Kochi:A six member team of gender rights activists led by Trupti Desai, which was headed for Sabarimala to offer prayers at Lord Ayyappa temple was denied police protection on Tuesday.
The Kerala government dubbed Desai's attempt to visit Sabarimala as a "conspiracy".
As soon as the team of activists landed at Cochin International Airport, they went to the city police commissionerate seeking protection to proceed to the hill shrine.
However, police declined to grant protection to them, citing the recent Supreme Court decision to review its 2018 order permitting women in all age groups into Sabarimala.
While initially, according to sources, Desai had agreed to return without praying at the temple, she has been changing her stance frequently.
The police had agreed to escort her back to the airport. But in the afternoon, Desai wanted in writing from the police that they were unable to take her to Sabarimala. When the police refused to entertain her demand, she refused to return.
If Desai continues to be adamant on visiting the shrine, the police might shift her and her team to a nearby state-run women's home, sources said.
"Today is the Constitution Day and with no stay on the entry of women, we should be allowed to pray at the temple," said Desai before entering the Commissioner's office.
Bindu Ammini attacked
A large number of Ayyappa devotees, activists of the BJP and Sabarimala Karma Samiti gathered outside the commissionerate chanting 'Ayyappa Saranam' mantra protesting against Desai's visit.
BJP leaders, including C G Rajagopal who was the party candidate in the recent Ernakulam assembly bypoll, were leading the protests.
Activist from Kerala, Bindu Ammini, who had joined Desai's team at the airport was attacked by a right-wing group member using chilli spray when she came out of the office of the commissioner to take some papers from their vehicle, police sources said.
The man identified as Srinath Padmanabhan has been arrested, police said.
Ammini, who was admitted to the general hospital here, has been discharged after the treatment, her lawyer said.
The agitators ended the protest following assurances from police officials that the women activists would not be given protection to visit the temple.
Ammini and Kanakadurga were the two women activists who had offered prayers at Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple under police security last year following the Supreme Court permitting entry of women in all age groups into the hill shrine.
Reacting cautiously, the CPM-led LDF government condemned the attack on Ammini but made it clear that no women in the age group of 10 and 50 would be given police protection to climb the holy hills unless they get an order from the Supreme Court in this regard. Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran alleged conspiracy behind women's rights activist Trupti Desai's decision to visit Sabarimala. "The government suspects a conspiracy behind Trupti Desai's decision to go to Sabarimala. She has come from Pune, a stronghold of the RSS and the BJP," the minister told reporters in Thalassery.
Surendran alleged the move was to create trouble during a peaceful pilgrim season in Sabarimala.
Travancore Devaswom Board president N Vasu said the board was not informed about their plan to visit the temple.
Contending that the apex court has not stayed its 2018 order permitting women in the menstrual age group into the shrine, Ammini said they would file a contempt of court petition in the top court against the state government for not providing them police security to visit the temple.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who argued the Sabarimala case in the Supreme Court, said the likes of Desai can only do excesses in the name of activism while the final verdict for Sabarimala temple was still pending before the apex court.
"Atleast the sentiment of people associated with the temple must be respected before final verdict assigns rights," he said in a tweet.
Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala alleged "conspiracy" by the CPM and the BJP to "sabotage" the ongoing pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple.
"While Desai is having Sangh Parivar connection, Ammini is a supporter of the CPM. Both of them have come to climb Sabarimala hills. This is a move to sabotage Sabarimala pilgrimage," he alleged. The senior Congress leader also urged the government to take steps to maintain peace and sanctity of the temple.
Though the Supreme Court, earlier in November gave a 3:2 verdict referring the Sabarimala review pleas to a larger seven-judge Bench, it maintained that it has not stayed its September 28, 2018 order allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. The temple bans entry of women in the 10-50 year age group.
Since the beginning of the two-month Sabarimala festival on November 17, seven women in the banned age group, all from outside Kerala, who sought 'darshan' were not allowed entry to the temple by the police.