Indian airport protesters block woman activist's plan to enter hill temple

Sabarimala row LIVE updates: Lord Ayyappa shrine reopens for 62 days, Trupti Desai to return to Pune amid protests

Indian airport protesters block woman activist's plan to enter hill temple

The Makaravilakku festival would be celebrated on 14 January after which the shrine will close on 20 January, marking the culmination of the pilgrim season, when laksh of devotees are expected to throng the shrine.

The Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened for devotees on Friday evening for an annual pilgrimage season amid tight security.

Over 15,000 police officers - 920 of them women and 55 of superintendent and additional superintendent ranks - will be deployed at Sabarimala for security over the entire period of rituals, reported Manorama Online. She won't be allowed to step inside the temple before that.

"They said that even if they give us protection we won't be able to reach the temple given the size of the protests. We have to get an assurance that the government will not allow women till the Supreme Court takes up review pleas", said BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai even as the tantri's family hailed the TDB move.

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As consensus eluded a crucial all-party meeting called by Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan Thursday to resolve the issue, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which manages the shrine, is meeting legal experts today on the possibility of filing a petition in the apex court seeking time to implement the September 28 order.

The activist, Trupti Desai, who arrived with a group of women at Kerala's biggest and busiest airport in the city of Kochi, at 4.30 a.m. (2230 GMT), has been held up for hours by the demonstrators.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala shrine, on Friday made a decision to approach the Supreme Court seeking more time to implement its order allowing women in the menstrual age to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple.

In a video message Trupti Desai sent to media outlets, she stated, "We booked a taxi twice-thrice but drivers have been threatened that their vehicle will be vandalised if they offer us a drive".

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Meanwhile, police have registered a suo motto case against 250 people for staging protest outside the Kochi airport which prevented Desai and others from exiting the airport. Even basic facilities are missing this time. But this does not mean the state government has softened its stand.

The terrain of the Sabarimala mountain is such that it will take hours from the base camp, some 20km away now, to reach the temple, after an arduous trek. Several political parties and leaders took offence to the decision and the clamour to reverse the order has only increased since then.

The temple had witnessed a string of protests from devotees when it opened for monthly pujas for five days in October and two days early this month. The temple opened Friday evening amid mounting tension in the backdrop of the stand-off over protests by certain sections. Despite heavy police deployment, protesters say they are determined to stop women from entering the shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa.

The Supreme Court ruled in September that a ban on women aged between 10 and 50 entering the temple was illegal.

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