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Protestors block 11 women out of the 50-member group women from an NGO who tried to trek the Sabarimala shrine

The women, including Dalits, are moving strategically to do the darshan at Sabarimala temple

Protests have erupted once again at Pamba, the foothills of the Sabarimala temple, on Sunday as 11 women all below the age 50 years tried to trek the hilltop shrine. The women were escorted to Pamba by police teams. Out of the 11 women who arrived at Pamba reportedly around 3:30 in the morning, only 6 plan to visit the shrine while other 5 have accompanied them to show solidarity.

The women belong to Manithi, a Chennai based outfit that reportedly works for women empowerment, which had announced that 50 women from their NGO would be visiting the Lord Ayyappa Temple. The group has women from different states including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala who are planning to enter the shrine which bars the entry of women between the age of 10-50 years.

The women were blocked on the way by the devotees who started the Namajapa protests as the women tried to trek through the traditional forest path about five kilometers from the shrine. The women are holding a protest at the Pamba Ganapathi temple. The coordinator of Manithi, Selvi, claimed that women are real devotees and were following the Sabarimala rituals. “Since we are a larger group, we hope we would be able to enter Sabarimala. Most of us are between 20 and 30 years old. A few women believe what’s the guarantee we would live to above 50 to worship here later? Swamy Ayyappa will protect us,” she said.

One of the women said, “We are strategically moving. There are many Dalit women also who are reaching Sabarimala for darshan today. The state and the police have to show enough will to ensure that we can have our rights. We all have taken the required fast (for the darshan)”.

Thilakavathi, another woman from the group, said, “Priests of the local temple at Pamba did not cooperate with us and declined to get our ‘irumudikettu’ (sacred offering to the God) ready as per custom. So we did it on our own”.

On September 28, the Supreme Court had passed a verdict allowing the entry of women of all age groups into the temple. So far, no women between the age group of 10-50 years been able to visit the shrine due to continuous protests by the devotees who want to save the temple traditions.

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