On Saturday afternoon, panic ensued in Kerala after reports said that 10 women in the age group of 10 to 50 had reached Pamba and were on the way to Sabarimala. Reports said they were part of a larger group of men and women who'd come from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh as part of a pilgrimage.
However, from Pamba, only the women above 50 years of age headed towards the temple, accompanying the men.
Some media reports say that the 10 women were stopped by the police and counselled about the age restrictions and traditions of the temple. The police, however, denied this when TNM called the Pamba station. “It is not true that the police counselled them or sent them away. Everyone is aware of the Supreme Court verdict and the entry restrictions of women at Sabrimala Temple. There was no need to counsel them. They just didn’t know up to where they were allowed to come. As soon as they realised they had reached the point of no entry, they went away on their own,” the Pamba CI said.
The temple has been in a year-long controversy, following a Supreme Court verdict allowing all women entry. The Kerala government complied with the SC verdict and made efforts to implement it.
However, a recent Supreme Court decision referring the case to a 7-bench judge, has given pause to the government. The government has given instructions to the police not to allow entry of women in the 10-50 age group to the temple, seeking more clarity in the Supreme Court's decision.
The government had earlier supported the entry of the women, after the previous Supreme Court verdict allowed it in September 2018. The whole state had erupted, with sections of the public and politicians opposing the entry of women in the previously restricted age group, citing tradition. The government had then said it had to implement the SC's verdict and given police protection to the women who came for darshan. However, most of these women could not embark on the pilgrimage, following commotion and mob protests. Only two women -- Bindu and Kanakadurga -- had managed to enter the temple and create history, and this was opposed by many, especially right wing parties.
A 5-judge bench on Thursday, in a 3:2 majority judgment, kept pending the Sabarimala review petitions and transferred the larger issue of essential religious practices to a 7-judge Supreme Court bench. However, since the Supreme Court has not explicitly stated that a stay has been imposed on its 2018 judgement, legal experts told TNM that it means women of all ages can continue to enter the Sabarimala temple.
Meanwhile, a civil police officer, CK Biju, died after collapsing while being on duty at Sabarimala. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condoled the death of the officer of the Malabar Special Police, a paramilitary unit of the state police.