Sabarimala Protests: 29-Year-Old Man Arrested by Kerala Police For Assaulting Woman Devotee
Demonstrators protesting against the apex court order allowing entry of women of all ages inside the temple | File image | (Photo Credits: PTI)

Kottayam, November 7: The Kerala police on Wednesday arrested a man, identified as Sooraj, for assaulting a woman devotee at Sabarimala temple. The alleged assault was reported on Tuesday, when the temple was open for “Chithira Atta Thirunal”, a special ritual.

The apprehended youth belongs to Elanthoor village in Pathanamthitta district. The 29-year-old was part of a group which was surrounded and heckled a woman devotee, Lalitha Ravi, after mistaking her of being below the age of 50, who are barred from entering the shrine as per the tradition. History of Sabarimala: Why Women Weren't Allowed Into The Lord Ayyappa Shrine.

After the police intervened, Lalitha's Aadhaar card was verified and it was found that she is 52 years old. Under police protection, she was allowed to visit the shrine and offer prayers. She had travelled to Sabarimala for ‘choorunu’ (rice-giving) ceremony of her grandchild.

While Sooraj is the first to be arrested, the police have identified "200 others" who were involved in the assault.

Sooraj has been booked under under non-bailable charges — IPC 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), police said.

A search operation has been launched to crackdown on other culprits.

The Sabarimala temple is slated to reopen again from November 17, for a three-month period this time. The police have geared up security mechanism to prevent untoward situations.

The protests had erupted in Sabarimala since October 17, when the tempe opened for the first time after the Supreme Court's recent verdict allowing women aged between 10-50 to enter the hilltop shrine. The bench headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra struck down the traditional ban, calling it violative of right to equality guaranteed in the Constitution.