Trupti Desai unable to exit Cochin Airport as protesters swell

Desai at Cochin Airport

Bhumata Brigade head and women’s rights activist Trupti Desai has been blocked by protesters at the Cochin International Airport by protesters.

The activist reached Cochin at around 4:40 AM, and quickly drew protesters.

The number of protesters outside the airport has been increasing as news about Desai’s entry spread and currently number in the hundreds.

Both men and women are part of the protesters, who also include many from the state BJP. The BJP, which initially supported the removal of age restrictions, later changed its stand saying it wants to support the believers who were holding state-wise protests against the SC order.

Protests were initially begun by ‘Ayyappa sevasamithis’ — local groups of Ayyappa devotees that exist to facilitate the annual pilgrimage, and later gained the support of both the Congress and the BJP.

“She is not someone who has come as a devotee,” said RV Babu, a Hindu Aikyavedi leader who was at airport. “She has not observed the vows or fulfilled the conditions for entering the temple. She is only interested in violating the sanctity of the temple.”

Babu said if the government extends a lot of facilities to the activist, the impact will be felt on CPIM, and also offered to make “all arrangements” for her return to Mumbai by flight if she was ready to turn back.

On her part, Desai questioned the move to block her at the airport itself.

She said she requested the Police to escort her to Kottayam, where she intends to put up. “But the Police has asked us to wait, saying the protests are very strong,” she said.

A taxi hailed by Desai was not allowed to approach the airport by protesters. It remains to be seen if the police take her in their vehicle.

“We will go from here to Pathanamthitta, Kochi or Kottayam under police protection… Police have said that they will give us security today, and tomorrow, they will take us for Sabarimala darshan.”

“I can understand if they block me at Nilakkal [base camp]. What does it mean to block me here,” she asked.

She also confirmed that she did not get an official reply to her request to the state government seeking protection.

Desai said she will wait at the Airport till the protests thin out.

The Pinarayi Vijayan government of Kerala is caught in a bind as the people of Kerala are overwhelmingly opposed to the entry of an activist, that too an outsider who has not undergone the necessary penance rituals required to enter Sabarimala, into Kerala’s holiest shrine.

On the other hand, a section within the Left parties want the government to take tough action to advance the cause of ‘progressive politics’ by helping the activists force their way into the shrine.

BJP’s pro-devotee stand is expected to help the party increase its support among Hindus, particularly OBCs and SCs who comprise the majority of Ayyappa devotees. The BJP has traditionally found it hard to attract these sections that have traditionally formed the ‘vote bank’ of the Left.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra had, a month ago, ordered the state government to facilitate the entry of anyone and everyone into the shrine, irrespective of age.

Traditionally, only women above 50 and girls below 10 are allowed inside. The court found no logic behind the custom.

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