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Desai adamant on visiting Sabarimala, police in a bind (Evening Lead)
Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 26 - Trupti Desai, who arrived here early Tuesday with a 6-member team to visit the Sabarimala shrine, have by now spent over 10 hours at the office of the Kochi City Police Commissioner, waiting to travel to the temple, about 200 km from here.
While she approached the police for protection to visit the temple on arrival, the police are trying to send her back as the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala has stated that it will not make any effort to ensure entry of women into the temple.
Soon after the news of Desai's arrival broke out, right wing activists gathered at the police office to protest. Only on the police assurances that she and her team won't be taken to Sabarimala, the activists concluded their protest and disbursed.
While initially, according to sources, Desai had agreed to return without praying at the temple, she has been changing her stance frequently.
The police had agreed to escort her back to the airport. But in the afternoon, Desai wanted in writing from the police that they were unable to take her to Sabarimala. When the police refused to entertain her demand, she refused to return.
If Desai continues to be adamant on visiting the shrine, the police might shift her and her team to a nearby state-run women's home, sources said.
Her arrival was announced by the right wing-backed TV channel Janam. It also recorded her statement as soon as she landed at 5 a.m. at the airport. She said since the apex court had not stayed the verdict, they had come to pray at the temple.
"Today is the Constitution Day and with no stay on the entry of women, we should be allowed to pray at the temple," said Desai before entering the Commissioner's office.
Earlier in the day, terming Desai's arrival for a visit to the Sabarimala temple as a conspiracy, Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran said certain vested interests were behind her visit.
"It seems to be a scripted thing and some vested interests are behind this. It's part of a conspiracy to unsettle peace in Kerala," said Surendran.
According to Surendran, even experts see lots of ambiguity in the apex court verdict that came early this month. "When the verdict came last year, the Kerala government took a position as the verdict was clear. But this time it's not clear," Surendran said.
State Culture Minister A.K. Balan said the state government would not allow anyone to break the temple tradition.
During the day, Sabarimala devotees on spotting near the Commissioner's office Bindu Ammini, one of the two women who on January 2 became the first women in the 10-50 year age group to pray at the temple, vented their anger by spraying pepper on her. She was taken to a health facility by the police for medical attention.
Ammini later told the media she would file a contempt petition as the state government was not implementing the apex court directive.
Though the Supreme Court, earlier in November gave a 3:2 verdict referring the Sabarimala review pleas to a larger seven-judge Bench, it maintained that it has not stayed its September 28, 2018 order allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. The temple bans entry of women in the 10-50 year age group.
Since the beginning of the two-month Sabarimala festival on November 17, seven women in the banned age group, all from outside Kerala, who sought 'darshan' were not allowed entry to the temple by the police.
Devotees returning after praying at the temple, when heard about Desai's presence, turned furious and vowed to protect the temple traditions. "We will not allow anyone to break the tradition. All these activists are trying to destroy the sanctity of this hallowed temple," said an angry pilgrim.
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