Unfazed By Protests, 2 Women Head To Sabarimala Shrine Amid Security
Two women, a journalist and a devotee, have started walking towards the Sabarimala temple with heavy police escort amid a sea of protestors who are determined to stop them from reaching the hilltop temple of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala. They are likely to reach the temple in an hour.
Today is the third day since the temple opened after the Supreme Court last month overturned a centuries-old ban on women between 10 and 50 years entering Sabarimala.
Not a single woman between 10 and 50 years has managed to enter the temple since Wednesday.
One of the women, Kavitha, who started the trek today surrounded by at least a hundred policemen, is a journalist with Mojo TV in Hyderabad.
The other woman, a Kochi resident, in black clothes and carrying the traditional prayer kit offered to Lord Ayyappa, is walking separately with heavy police escort. If she reached the temple and climbed the last 18 steps or Pathinetaa Padi at the temple, she will create history by becoming the first woman of menstruating age to enter the temple.
Both started the 4.6-km climb from the base camp Pamba. Senior police officer IG Sreejith is leading the police teams that are escorting the two women. The police said they will ensure safe passage to the women all the way to the temple.
Eyewitnesses said some protestors have started moving towards the two women, and a large number of protestors are already dug in at the temple's gate.
Protests by devotees for the last two days to block women of menstruating age from entering the temple have led to violence at the base camps. Reporters were attacked, their vehicles damaged, and women who started the long climb forced to turn back with threats and intimidation.
On Thursday morning, two journalists of the New York Times who tried to reach the temple had to return after protestors blocked their way.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said no one would be allowed to stop women devotees of menstruating age from going to Sabarimala.