Sri Lankan Woman, 46, Denied Entry To Sabarimala Temple Amid Protests

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Sasikala, a citizen of Sri Lanka, said she was near the 18 golden steps at Sabarimala temple

Pamba, Kerala:

A 46-year-old woman from Sri Lanka who tried to enter the Sabarimala temple last night did not succeed in reaching the shrine of Lord Ayyappa nestled in the Western Ghats. Sasikala, a citizen of the island nation, told reporters that she was near the 18 golden steps that lead to the shrine when she was stopped by the police.

Police sources, however, said Ms Sasikala backed off on her own when she was asked if she wanted to continue with darshan despite protests against her.

Had she succeeded in entering the temple, Ms Sasikala would have been the third woman of menstruating age to have offered darshan to Lord Ayyappa after Bindu and Kanaka Durga, both in their early 40s, who on Wednesday made history.

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Protesters have been targeting women under 50 who attempt the trek to the Sabarimala temple after the Supreme Court ordered the end of a decades-old ban on women of menstrual age entering the shrine.

"I did not get darshan. They did not let me go… I have a medical certificate," Ms Sasikala said. Her medical papers show her uterus was removed. Ms Sasikala said she he has fulfilled every condition needed to visit the temple. "They have a 48-day fasting rule; I have done the 48-day fast."

When reporters asked whether the police stopped her from walking into the temple, she said, "Yes, they stopped me, asked me not to go ahead."

Priests and many devotees strongly believe that the ban on women between 10 and 50 years should stay as the deity Lord Ayyappa is celibate.

Both the BJP and the Congress have protested against the state government for allowing the two women inside the temple on Wednesday.

Armed with stones and crude bombs, mobs took to the streets in Kerala during the dawn-to-dusk strike on Thursday, clashing with the police, forcing shops to shut and attacking offices of the ruling CPM and its allies in several districts.

The strike was called by Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of right-wing groups, and the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad. The opposition BJP supported the strike while the Congress observed a "black day".

BJP Rajya Sabha member V Muraleedharan petitioned Home Minister Rajnath Singh for a detailed probe on the background of the two women and how they entered the temple through a backdoor, helped by the state government.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the state provided protection to the two women because it was obeying the Supreme Court's order.

Over 700 people were arrested and 600 were taken into precautionary detention on Thursday.

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