Four transgender devotees denied Sabarimala ‘darshan’

Sabarimala: Kerala police stopped four transgenders who tried to trek to the hill temple Sabarimala around 1.30 AM on Sunday.

The four identified as Ananya, Triputhi, Avantika and Ranjumol were stopped at Erumeli police station citing law and order problems.

“We began our pilgrimage on Saturday from Ernakulam and the special branch wing of the police was witness to the prayers and all the ritual functions that we undertook. But when we reached Erumeli, the cops, even women officials, were quite rude,” Ananya said.

“The ban on menstruating women is not applicable to us. We had explained that to the police, they were not ready to allow us to the temple,” Ananya added.

Ananya, Trupti, Renjumol and Avanthika were dressed in black sarees, the traditional attire for the pilgrimage, and were carrying the customary ‘irumudikettu’ (sacred offerings to God). Ananya alleged that they were ridiculed and even asked by the officers to change into menswear if they wanted to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple.

“Initially, we refused but after some time, we decided to change our clothes. However, the police still asked us to return,” Ananya added.

They now plan to approach the high court against the police’s action.

Kottayam’s Superintendent of Police S Harishankar, however, rejected the charges of harassment and said everyone has the right to offer prayers at Sabarimala.

“We need to get some more legal clarity in this regard. So, we will approach the high court-appointed panel and seek their advice,” he told reporters.

The hilltop shrine in Pathanamthitta district has been witnessing violent protests by a section of devotees and right-wing groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, which allowed women of all ages to worship at the temple.

As the shrine opened for the annual pilgrimage on November 17, the state government imposed many restrictions at the hilltop and the base camps to tackle protesters and deployed more than 10,000 police personnel.

The state also witnessed three shutdowns over the issue and an uneasy calm is prevailing at the temple. A devotee had immolated himself two days back in the state capital and BJP is observing a fast for more than two weeks. The top court will take up a bunch of review petitions against its verdict on January 22.

(With inputs from agencies)