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'Trupti Desai will have to walk over us to enter Sabarimala': Rahul Easwar

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Kochi: With just a few hours left for the doors of Sabarimala temple to open for devotees again, Kerala is witnessing more protests.

On Friday morning, activist Trupti Desai who reached the Kochi International Airport faced stiff protests by local BJP activists who had congregated outside the airport along with several protesters.

Desai, accompanied by six of her colleagues, was unable to get out of the airport. Desai had, earlier in the week, sent an email to the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking security during her travel to the hill shrine.

The Sabarimala temple will open around 5 pm today for the third time after the Supreme Court September 28 verdict that lifted the centuries-old ban on entry of women between the ages 10 to 50.

On Thursday, the Kerala Chief Minister held an all-party meeting on Sabarimala, aimed at discussing the row over the entry of women of menstruating ages at the Sabarimala temple, ahead of the two-month long annual 'Mandala Makkaravillakku' or the pilgrimage season, set to start on November 17.

After the nearly three-hour long meeting, dubbed as a ‘farce’ by the Opposition, Vijayan said his government was duty bound to enforce the apex court’s verdict  allowing women of all ages to pray at the hill temple of Lord Ayyappa as it had not been stayed.

Here are LIVE updates of Sabarimala temple opening:

04:33 pm: Lord Ayyappa devotees throng base camp Pamba in Pathanamthitta to begin trek to Sabarimala temple. Heavy security deployed in the area.

03:39 pm: "Trupti Desai should go back. She will have to step on our chests and walk over us if she wants to enter Sabarimala temple," said activist Rahul Easwar protesting outside Kochi airport.

03:35 pm: Kerala Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar called Trupti Desai an "RSS activist".

12:40 pm: Trupti Desai and her associates have been held up inside the airport for over seven hours.

12:37 pm: No private vehicles will be allowed to Sabarimala only Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses will transport the pilgrims to Pamba.

12:35 pm: Heavy rains are lashing Sabarimala and nearby areas and devotees have not yet been allowed to leave for Pamba, a key base camp enroute to the temple, reports news agency PTI.

12:30 pm: IGP Vijay Saleem has asked police personnel to follow strict dress code at Sabarimala, while exemption has been given to cops at the holy 18 steps.

12:25 pm: Over 15,000 personnel, including women police personnel and 860 women civil police officers, would be deployed during the season, when lakhs of devotees from different parts of the country are expected to throng the shrine.

10:56 am: "Police tried to evacuate us from another gate but protesters were there as well. Protests being held here. Does this mean protesters are scared that we'll reach Sabarimala once we reach Nilakkal, or, are they trying to scare us? We won't return until we have 'darshan'," says Trupti Desai.

10:55 am: "We reached Cochin Airport at 4:30 am. Protests were being held outside. We booked taxi 2-3 times but drivers have been threatened that their vehicle will be vandalised if they offer us a drive. Police have said that we can't go outside now," Trupti Desai said.

09:55 am: Trupti Desai, founder of Bhumata Brigade, having breakfast at Cochin International Airport as she has not been able to leave the airport yet due to protests being carried out against her visit to Sabarimala temple.

09:25 am: Temple priests said they will shut the temple if women between 10 and 50 enter the temple premises.

09:15 am: Section 144 imposed around the Sabarimala temple

09:10 am: To prevent women of menstruating age from entering the Lord Ayyappa shrine, protesters are gathering in large number outside the Kochi airport. They are also checking hotel rooms and vehicles.

Protesters are asking hotels not to accommodate women of the "banned" age group.  

09:00 am: Police were deployed in large numbers at Kochi airport to control the situation. Police officers held discussions with Desai and protesters but both sides stick to their stand, reports news agency PTI.

08:55 am: Trupti Desai, founder of Bhumata Brigade, at Cochin International Airport. Protests are underway outside the airport against her visit to Sabarimala temple.

08:10 am: "Protestors should not resort to violence. Once we reach there, we'll see what level of security state gives us. Even if the state doesn't give us any security, we'll still go, but I can be attacked. I have received so many threats of attack and killing," Trupti Desai said.

08:08 am: Protesting local BJP leaders at the Kochi airport, alleged that Desai and her team came to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that restricts entry of women between 10 and 50 years, reports news agency PTI.

"She (Desai) came here not for darshan but for disturbing a peaceful Sabarimala  pilgrim season beginning Saturday," PTI said quoting protesters.

08:05 am: "Won't allow Trupti Desai to go out from airport even if she being escorted with police vehicle or other government means. Airport taxies also won't take her. If she wants, she can use her own vehicle. There will be agitations all along her way even if she goes out from airport," MN Gopi, BJP, outside Cochin airport.

08:02 am: Protesters gather outside Cochin International Airport. Trupti Desai, the founder of Bhumata Brigade, has arrived at the airport from Pune. Security has been heightened. She had written to Kerala Chief Minister seeking security for her visit to the hilltop shrine of Lord Ayyappa on 17 November.

08:00 am: The Sabarimala temple is set to open between 5 and 5:30 pm today.

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