At the end of the fifth day of the Sabarimala gates being opened for the first time since the historic Supreme Court verdict allowing all women entry into the temple, the situation in the areas around Pamba continues to be tense. On Sunday – like the four preceding days – women aged between 10 and 50 years, or believed to be in this age bracket, were spotted and sent away by Ayyappa devotees.
The first such instance took place around 10 am, when two women hailing from Andhra Pradesh – Athisheshi and Vasanthi – were spotted by devotees as they began their upward climb to the temple. When devotees started crowding around the two women, the police arrived and escorted both of them to the CCTV control room near the Forest Check post in Pamba, where the police found out that they were younger than 50 years old.
Speaking to the media, IG Sreejith said that the women came from Andhra Pradesh and have been visiting different temples in Kerala. "They were not aware of the issue in Sabarimala and did not know anything about the temple. They tried to visit this temple like every other temple," said IG Sreejith. "That is why they just left for the temple without requesting for any police protection," he added.
Around 12 noon, Palamma, another women hailing from Andhra Pradesh, had reached Nadapanthal when she was stopped by devotees who demanded her identity proof. It was found that she was 46 years old following which the devotees began protesting and as the protest intensified, Palamma fainted. She was rushed to a nearby hospital immediately.
The next incident took place around 1 pm, when devotees spotted Premalatha at Marakootam and surrounded her demanding her identity proof to verify her age. She said that she was over 50 years old but she did not have any documents to prove that, following which the devotees started protesting and shouting slogans, demanding her to leave.
The police had arrived by then and escorted her all the way to the Pamba police station even as devotees followed her shouting slogans against her. Premalatha, also hails from Andhra Pradesh.
Over the last five days, over 10 women had attempted to enter the shrine. In many cases, the devotees were surrounded by protesters and sent back and in some cases, the police had said that they will not be able to provide protection for the women.
Amidst all this, nine-year-old Padmapoorni from Chennai visited Sabarimala on Sunday carrying a banner which read, "I'm 9 years old. This is my 3rd visit to Sabarimala. I will come again only after 41 years (2058)."
Speaking to the media, Padmapoorni, a Class five student said, "This is just a message from me and I'm not protesting." She also added that she does not wish to "disturb” the interests of Lord Ayyappa.