created much anger.

Meanwhile, the temple priests paused their daily rituals and came out of the temple. They sat at the base of the 18 steps leading up to the temple protesting against women’s entry inside. The Thantri family and the Pandalam royal family threatened to close down the temple doors if the women proceeded.

IG Sreejith then held discussions with the two women for over half an hour. According to reports, one of the women seemed determined to go ahead. Later, after IG Sreejith spoke to them, both women agreed to go back.

Speaking to the media, Sreejith stated, “The women have expressed their willingness to return as long as we give them protection until they reach their homes. The Sabarimala Thantri informed me that if women came near the sannidhanam (sanctum sanctorum), he would close the temple. We will provide the women security and take them back safely,” adding that the government's decision was conveyed to the women.

As Kavitha and Rehana were being escorted back to safety amid tight police protection, protesters along the route hooted and booed while chanting 'Swami Saranam Ayyappa.'

Kavitha became the first woman between the ages of 10 to 50 to come closest to the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple on Friday before she turned back. Speaking to the media, Kavitha said, “I can proudly say that I am a winner. I will come back again, after some days."

On Wednesday, NYT journalist Suhasini Raj came within a few kilometres of the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple and was forced to turn around after an angry mob pushed her back and hurled abuses at her.

Suhasini was climbing the hill to report on the story and had made it up to Marakkoottam, which is only a few kilometres away from the sanctum sanctorum or the Sannidhanam of Sabarimala. However, a large group of protesters from the Ayyappa Dharma Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at Appachimedu near Marakkoottam began shouting at her.

The police reportedly did offer to accompany Suhasini to Sannidhanam but later told the media that she did not wish to hurt anyone's sentiments.

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