Women’s rights activist Trupti Desai, who arrived in Kerala’s Kochi early on Friday to visit the Sabarimala temple, was blocked by angry protesters who laid a siege to the airport.
Desai, who arrived in Indigo flight from Pune at 5 am, was not allowed to come out of the airport. Protesters lay on the road asking the police to take her over their bodies as tension gripped the area.
Though police tried to shift her to a hotel, protesters refused to allow her to come outside asking her to go back. She reportedly asked the police to hire a taxi to Pambha, the base camp of the hilltop shrine, from where a 5.5 km trek to the temple begins.
Taxi drivers also declined to take her out of the airport. She has been at the busy airport for more than three hours.
“I will go ahead come what may. I will not go back without the darshan of Lord Ayyappa,” said Desai, who said goons were out to block her and not devotees.
As the leader of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, Pune-based Desai had fought for the entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
It was seen as an important landmark in the movement for women’s rights in the country and the incident triggered similar campaigns at other famous shrines in the country where women have been prohibited from going inside the sanctum sanctorum.
No woman has been able to enter the hill shrine despite an army of security men accompanying them twice and the situation came to a head when the tantri or the supreme priest threatened to quit and shut the temple gates if any woman came anywhere near the sanctum sanctorum.
An all-party meeting called by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to resolve the Sabarimala stand-off failed to make headway on Thursday with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staging a walkout.
Vijayan stood firm that he was “duty-bound” to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages entry into the temple. The annual Sabarimala pilgrimage season starts Friday.
As the hill temple is on edge the Travancore Devasom Board, which runs the temple, is planning to move the Supreme Court seeking more time to implement its September 28 verdict allowing women of all ages between 10 and 50 to worship at the temple.