Sabarimala turned tense on Sunday as a group of 11 women pilgrims, including those below 50 years, supported by Chennai-based NGO Manithi, reached Pamba enroute the shrine. Protests grew as people gathered under the banner of Sabarimala Karma Samiti in protest against allowing entry to the temple gathered at Pamba and began chanting hymns.
The women pilgrims squatted on the road and requested the police to allow them have darshan and give them protection. With police force weak, security arrangements were being made by calling in more forces. Some of the women decided to fill their 'irumudikettu’ (pouch of puja offerings and ghee-filled coconuts) at Pamba. But since none offered to help them in this, they themselves filled their irumudikettu.
The Government, which was informed about the visit much in advance, washed its hands of the issue, leaving it to the High Court-appointed monitoring committee to take a decision in the matter. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the matter would be decided by the monitoring committee.
Devaswom president A Padmakumar gave hints that customs and mattered and law and order would have to be maintained and it was for the monitoring committee to take the 'rightful’ decision. Necessary action would be contemplated if there was violation of customsand rituals, he added.
The fewer number of policemen and the growing number of protestors has added to the tension. The Pandalam Royal family members have asked the chief priest to shut the temple if there is any violation of customs.
The pilgrims, who reached Pamba around 6 am after their vehicle was allowed to make it to Pamba from Nilackal, unlike having to travel by KSRTC bus, were firm on trekking to Sabarimala. Police attempts to dissuade the women, who included Manithi coordinator Selvi, appeared to have failed initially.
We will continue the protest till we visit the temple and offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa. Police asked us to go back, citing security reasons. But we will not go," said one of the pilgrims.
While protests have started gaining strength defying prohibitory orders, the women appeand firm on having darshan, complicating things for the Government which plans a Women Wall on January 1 to highlight renaissance ideals and ensure gender equality. Manithi has announced that more toocoming in large numbers.