Sabarimala (Kerala), Oct 19: Huge protests by hundreds of devotees at the entrance of Sabarimala temple forced the Kerala Police accompanying two women on Friday to call off their journey towards the Lord Ayyappa shrine.At 10.50 a.m., Kavita, the Hyderabad-based journalist and her four member crew along with another woman devotee Rehna Fathima from Kochi, began their descend towards Pamba foothills of the temple.It was around 6.45 a.m., when the two women accompanied by a 100 policemen led by Inspector General of Police S.Sreejith started their two-hour climb. Twenty led them from the front while 80 officers backed them behind as at least one of women put on police gear.In a never-before move, around 30 employees attached to the temple tantri and the chief priest went on protest as they stopped their rituals and sat down in front of the hallowed 18 steps leading to the sanctum santorum and sang Ayyappa hymns after they heard that the two women were about to reach the shrine.When the group reached the first entry point to the temple, hundreds of protesters were lying on the road leading to the hilltop temple.Soon Sreejith received a call. He told the protesters that the government has decided not to use force and asked them to relent."Now I have to talk to the two women, who also have their rights according to the Supreme Court directives and it too has to be protected. Please do not create any disturbances here, but you can continue to chant the hymns," said Sreejith.After an hour, Sreejith told the media that he had a word with the temple tantri who categorically told him he would be forced to close down the temple if there was any violation of tradition and faith."So we told the two women about it and they also decided to abandon their trek and return, asking for protection till they reached home," Sreejith said, adding that would be provided. "So we are taking them back."However, Kerala Minister of Devasoms, Kadakampally Surendran told the media here that they have come to know that the two women were actually activists."After coming to know that, it becomes our duty to protect the rights of the devotees and not that of activists."Our request to women activists is not to ply their trade in hallowed places. The police should have been more cautious. They should have found out more about these women. The state government is duty-bound to protect the rights of the devotees," said Surendran.Fathima's house in Kochi was meanwhile damaged by angry devotees."We have just come here after hearing about the damage caused to her home. We do not know if there were other residents around," said a police official.Fathima works with the BSNL in Kochi and lives with her partner. Both had started out for the temple."There are no separate rule of law for activists, or others. There is only one law. She is not an activist and she has the right to go and pray as per the apex court directive," said Fathima's partner who is a news producer, who along with his team is present at the protest venue.
"I don't know what happened to my children. My life is also in danger. But they (police) have said that they will provide protection. That is why I am going back," said. Fatima . "People, not the devotees, who want to disrupt peace didn't allow us to enter. I want to know what was the reason. Tell me, in which way one needs to be a devotee. You tell me that first & then I will tell you if I'm a devotee or not." she added.