Sabarimala Temple opens; Situation remains tense

PTI

Devotees, including women, outside the Lord Ayyappa Temple on its opening day in Sabarimala, Kerala, Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018. Sabarimala temple opened for the first time for women between the age of 10 and 50 on Wednesday, turning over the age-old custom of not admitting them based on a 28 September Supreme Court verdict. (PTI Photo)

Devotees, including women, outside the Lord Ayyappa Temple on its opening day in Sabarimala, Kerala, Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018. Sabarimala temple opened for the first time for women between the age of 10 and 50 on Wednesday, turning over the age-old custom of not admitting them based on a 28 September Supreme Court verdict. (PTI Photo)

The Lord Ayyappa temple opened at 5 pm for the five-day-monthly pooja of the Malayalam month of Thulam, the first time since the apex court allowed entry of women of all age.

Protesters opposing the Supreme Court order on women’s entry into Sabarimala temple turned violent here on Wednesday and clashed with police, which resorted to baton-charge.

An elderly woman and a few other peoples were injured as police tried to disperse the crowd shortly before the temple of Lord Ayyappa was to open for monthly pooja.

A tense face-off was witnessed at Nilackal, the base camp, since morning with the protesters laying siege to the road leading to the famous hill temple, about 20 km from here, and blocking young women, including journalists.

Trouble broke out as the agitators, who are opposing the decision of Kerala government to implement the apex court lifting a ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the temple, continued to block vehicles of pilgrims and pelted stones, disregarding repeated requests by police to desist from such acts.

Police escort Madhavi (of Andhra Pradesh) and her family members after she was heckled by the protesters while she was seeking the entry to the Lord Ayyappa Temple on its opening day in Sabarimala, Kerala, Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018. Tension was witnessed outside Sabarimala temple that was opened for the first time for women of all ages on Wednesday, following a 28 September Supreme Court verdict that turned over the age-old custom of not admitting women between the age group of 10-50 years of age. (PTI Photo)

Police escort Madhavi (of Andhra Pradesh) and her family members after she was heckled by the protesters while she was seeking the entry to the Lord Ayyappa Temple on its opening day in Sabarimala, Kerala, Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018. Tension was witnessed outside Sabarimala temple that was opened for the first time for women of all ages on Wednesday, following a 28 September Supreme Court verdict that turned over the age-old custom of not admitting women between the age group of 10-50 years of age. (PTI Photo)

As police began a crackdown, the protesters fought pitched battle with them. Later the police used lathi-charge to disperse the protesters, several of whom ran helter-skelter and entered the nearby forest area.

The injured woman was bleeding from her head and was later taken away from the clash scene.

Several vehicles were also damaged in the stone pelting as tension continued to prevail in the area.

Very few police personnel were present when the incidents happened.

Protesting women had said no women belonging to the banned age group of 10-50 will be allowed to travel further from Nilackal and offer worship at the shrine.

The temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam.

The Supreme Court had on September 28 passed a historic judgement lifting the ban on entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the temple, a verdict that was hailed by rights activists but opposed by traditionalists.

(PTI)