36-yr-old Dalit woman dyes hair grey, claims she entered Sabarimala shrine

After the entry of two women in Sabarimala temple last week which triggered widespread protests in the state, a Dalit woman activist, who is in her 30s, on Wednesday claimed she entered the hill shrine and had a ‘darshan’ of the presiding deity Lord Ayyappa in the early hours of Tuesday.

P Manju (36) made this claim in her Facebook post saying she entered the shrine by acting as an old woman who was over 50 years of age. She also posted her photo offering prayers at the temple. Though police said her pictures show she made it to the temple dodging protestors, they are yet to confirm it.

Claiming she did not seek police protection and trekked to the temple among milling devotees, Manju also said she scaled 18 holy steps, considered most sacrosanct as far as the pilgrimage to the hill temple is concerned. Interestingly she is one among the 20-odd women who unsuccessfully tried to enter the temple in October last and right wing activists had attacked her house in Kollam in south Kerala.

“I had a fruitful darshan of the presiding deity. I came as an ordinary pilgrim. But, of course, to dodge protestors, I dyed my hair grey and pretended to be an aged woman. Nobody noticed me and I will continue my visit in future also,” said Manju, an active worker of the Mahila Dalit Federation, a left-leaning Dalit outfit. Some of her friends also claimed she entered the temple and refused to disclose her location. Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, who were the first to enter the temple with police, are yet to come out in the open and reported to be under police protection.

The Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an outfit leading the agitation against women entry, alleged that since review pleas against the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict, which allowed women of all ages to offer prayers at the temple, were coming before the court on January 23, police and others were fudging records to show more women entered the temple to make their case strong. After the reported entry of Sri Lankan woman Sasikala last week the tantri had checked the CCTV visuals and found no visuals proving her presence at the sanctum sanctorum and decided not to do a fresh round of purification rite, sources close to him said. Similarly there are unconfirmed reports of 10 women visited the temple.

Regulars at the temple said it was really difficult to make out from the milling pilgrims whether a particular woman is below 50 years or not and chances are there they can sneak after donning male attire or pretending to be an aged.

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