Sabarimala impasse: Shutdown hits life in Kerala; RSS urges consensus; NYT woman scribe stopped

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi/Nagpur, Oct 18 (UNI) A dawn-to-dusk shutdown, sponsored by the ‘Sabarimala Karma Samiti’ in protest against Wednesday’s police cane charge at Nilakkal affected life in Kerala as the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh said a consensus should have been arrived at before scrapping the prohibition on the entry of women into the precincts of the shrine.

A woman scribe of the New York Times crossed the Pamba river on Thursday but was forced to return due to the protests.

Thiruvananthapuram UNI reported that the roads in the state wore a deserted look. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses and private vehicles kept off the roads. 

Protesting against the cane charge on agitating devotees at Nilakkal, the strike also got the support of Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, Shiv Sena and other organisations.

Movement of a few private vehicles in some places continued without any hindrance from supporters of the strike.

Stray instances of stone-pelting on KSRTC buses were reported in the initial hours from some parts of the state, police said.
Shops and business establishments downed shutters.

RSS calls for consensus
Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, in his ‘Vijaya Dashmi’ address at Reshmibagh ground in Nagpur, said a consensus should have been arrived at and devotees consulted.

At a news conference in Thiruvananthapuram, Bharatiya Janata Party state president PS Sreedharan Pillai demanded a judicial inquiry into the police action against the agitating devotees at Nilakkal.

He also announced that the activists of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha will violate the prohibitory orders at Nilakkal.

Mr Pillai said 41 workers of BJYM, under the leadership of its state president Prakash Babu, will violate Section 144 of CrPC, declared by the Pathanamthitta District Administration in four places at Sabarimala.

Soon after his announcement, six activists of BJYM, led by Prakash Babu, staged a sit-in at Nilakkal. Police arrested all of them.

Security and police patrolling were stepped up at Pampa, Nilakkal and Erumeli en route to the hill shrine, located in Pathanamthitta district.

The district administration had imposed prohibitory orders from Wednesday till Saturday at four places – Elavunkal, Nilakkal, Pamba and Sannidanam.

NYT woman scribe stopped by protestors.
The New York Times (NYT) scribe, became the first woman, between the 10-50 age group, who crossed the Pamba river after the September 28 Supreme Court order. She was forced to return to Pamba base camp following protest from agitating devotees.

Though Suhasini Raj, the NYT scribe, was provided massive police protection including commandos, she could not trek the Sabarimala path and was forced to return to Pamba base camp due to vehement protests from devotees at Marakkoottam, a few km away from the temple.

She reportedly told the protesters that she was 50 years old, but they remained suspicious and continued the protest. Entry for women between the ages of 10-50 years is restricted in the temple as per the custom.

Requesting the young women to respect the sentiments of devotees and not come to Sabarimala, Sabarimala Thanthri, Kanderer Rajeev on Thursday expressed apprehension that some quarters were trying to defame Sabarimala and convert it into a war field.

Talking to a TV channel at Sannidhanam on Thursday, Thanthri said, ”We are not against women, we respect them”, UNI Kochi reported.

Activist Rahul Easwar, a front-ranking leader of the protesters, was arrested at Pamba at the foothill from where the trek to the shrine begins.Mr Pillai said 41 Yuva Morcha cadre would violate the prohibitory orders in force at these four places.

The Yuva Morcha activists shouted slogans and said the violation would continue today and tomorrow and at any cost and no women devotees aged between 10 and 50 will be allowed to enter the Sabarimala Sannidhanam

In Bengaluru, BJP Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekar regretted the clashes and chaos after the Sabarimala temple in Kerala was opened on Wednesday.

In a Twitter message today, Mr Chandrashekhar said ‘to call the Sabarimala tradition patriarchal was wrong and dangerous.

The Sabarimala issue is not about discrimination but about faith and tradition of many Ayyappa devotees which must be handled with sensitivity it deserves.’