Massive protest rally against Sabarimala verdict in Kochi
TENSION There is opposition to activist Trupti Desai who plans to visit the hill shrine soon
Thousands of Ayyappa devotees took to the streets in Kochi on Saturday against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups into Sabarimala temple, even as activist Trupti Desai announced plans to visit the hill shrine soon.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which decided to implement the ruling, held a meeting to evaluate preparations carried out for pilgrims arriving at the temple which will open for monthly pujas on Wednesday.
Though the government has not reacted to Desai’s planned trip to the temple, it has evoked sharp reactions from devotees and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is campaigning against the entry of women into the shrine.
Sasikumar Varma, member of Padalam’s ex-royal criticised Desai and urged the social activist to refrain from making any ‘provocative’ move. He urged the Left government to take steps to prevent any law and order situation.
Desai, the ‘Bhumata Brigade’ leader, said in Mumbai that she along with a group of women will visit the temple “shortly” to offer prayers. “We will visit Sabarimala shortly. The ongoing agitation by devotees is the violation of the Supreme Court verdict. I appeal agitating devotees to welcome those women who come for worship at the hill shrine. I want to ask the Congress and the BJP whether they are against the fundamental rights of women. The parties should also explain their stand on this,” Desai said.
Holding placards bearing pictures of Lord Ayyappa and chanting hymns, protesters marched through the busy roads of Kochi, the state’s commercial hub, after launching the stir from a Shiva temple there.
Devotees, a large number of them women, urged the central and state governments to intervene in the matter to protect the sanctity of the centuries-old rituals and traditions of the shrine.
Meanwhile, the march led by BJP-headed National Democratic Alliance (NDA) reached Kollam district on Saturday. BJP state president, P S Sreedharan Pillai, who led the rally, said Desai was visiting Sabarimala as she perceived it to be a challenge rather than a pilgrimage. “It is a dangerous approach. She should desist from visiting the shrine and should not make Sabarimala a tension zone. I do not know if she is a devotee or not. But she is coming to add fuel to the fire,” Pillai said.
Claiming that the NDA rally was getting tremendous support from all sections of people, the leader said the march would reach Thiruvananthapuram on October 15.
Pillai claimed that it was because of the success of the march that the state was forced to launch counter campaigns and family get-togethers to explain the Left government’s stand on the Sabarimala issue.
Activist Rahul Easwar, who announced a hunger strike at Sabarimala during the five-day monthly puja period, said they will stop Desai if she attempts to visit the Temple. “Ours will be a Gandhian mode of protest. Hundreds of devotees will lay down on roads leading to Sabarimala if Trupti Desai attempts to visit the shrine,” he said.
Women arrive to cast their votes at a polling station during third phase of elections for urban local bodies, in Srinagar on Saturday.
Women hold placards as they participate in a protest march against the SC verdict that allowed entry of women of menstruating age to the Sabarimala temple in Kochi.