Trupti Desai in Kochi, to visit Sabarimala to offer prayers at Lord Ayyappa shrine
Kochi: Gender rights activist and founder of Pune-based Bhumata Brigade Trupti Desai landed here in the wee hours here today with her team to trek the holy hills of Sabarimala and sparked a furious religious controversy. Like last year, she landed at around 4 am and drove to the police commissioner’s office seeking protection to have darshan of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala.
Just 10 days ago she was stopped at the Kochi International Airport and sent back. Minutes after she entered the Commissioner’s office today, word spread around and a huge gathering of Ayyappa devotees surrounded the office and started chanting Ayyappa bhajans.
Trupti Desai and her seven-member team were accompanied by Bindu Ammini, one of the women from Kerala who first visited Sabarimala last year.
On Tuesday, the Kerala police denied protection to Desai to go to Sabarimala. However, she wanted the police to give it in writing. By evening, Desai and Bindu Ammini said they were planning to move Supreme Court against the Kerala government.
“We have been sitting inside the commissioner’s office for over 6 hours. They are not allowing us go out. They are saying there will be law and order issue if we go to Sabarimala. We will certainly move the Supreme Court against this action of the state government. We haven’t decided about our return yet,” Desai said.
Meanwhile, Bindu Ammini, a government college lecturer, was attacked by pepper spray by a Hindu right-wing activist as she was entering the commissioner’s office. She was rushed to a local hospital even as the attacker was arrested.
Reacting to the developments, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said “We suspect conspiracy behind Trupti Desai and team coming here. She came from Pune, where BJP-RSS has a huge influence. Early morning, at 5 am she reaches Nedumbaserry airport. Only one TV channel in Kerala knows about this.”
On November 16 last year, Trupti Desai made her first attempt to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on menstruating women from visiting the temple. When she faced massive protests at the Kochi airport, she had to go back.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Police have stopped several women and young girls from trying to enter the temple since the beginning of the pilgrim season in November. Nearly 400 women in the 10-50 age group, mostly from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, had registered online for trekking the hill. However, only around 10 women have so far turned up and they were stopped from going to Sabarimala.
Earlier this month, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi had decided to send the clutch of review petitions on Sabarimala to a larger bench. But the court did not stay the 2018 order lifting the ban on women to visit Sabarimala.
The Kerala government did a U-turn this year and took a stand that since the review petitions are before the Supreme Court, women in the 10-50 age group should not be allowed to go to the temple during the holy 41-day period of Mandala.