A New York Times journalist named Suhasini Raj climbed part-way up the Sabarimala hill on Thursday morning. Suhasini who was apparently climbing the hill to report on the story, made it up to Marakkoottam, which is only a few kilometres away from the sanctum sanctorum or the Sannidhanam. Initially, a 15-member-strong group of protesters from Ayyappa Dharma Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parsidhad at Appachimedu near Marakkoottam began shouting at her.
The crowd swelled and continued heckling her as she continued up the hill and approached Marakkoottam, effectively forcing Suhasini, clad in a purple and red kurta with hair tightly pulled back, to decide to stop proceeding any further on the trek to the temple. She has currently just returned from Marakkootam to Pampa accompanied by policemen.
Suhasini reportedly told protesters gathered at the base of the hill that she was 50 years old, but they remained suspicious and understood at some point along her journey that she was below the age of 50.
Marakkoottam is a place where the two routes to the shrine intersect. Pilgrims need to trek a few kilometres from here to reach the shrine.
A male journalist from Asianet present at the site reports that protesters who spotted Suhasini were chanting âSwami Ayyappaâ and then hurling abuses at her in practically the same breath. Protesters also formed a human wall or chain to prevent her from proceeding further, while a group fifty policemen watched helpless.
Kamalesh from Asianet who had covered Suhasini's journey told the channel, "The devotees were shouting at the police for bringing her, they were shouting at us for covering it. They were very abusive and finally a large crowd gathered on the path below her. This is when her male counterpart said it wasn't safe to go further. People shouted at her even as she was going down. I believe that one of her parents is a Malayali."
The police reportedly did offer to accompany Suhasini to Sannidhanam but a friend or colleague accompanying her, clad in a light brown shirt, who does not appear to be Indian or of Indian origin, reportedly said that there was no point in climbing the hill in such circumstances, and the two decided not to undertake the risk and to descend the hill instead. Suhasini later told the media that she did not wish to hurt anyone's sentiments.
Suhasini Raj is currently the only woman between 10 and 50 years who has made it to the furthest up Sabarimala Hill. The other woman between 10 and 50 who attempted to climb the hill on Wednesday, Andhra Pradesh native Madhavi, did not manage to ascend as far up the hill as Suhasini has.
Suhasini is currently at the Pamba police station with top police officers.