12 women headed to Sabarimala: Will they make history?
Since the Supreme Court, on September 28, struck down the ban on the entry of women aged 10-50 years to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, not a single woman of the age group has been able to enter the temple.
Yet, despite threats by protesting Ayyappa devotees, a group of 12 women from Chennai are headed to the temple on Sunday.
The women are from a Chennai-based women's rights group
The 12 women who are willing to take a chance are all aged between 30 and 40 years, and are from Chennai-based rights activist forum Manithi.
Initially, 30 women from the group were slated to visit the 800-year-old temple, but most backed out after news of their visit broke last week, and protesting Ayyappa devotees threatened them with their lives.
Many backed out fearing for their lives
"We were 30 initially, but now the number has come down to 12. We are facing several threats because of which many backed out fearing for their lives," Vasumathi Vasanth, a member of Manithi, told TOI.
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The women are braving threats to their lives
While the 12 women seem to be unfazed despite the threats, their visit to the Sabarimala temple is expected to trigger a severe backlash from protesting Ayyappa devotees and right-wing groups, including the BJP, who are opposed to women entering the shrine.
The women, for their part, have said that they are visiting not as rights activists, but as devotees of "Ayyappa Swamy".
Manithi: We expect protection from the state government
"Most of us are observing customary fast and we are coming as pilgrims, not as activists. We have informed the state government about our pilgrimage and we expect protection to worship at the hill abode," Manithi office-bearer L Vasanthi told HT.
BJP is mobilizing people to block their path
Their plan is to reach Kottayam by Sunday morning, and travel by road to the Sabarimala temple.
However, the BJP has already started ferrying its members and other protesting Ayyappa devotees to Kottayam to try and block the group's passage.
Whether the women will succeed in entering the temple and making history remains to be seen.
Battleground Sabarimala: The fight rages on
Ever since the Supreme Court verdict, the temple has become battleground between women's rights activists and conservative believers, and between Kerala's Left government and right-wing groups.
While the Kerala government, in theory, has extended support to women, they have not been able to quell the throngs of protesters who have, so far, denied women entry to the temple.