Sabarimala temple row: Head priest threatens to stop prayers if women try to enter
Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 19: Two women, who on Friday came within 500 meters of entering the Sabarimala Temple, had to turn back and return after the head priest of the shrine threatened to shut down the shrine and stop prayers.
Over a hundered cops led by Inspector General S Sreejith had given two women, an activist and a journalist, a security cover and escorted them along the trek to the shrine. But when head priest issued a threat, Sreejith reportedly spoke to these women and convinced them to return.
"We have told the female devotees about the situation, they will now be going back. So we are pulling pack. They have decided to return," the IG reportedly said.
Had they entered the shrine, they would have become first women from the menstruating age group to visit the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa. There is ban on entry of women in the age group 10-50 into the Sabarimala Temple for centuries. In September, however, the Supreme Court had scrapped this practice saying that it amounts to gender discrimination.
"If women enter Sabarimala, we will stop all prayers and activities. We are with the devotees, and sentiments of the devotees can't be taken for granted," said Kandararu Rajeevaru, Sabarimala Head Priest.
"We have decided to lock the temple and handover the keys & leave. I stand with the devotees. I do not have any other option," he added.
Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said Sabarimala is a place of worship and not a place where activists come to prove a point.
"There are some people like activists trying to enter. It's impossible for govt to figure out who is who. We know there are two activists. One is believed to be a journalist as well..People of all ages will be allowed to go there. But at the same time we won't allow it to be a place where activists can come&showcase their power. It can't be a place where they prove certain points of theirs," he said.
Devotees have been aggressively protesting a Supreme Court order that allows women of menstrual age to enter the temple, a ban that was followed for decades as a religious practice. With the Kerela government saying it will follow the court order and ensure women are allowed in the temple, protests have swept across the state leading to a state-wide shutdown.