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PAMBA/ SABARIMALA: Eleven women pilgrims from Tamil Nadu on way for Sabarimala darshan fled for their lives, along with the police posse escorting them, after frenzied devotees and right-wing activists charged at them, barely after the women started their ascent to the hill-top temple on Sunday.

The leader of the group - belonging to the Chennai-based NGO, Manithi - told media that police had forced them to abandon one more attempt to visit the shrine, before they left for Madurai. "We are turning back since police have failed to give us security even though they promised to help us earlier," Selvi, the leader of the 11-woman team, said, vowing to return for darshan.

However, G Karthikeyan, SP, who is in charge of the police force at Pamba, said the women chose to abandon their plan voluntarily after getting a taste of what lay ahead. Police in Pamba registered two separate cases against two groups of protesters for blocking women pilgrims on the way. In the first case, six protesters were arrested from Pamba. The women who reached the Kerala border late on Saturday were escorted by a Kerala police team all the way to Pamba, with the police taking numerous detours to avoid protesters gathered at several locations along the route. At Pamba, despite prohibitory orders, dozens of protesters confronted them, which prompted the women to hold a sit-in protest at Pamba at 4am. After a 7-hour stalemate, police arrested and removed the protesters and then decided to escort the women uphill.

However, they had barely proceeded a few 100 metres when they were stopped by six or seven men. Even as the police escort tried to physically remove these men, suddenly hundreds of men rushed downhill towards the women. The terrified women fled, so did the police who were clearly outnumbered. Members of the Rapid Action Force eventually escorted the women to safety to the police camp at Pamba.
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