New Delhi. Over 50 women of menstruating age have entered the Sabarimala temple, the Kerala government told the Supreme Court, which was hearing the petitions of two women in their 40s who had entered the celibate god’s shrine earlier this month.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appearing for the Kerala government, said 51 women devotees under the age of 50 have entered the Sabarimala temple since the top court’s September order allowing girls/women between the ages of 10 and 50 into Lord Ayyappa’s shrine.
Over 16 lakh devotees registered online to enter Sabarimala. Of them 7,500 were women in the age group of 10 to 50 years. This, however, doesn’t include those who haven’t availed the online facility. A total of 44 lakh pilgrims have visited the temple from November 16, 2018 till date, the government’s note said.
“About 7,564 women below 50 registered for darshan. We could confirm this through their Aadhaar details. Among those, 51 have utilised this facility and gone to the temple. We don’t have any provision to verify the age of devotees,” Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran explained on how the government reached this number.
A list of these 51 women was submitted in the court today in reply to petitions filed by Kanaka Durga, 42, and 44-year-old Bindu Ammini, who achieved the feat on January 2.
The women had walked into the shrine before dawn. The duo, dressed in all-black, rushed in and were escorted by the police.
Their entry, however, led to the closing of the temple for an hour and a half for “cleansing”. The purification ceremony was followed by threats to the women, and protests across Kerala by right-wing groups as well as some members of the BJP and the Congress.
Kanaka Durga was also attacked allegedly by her mother-in-law on Tuesday, prompting the two women to approach the Supreme Court seeking protection. The court today directed the Kerala Police to provide round-the-clock security to these two women.
When the court was informed that the government was already providing adequate security to these women and others who have entered the Sabarimala temple, the three judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said there was no harm if the government continued to do so even after the court’s order.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the women petitioners, requested the court to allow clubbing of all the petitions on the Sabarimala temple issue. The bench, however, rejected the idea. There are around 48 petitions seeking a review of the judgment.
Ms Jaising also sought directions to authorities not to shut the temple for cleansing after the entry of any woman of reproductive age.