Kochi, Nov 26, 2019: An activist who came to Kerala’s Kochi to attempt a trek to Sabarimala temple was attacked by a man with a pepper spray right outside the office of the Police Commissioner. In a mobile phone video, activist Bindu Ammini was seen shielding her face and running away from a man who attacked her with the pepper spray. The man is seen fleeing from the compound as the orange mist of the potent self-defence weapon burns Ms Ammini. She was taken to a hospital, and then to an undisclosed location by the policeas to NDTV.
Activist Trupti Desai has also come to the southern state again for another shot at making it to the hilltop shrine of Lord Ayyappa, nestled in the Western Ghats. Five more women, including Ms Desai, plan to trek to the shrine today.
Ms Desai, who the Kerala government said will not get any security cover, landed at Kochi airport this morning. "We’ll visit Sabarimala temple today on Constitution Day. Neither state government nor police can stop us from visiting the temple. Whether we get security or not we will visit the temple today," Ms Desai said today.
"I will leave Kerala only after offering prayers at the shrine," Ms Desai said, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
The six women including Ms Desai are inside the City Police Commissioner’s office in Kochi. Ms Ammini was attacked while a group of right-wing workers were protesting at the site.
The Supreme Court in 2018 in a historic judgment allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, which angered some devotees of the celibate God. The Kerala government had then promised it would provide security to women who want to walk to the temple from the nearest base camp in Pamba, some 5 km away.
Earlier this month, the top court while deciding on a petition to review its 2018 order referred the matter to a larger seven-judge bench, though it did not stay the 2018 verdict that had allowed entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple. The Kerala government now maintains it will not provide security to "activists" who try to enter Sabarimala.
"This is not a place for activism. This is not a place for activists like Trupti Desai to show their strength. We won’t take them in. Let them go get a court order," Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said on November 16.
Ms Desai today said her movement is being monitored closely. She alleged some people who may try to attack her have noted her vehicle number. The Pune-based activist’s attempt to enter Sabarimala temple exactly a year ago was stopped by protesters.
Lakhs of devotees have visited Lord Ayyappa’s temple in Sabarimala since it opened for the 41-day annual pilgrimage on November 16.