Sabarimala: Activist Trupti Desai arrives at Cochin; taxi drivers deny their services, offer return ticket to destination of her choice

Kerala government has beefed up the security and section 144 (which prohibits assembly of more than 4 people in an area) has been imposed in Nilakkal, Pamba and Sannidhanam as the doors to the shrine open later in the evening today.

Activist Trupti Desai who has vowed to enter the Sabarimala temple on 17th November as the doors open for the third time after the Supreme Court verdict arrived at the Cochin airport early this morning. However, amidst the protests, the taxi drivers have refused to take the group on their journey onward.

While reports say that the taxi drivers are refusing to offer their services fearing for their safety, some say that they even offered a return ticket to the destination of their choice.

All seven women arrived from Pune to Cochin at around 4 am today morning and have since been stuck at the airport. However, it is not yet clear whether Trupti Desai and her colleagues have observed the Vratham, a 41 day period where the devotees who are going to visit the shrine control their lifestyle, including abstaining from consumption of alcohol, tobacco and eating only vegetarian food.

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The police is deployed in large number at the airport as well as at the shrine to ensure safety of pilgrims. Meanwhile, Trupti Desai has vowed that she will not return to Maharashtra till she does a darshan at the Sabarimala temple.

Supreme Court verdict

On 28 September, the Supreme Court had ruled that women of all age group to be allowed in the shrine which till now prohibited entry of women of menstruating age. Since then, protests erupted against the decision of the court. Men and women came out on the streets protesting against the interference of the court in the traditions of the temple. A review has been filed in the Supreme Court against the judgment by the Pandalam royal family, the Nair Service Society, the Tanthri or the chief priest of the Sabarimala temple and National Ayyappa Devotees Association.

Despite being aware of the outrage among the devotees against the judgment, the Kerala Chief Minister refused to file a review petition against the court order. He said that he will abide by the decision of the Apex Court and will provide facilities to devotees who wish to visit Sabarimala. The temple priests boycotted the talks called by the Kerala government.

No female devotee of Lord Ayyappa tried to enter the shrine. Two women activists, Kavitha Jakkala (a journalist) and Rehana Fatima (a Muslim), none of whom was a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, tried to enter the shrine amidst full police protection but they were met with resistance of the protesting devotees. Another woman, Mary Sweety, also returned midway as she was stopped by the protesters. The erstwhile royal family of Pandalam asked the head priest to close the doors of the shrine as two women headed for the temple under police protection. Meanwhile, the State Devaswom (religious trusts)  minister, Kadakampally Surendran, said that while people of all ages should be allowed to go there, it should not be made into a place where activists come and showcase their power.

Kerala government has beefed up the security and section 144 (which prohibits assembly of more than 4 people in an area) has been imposed in Nilakkal, Pamba and Sannidhanam as the doors to the shrine open later in the evening today.

At the time of this report, Desai is still stuck in the airport.

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