High drama was witnessed at the city airport Firday as activist Trupti Desai remained confined there since arrival early this morning enroute to Sabarimala following protest by devotees and others opposing the entry of menstrual age women into the Lord Ayyappa temple.
Tension prevailed at the airport at Nedumbassery, about 50 km from here, as the devotees and others, including BJP workes, remained firm that Desai and six other young women who accompanied her would not be allowed proceed to the Sabarimala temple which opens this evening.
Pune-based Desai, who landed at around 4.40 am, said there was no question of her going back without having darshan at the temple, which opens for the third time after the Supreme Court order on September 28 allowing all women to enter the famous shrine.
Amid the continuing stand-off, BJP demanded that Desai and her colleagues be sent back to Pune.
Police, who were present in large numbers, later in the day registered a case against around 200 devotees who can be identified for preventing the free movement of the activists, but did not make any attempt to remove them so far.
Justifying the agitation being held at the domestic terminal of the airport, BJP state President P S Sreedharan Pillai said the devotees of Lord Ayyappa were expressing their anguish over the move of the activists to enter the temple.
"Desai is challenging the devotees of Lord Ayyappa. This should not be done. The government should send her back considering the mounting protest in the state against her visit," he told reporters here.
Police said a case has been registered against around 200 devotees for preventing free movement of Desai and her colleagues.
They have been charged under various sections of the IPC including unlawful assembly, disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant and criminal intimidation, police said.
Condemning the agitation, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran termed as "uncivilised" the BJP "orchestrated protest" preventing free movement of a citizen.
Taking a dig at the Congress and the BJP, Surendran alleged that the activist was closely associated with these two parties and she would return if leaders of BJP and Congress make such a demand.
Desai, who has vowed to offer prayers at the hill shrine, and her colleagues have been blocked from leaving for Sabarimala as devotees in large numbers staged a "nama japam" protest clapping hands and chanting 'Swamiye Ayyappa'.
There is heavy deployment of police personnel in and around Sabarimala temple as it opens at 5 pm this evening for the "Mandala Makkaravillakku" puja in the backdrop of protests witnessed during the previous two occasions when the shrine opened.
Protesting local BJP leaders at the airport said the devotees, including women, would not let Desai and her colleagues to come out of the airport and proceed to Sabarimala temple.
They alleged that Desai and her team came here to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that prevented entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50.
"She (Desai) came here not for darshan but for disturbing a peaceful Sabarimala pilgrim season beginning Saturday," they said.
Talking to the media over phone, Desai said she would not go back without darshan at the Lord Ayyappa temple.
Taxi drivers at the airport said they would not take Desai and her colleagues outside the airport.
Desai, who spearheaded the campaign for women to be allowed into various religious places, including Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple and the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, had sent an email to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking security, saying she fears threat to her life.
"We will not return to Maharashtra without darshan at the Sabarimala temple.We have faith in the government that it will provide security for us," she had said, citing the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to offer prayers at the shrine.