On Wednesday, right after the Supreme Court made a verdict which allows the entry to women of all ages to the hill shrine, a protest broke out at Sabarimala temple.
Around 13 policemen and 200 protesters from Hindu fringe outfits were injured during the protest.
Nilackal, the base camp situated 20 km from Pampa, witnessed unruly scenes as a mob, allegedly linked to Sangh Parivar outfits, tried to block entry of women of menstrual age and hurled stones at them.
From Nilackal, pilgrims have to take State-run buses to reach Pampa, from where it is a 5-km trek to the Ayyappa temple.
As per the recent reports, no woman devotee from the 10-50 age group had made it to the shrine.
The police resorted to cane-charge four times at Nilackal and once at Pampa to handle the stone-throwing mob. Women journalists were heckled, their equipment snatched and vehicles smashed, and young women devotees turned back as activists, including of Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi, besieged the road leading to the temple.
At one point, the police threw stones back at the protesters in Nilackal.
Chaos and mayhem reigned on the Nilackal- Pampa road since Tuesday, as activists fought pitched battles with the police.
The Pathanamthitta district authorities had promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 Cr.PC banning assembly of four or more people in Pampa and Nilackal. The agitators were in an aggressive mood since morning. There was a heavy turnout of protesters who came in small prayer groups and assembled in front of the Mahadevar temple.
Violence broke out just hours before the temple’s official opening for the monthly pooja after the women protesters had ended their sit-in and vacated the area by 3 p.m. The protesters attacked KSRTC buses and other government vehicles parked at Nilackal. They smashed the window panes of many private vehicles.
The police chased many protesters up to two km towards Elavumkal side on the main trunk road leading to Sabarimala. The protesters alleged that they had resorted to stone-throwing in retaliation after the policemen hurled stones at them.
The protesters turned their ire on mediapersons. Reporters of three national TV channels were assaulted and the vehicle carrying the crew of one of the channels was attacked.
The Sabarimala Samrakshna Samithi later called for a bandh on Thursday in protest against the police action in Nilackal and Pampa. The National Democratic Alliance and the BJP in separate statements, announced their unconditional support.
In the forenoon, the police arrested Devaki Antharjanam, 83-year-old mother of the Sabarimala Tantri, Kandararu Mohanararu, and her daughter Mallika, the former TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan, and the Pandalam Palace representatives who were staging satyagraha at Pampa.
Congress workers staged a satyagraha and prayer meet at Nilackal expressing solidarity with the devotees staging the Namajapa Yagnom, or prayer protest.