It was a helpless police force surrendering meekly in front of the might force of protestors at Pamba, the last camp before Sabarimala on Sunday. The 11 women pilgrims from Tamil Nadu had to rush for life and narrowly escaped from the wrath of protestors on the trek path to Sabarimala shrine.
Protests mounted at Pamba where priests even refused to help fill the irumudikettu (pouch of puja offerings) of some of these pilgrims. Police, realising that it would be difficult to escort the pilgrims to the shrine amidst protests, tried hard to dissuade the women from undertaking the trek taking into consideration the law and order situation. But the pilgrims, who assembled under the initiative of Chennai-based NGO Manithi, insisted on undertaking the trek.
Police then arrested some of the protestors and began escorting the pilgrims to some distance near Neelimala. But then hundreds of protestors under the banner of Sabarimala Karma Samiti swooped down flummoxing the police. They got near the pilgrims in a matter of a few minutes. Police found it difficult to control the crowd and succeeded in whisking away the pilgrims to safety. It was literally the women pilgrims scurrying for safety. Some were seen tripping on the way to the police control room nearby.
A top police official said there could have been a law and order situation. Also, they had to look into the safety of nearly 1 lakh pilgrims, including children and the elderly. It was in this backdrop that police decided to ensure that the women abandoned their trek. Ironically, the number of police force, despite the fact that the women had announced their trek much in advance and even informed the Chief Minister of their plan, deployed was comparatively very low.
The women were later escorted safely back to Pamba and from there in a bus to Nilackal. They would be later taken to the Tamil Nadu border from where they would go back to Madurai. Manithi coordinator Selvi said police stood in their way and were responsible for their abandoning the trek. She said they would return soon.
Earlier, police had arranged their trip from Cumbum via Vagamon to Pamba without taking them to the base camp of Nilackal. Another woman pilgrim Ammini from Wayanad also abandoned her trip. She had proceeded from Erumely taking forest trek path. She could not proceed much as protests grew and information about the protests at Pamba made her retreat.