A child was stopped by the Kerala police while she was en route the Sabarimala shrine after her Aadhar card revealed that her real age was 12 year and not 10 as it was declared during the online booking. The girl was interrupted and led away by a policewoman at the Pamba base camp, about 9 km away from the shrine while her family was reportedly asked to proceed without her.
The shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala had opened for the annual 41-day pilgrimage on November 17 (Saturday) marking the beginning of the Mandala Puja. Around 10,000 security personnel have been deployed at Pamba and women police officers have been checking age proof documents of all-female devotees before allowing them to proceed further.
The girl and her family from Puducherry were stopped as they reached Pamba around 10 am and reportedly asked to produce an ID. After the police checked her Aadhaar card, they told her she would have to stay back at a room in base camp while her family continued the trek.
Recently, after not being able to come to a conclusive decision over petitions challenging its decision to remove the ban on women below 50 or those of menstruating age, the apex court had referred the Sabarimala matter to a larger bench by 3:2 majority.
The Kerala government also decided to go against its previous own course of action and not let women of the erstwhile prohibited age categories from entering the temple till such time the larger bench decides the reference.
Incidentally, following the SC’ 2018 verdict, the female devotees, several women’s groups and NGOs had run a campaign named ‘Ready to wait’, signifying that the women devotees of Lord Ayappan are ready to reach the age of 50 so they can take the pilgrimage for darshan.
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.
This time the Kerala police have until now stopped five women from trekking up to the temple on the first day of the pilgrimage. The women were asked to go back from the Pamba base camp in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. The base camp is at the foothills of Sabarimala, about 5 km from the shrine.