NEW DELHI/ KOCHI: Hours before Sabarimala temple was scheduled to be opened to devotees including women as per Supreme Court orders, activist Trupti Desai flew into Kochi announcing her determination to enter the temple on Saturday, November 17. This has stoked fires in the state with the Left government, already under tremendous pressure to maintain law and order, finding a new confrontation zone at the Kochi airport.

In what became high drama, cabs at the airport refused to take Desai into town, protestors gathered insisting they would not allow her to step out, and the police arrived in large numbers to ensure peace and keep the activist confined to the airport. The media of course surrounded Desai, who insisted that she would go to Sabarimala, and would not budge until she was allowed to.

Giving another twist to the face off, Kerala Left leaders appeared on television insisting that Desai was acting on the behest of the RSS, BJP. Desai hotly denied these charges, insisting she was not of any political colour, but just a woman who believed in gender equality, charged with the mission of ensuring all places of worship opened their doors and stopped discrimination against women.

Women protestors who have supported the BJP/ RSS demand to keep the temple's doors closed to women told reporters they would not let Desai set foot inside. One particularly passionate woman insisted, 'We will not allow this, they can kill us all, but till the last one is alive, we will not allow Trupti Desai who is seeking cheap publicity to enter the temple.'

In Sabarimala women of menstruating age are not allowed into the temple, with the Supreme Court ruling in their favour evoking strong resistance. Senior leaders such as BJP President Amit Shah have leaned heavily on the side of the protestors. The Congress has supported the protestors as well, with the effort by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to reach political consensus before the temple was opened for the devotees again falling flat. Both the BJP and the Congress walked out of that meeting.

CPI-M leaders are categorical that their government is in place in Kerala to implement the Supreme Court orders, and the Constitution of India. Vijayan has stated this more than once, making it clear that it is for the courts to decide otherwise and not the government, which is in power to safeguard the institutions of democracy. He has held firm despite the huge backlash from within Kerala itself, stoked now by right wing forces that includes the Congress in the state, as much like the BJP it sees political opportunity in the crisis.

The apex court has refused to stay its September 28 order and will take up the 48 petitions seeking a review only on January 22.

Trupti Desai is being joined by other activists at the airport, and remains firm in her resolve to enter the temple. However, even as she is confined to the airport reports suggest that the ferrying of devotees to the temple has begun. She has been linked to the RSS off an on during her various agitations to get entry for women to religious places like the Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali shrine, the Mahalakshmi temple and others. Desai of course, continues to deny political affiliations.