Gender activist Trupti Desai holed up at Kochi airport
As the hours passed, the number of demonstrators, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists, swelled
Gender activist Trupti Desai and six other women flew into Kochi on Friday to pray at the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala but were forced to remain in the airport for hours as hundreds of BJP and Hindu activists blocked their exit.
The airport turned into a noisy protest site as Desai and her group arrived from Pune at around 4.45 a.m., with some 100 protesters shouting slogans and preventing her from leaving the complex despite police presence.
As the hours passed, the number of demonstrators, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists, swelled. They virtually took charge of every entry and exit gates both inside and outside the airport.
Kerala BJP leaders joined the protest.
BJP spokesperson Shoba Surendran said: "We will not allow her to leave the airport. Desai has got all the support from atheists like our Chief Minister who is determined to see that a lady gets to visit the temple.
"She is nothing but an activist who has scant respect for the tradition of Sabarimala. So it's best that (Pinarayi) Vijayan sees that she is packed off from here at the earliest."
Despite pleas from the police officers, Desai said she would not return without visiting the Lord Ayyappa shrine. She had already spent nearly 10 hours at the airport.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media from the Nilackal base camp near the Ayyappa shrine, state Minister for Devasoms (which looks after temples) K. Surendran said Desai arrived in Kochi after writing to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Maharashtra.
Prior to her arrival, the activist wrote to Pinarayi Vijayan seeking police protection from the time she steps out of her plane at Kochi on Friday till she takes her return flight out of the state.
The temple is scheduled to open on Friday at 5 p.m. for two months.
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.
The apex court this week refused to stay its earlier verdict.
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