Can women safely enter Sabarimala today?

Sabarimala to open today Kerala braces for law vs faith standoff

"They have made many attempts to erase this distinction of Sabarimala". "These movements motivated by upper caste are meant to break the basic character of Sabarimala", he said in the post.

Police have also promulgated section 144 of CrPc in four places including Pamba, Sannidhanam to check any kind of protest and violence. They courted arrest and boarded the police vehicle chanting Ayyappa slogans.

Suhasini is now at the Pamba police station with top police officers.

"When democracy and the Supreme Court order are being defied by protesters, I have come with the firm intent of visiting Sabarimala", she said, adding she was ready to face trouble. Protesters also formed a human wall or chain to prevent her from proceeding further, while a group fifty policemen watched helpless.

Suhasini Raj is now the woman between 10 and 50 years who has made it the furthest up Sabarimala Hill. Pilgrims need to trek a few kilometres from here to reach the shrine.

But traditionalist demonstrators remained defiant, including Biju S. Pillai, a local man in his 30s who said he returned from working in Dubai to "protect the sanctity of the temple" with his mother and young son. Marakoottam is nearly 3/4th the way up but as the protestors created a human wall making it hard for her to proceed, she had to return. "We want to save our traditions. So we are returning back to Pampa", Suhasini Raj told Asianet News.

Tension prevailed in Kerala's Nilakkal, the main gateway to Sabarimala, on Wednesday after police used force to disperse devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age.

Women journalists were heckled, their vehicles smashed and young female Ayyappa devotees turned back as hordes of activists of Hindu fringe groups besieged the road leading to the temple.

Special security arrangements and patrolling have been put in place in various locations including Pamba, Nilackal, Erumeli, Vandiperiyar en route to the Sabarimala temple, located in the central district of Pathanamthitta.

Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from some.

Angry young men also surrounded and smashed the vehicle windows of female television reporters and threatened others, including an AFP reporter. She was escorted to safety by police.

The police booked at least 50 people for blocking another devotee Libi CS at Pathanamthitta bus stand.

Kerala's tourism minister K Surendran appealed to protesters not to "convert this holy land into a battlefield". "Anyone who wants to go to the temple will be able to do so without hindrance". The BJP rejected the allegation, saying the government was responsible for the "collapse" of law and order. The temple has been out of bounds for menstruating women in the name of centuries-old custom.

V.N. Vasudevan Namboodiri from Palakkad has been selected as the next Sabarimala Melsanthi (head priest) through a draw of lots held at the Sopanam of the Ayyappa Temple on Thursday morning. "Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad" led by Pravin Togadia and the "Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi", an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal starting midnight.

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