Libi CS, a self-proclaimed atheist, was taken away by police today on her way to the holy site of Sabarimala.
The woman, a native of Cherthala in Kerala, had announced on Facebook yesterday that she, along with three of her friends, will visit Sabarimala today.
“When Rahul Easwar (leader of the agitation) is camping at Sabarimala along with his thugs, threatening women and challenging the administration, the judiciary, democracy, the constitution and the general public, it is the duty of every citizen to make him understand that this is a democracy and not a theocracy,” she said in her post on Facebook.
The post received about 3,700 likes in 21 hours and invited about 1,700 comments. The comments were more or less evenly divided between those who congratulated her for her decision and those who questioned her motive.
While the whereabouts of her three friends are not known, she was spotted wearing dark clothes — the traditional attire of Sabarimala pilgrims symbolizing ‘vairagya’ or renunciation — by a group of women at the local bus station.
On being asked if she was going to Sabarimala, she replied in the affirmative, following which the women started intimidating her. The mob grew fairly big in size, but the local police arrived at the scene before any violence took place.
Libi has been is now at the Pathanamthitta police station.
According to journalists who interviewed her on her way to the police station, she said that she is determined to push on.
According to reports, she said that she felt it was her duty to protect the right extended to all women.
“The Supreme Court has given a judgement in favor of women. I have to protect my right. That is why I decided to go,” she is quoted as saying.
Yesterday, a group of North Indian students studying in Kerala were also blocked from visiting the temple by female devotees, who believe that the Ayyappa, the deity, will leave the temple if disturbed by women.
Pilgrims are also supposed to undergo a 41-day Mandala penance eschewing all the pleasures of life, such as sex, bright clothes, sweets and so on, and following a strict regimen of non-violence in word and deed.
Another woman, Madhavi, from Andhra Pradesh also had to turn back in the face of heavy opposition by devotees en route to the hill temple.
The temple can be accessed only by trekking 5 km uphill through the jungle.
The shrine was almost totally inaccessible till about a hundred years ago, and only the most ardent devotees dared make the trip uphill, daring tigers and elephants.
However, it has become more accessible since the advent of motorized transport, leading to a sharp spurt in the number of pilgrims and rapid degradation and pollution of the pilgrimage center and its once pristine surroundings.
A bench headed by former Chief Justice Dipak Misra set aside an earlier judgment of the Kerala High Court that had upheld the restrictions on the basis of freedom of religion.
The bench held that any Indian citizen has the right to go to any public place in India, and since the temple was a public place, no woman could be prevented from going there.