Sabarimala: Trupti Desai aborts trip, vows to come back

Kochi: After over 14-hour stand-off, activist Trupti Desai Friday aborted her attempt to proceed to Sabarimala as she was prevented from leaving the airport here by devotees and others opposing entry of menstrual age women into the Lord Ayyappa shrine.

Desai, who arrived here in the early hours with six young women colleagues, Friday night announced she would return as police informed her that there would be law-and-order problem if she visited the shrine, but vowed to come back to Kerala soon to have darshan of Lord Ayyappa.

“We will soon come back to Kerala to visit Sabarimala but we will not declare it in advance and come,” the Bhoomatha Brigade leader told reporters at the airport after failing to proceed to the temple, which opened Friday evening for two-month long pilgrim season.

According to airport sources, Desai and her colleagues have booked tickets on a Mumbai flight scheduled for departure later Friday night. Announcing her visit to Sabarimala, the activist had earlier sent an email to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking security, saying she fears threat to her life.

Desai, who had earlier said she would not return without darshan of Lord Ayyappa, and her colleagues failed to even come out of the airport following the vociferous protest by the devotees and members of BJP and various Hindu outfits, who staged a sit-in near the domestic terminal and carried on ‘nama japam‘ chanting “Swamiye Ayypappa.

The devotees alleged Desai and her team came here to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that prevented entry of girls and women in the age group of 10 and 50. BJP state General Secretary K Surendran said it was a victory of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

Desai, who spearheaded the campaign to allow entry of women into various religious places, including Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah and the Mahalakshmi Temple, said she was fighting for equality. “In this 21st century also women face discrimination in our country,” she said.

She alleged that the protesters threatened the management of hotels and taxi drivers whom she had contacted seeking help to move out of the airport. She also accused the devotees of using abusive language against her. “They are not devotees of Lord Ayyappa,” she said.

Desai thanked Kerala police for the cooperation they had extended to her during her stay at the airport. Earlier, high drama was witnessed at the airport at Nedumbassery, about 37 km from here, as the devotees and others, including BJP workes, remained firm that Desai and her colleagues would not be allowed to proceed to Sabarimala.

Amid the continuing stand-off, BJP demanded that Desai and her colleagues be sent back to Pune. Police, who were present in large numbers, later in the day registered a case against around 200 devotees who can be identified for preventing the free movement of the activists, but did not make any attempt to remove them.

Justifying the agitation being held at the domestic terminal of the airport, BJP state President P S Sreedharan Pillai said the devotees of Lord Ayyappa were expressing their anguish over the move of the activists to enter the temple. “Desai is challenging the devotees of Lord Ayyappa. This should not be done. The government should send her back considering the mounting protest in the state against her visit,” he told reporters here.

Police said a case has been registered against around 200 devotees for preventing free movement of Desai and her colleagues. They have been charged under various sections of the IPC, including unlawful assembly, disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant and criminal intimidation, police said.

Condemning the agitation, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran termed as “uncivilised” the BJP “orchestrated protest” preventing free movement of a citizen. Taking a dig at the Congress and the BJP, Surendran alleged that the activist was closely associated with these two parties and she would return if leaders of BJP and Congress make such a demand.

The Sabarimala temple opened Friday, the third time after the Supreme Court on 28 September allowed women of menstrual age to offer prayers there.