Sabarimala: Even as Kerala continued to witness stray incidents of violence on Friday, including hurling of crude bombs at various places, over the entry of two young women at the hill shrine, officials claimed that a 46-year-old Sri Lankan woman prayed inside the Ayyappa temple on Thursday night.
Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office and police confirmed that the Lankan woman did indeed enter the shrine and offered prayers.
There was confusion over whether or not the woman, Sasikala, succeeded in offering prayers at the temple late on Thursday night as she had claimed on Friday morning that police had turned her away even though there were no protests from devotees.
Official sources told PTI that the woman did enter the sanctum sanctorum. In a CCTV footage released by police sources, the Sri Lankan national is seen going inside the temple with the irumudi kettu or offerings kit on her head.
However, it is not clear if she climbed the “padinettampadi” (holy 18 steps) to reach the sanctum sanctorum.
Kannur IG Balram Kumar Upadhyay, who is in charge of the Sannidhanam (temple complex), could not be contacted.
Sasikala, who came with her husband Saravanan and son for darshan, had told reporters at Pamba on Friday morning that she was not allowed to offer prayers at the temple, which had witnessed frenzied protests from devotees over the entry of two women, in their forties, on Wednesday.
Saravanan also maintained that only he and his son were able to worship at the temple.
“There was no protest from devotees. But police sent me back. I am an Ayyappa bhakata (devotee). They did not allow me to go to the shrine. I am not scared of anyone,” she told reporters on her return to Pamba, the foothills of Sabarimala.
A visibly agitated Sasikala said she had observed the 41-day “vratham” (penance).
“They did not allow me. Why did they not allow me? Why are you all standing around me now? I am not afraid of anyone. Ayyappa will answer you all. You will come to know who I am,” she said.
According to official sources, due to security reasons Sasikala might have said she could not offer prayers.
Meanwhile, a transgender named Kayal, who arrived at Pamba around 6 am Friday, was turned away and not allowed by the police to go to the temple complex following protest from the devotees.
Kayal had come in a saree and later changed to men’s clothing and tried to trek the hills with the “irrumudikettu”.
Four transgenders had recently offered prayers at Sabarimala wearing black sarees.
Since the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups to enter the holy shrine, the temple complex has witnessed fierce protests from right outfits, BJP and RSS workers.
Traditionally women in the 10-50 age group are not allowed to enter the temple.
Creating history, two women in their forties– Bindu and Kanakadurga — had offered prayers at the shrine in the early hours of January 2.
Kerala had witnessed unprecedented violence and mayhem on Thursday, a day after the two women entered the hill temple, infuriating saffron outfits, with protesters blocking roads by placing burning tyres and granite blocks.
As many as 1,369 people have been arrested and 801 cases registered in connection with violent protests as part of the dawn-to-dusk ‘hartal’ called by pro-Hindu outfits Thursday, police said, adding that 717 people are now under preventive custody.
Crude bombs were hurled at the house of Malabar Devaswom (temple administration) Board member K Sasikumar at Perambra in Kozhikode in the early hours of Friday, police said.
Similar explosives were hurled at a mobile shop in Adoor in Pathanamthitta.
Police said four incidents of hurling of crude bombs had been reported in Kannur, a politically volatile district which is witness to frequent clashes between CPI(M) and BJP workers.
A local BJP office in Kannur was set on fire by miscreants. None were injured in the incidents, they added.
A number of houses of the BJP and the ruling CPI(M) activists were attacked and stones hurled in Pathanamthitta, Kannur, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram.
Hurling crude bombs and stones, fringe groups rampaged through the streets of the state during the shutdown Thursday, fighting pitched battles with police and political rivals, leaving scores of people injured including three BJP workers in a knife attack.
The hartal was called by Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of pro-Hindutva groups, and the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad, to protest the entry of the two women into the Ayyappa temple.
Prohibitory orders were imposed in Palakkad town and Manjeswaram Taluk of Kasargod district in northern Kerala late Thursday night after widespread protests erupted over the women’s entry.
(With PTI inputs)