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Activist Trupti Desai hits devotee wall

Sangh parivar activists and devotees blocked Cochin airport exit points to ensure Desai remained holed up inside

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore

  • Published 17.11.18, 3:15 AM
  • Updated 17.11.18, 10:30 AM
Desai at Cochin airport.
Desai at Cochin airport. PTI

Hundreds of “devotees” laid siege to Cochin International Airport in Kerala and held a marathon vigil, preventing gender rights activist Trupti Desai from leaving for the Sabarimala temple and eventually forcing her to fly back.

The pre-dawn arrival of the Pune-based activist from the Bhumata Brigade and six associates had turned the airport into a protest zone, with hundreds of Sangh parivar activists and devotees converging on the exit points to ensure Desai remained holed up inside.

By dawn, the number had risen to more than 1,000, many pouring in through the arrival gate of the domestic terminal.

The women activists had arrived on an IndiGo flight at 4.40am to visit the temple, where a ban on the entry of women of childbearing age had been scrapped by the apex court in September. But the protesters have till now not let any woman aged between 10 and 50 enter the shrine.

Around 200 parivar activists were waiting outside the arrival hall for Desai, who stood for a long time at a vantage point inside the hall from where news television cameras could film her and telecast the images live.

It didn’t take too long for questions to be asked how the activists had learnt about Desai’s travel plans since she had not cited a specific time about her arrival.

Desai’s perceived political affiliations became a talking point as she initially refused to fly out. Desai later described as “lies” suggestions that she was from the Congress, whose local leaders are supporting the “devotees”, or the Sangh.

M.B. Rajesh, Lok Sabha member from Palakkad and a leader of the ruling CPM, told The Telegraph: “We can’t help suspecting her motive. I feel she is an RSS agent out to create trouble for the Kerala government.”

“How did the Sangh parivar people know about her arrival so early in the morning?…. Unless she has informed them, how would they know about her arrival?” Rajesh asked.

Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said Desai had once contested on a party ticket for the Pune municipality but had had no connection with the organisation for the past 10 years.

No taxi driver was ready to drive Desai the 150km to Sabarimala and risk the wrath of the protesters.

In the evening, after a meeting with police officers, Desai decided to take a night flight to Mumbai. But she vowed to visit Sabarimala “without announcing” and using “guerrilla tactics”.