Trupti returns home after 14-hour standoff

High drama: Activist Trupti Desai at the Cochin International Airport on Friday, and right, protesters outside the airport.

High drama: Activist Trupti Desai at the Cochin International Airport on Friday, and right, protesters outside the airport.  

All attempts by police to bring the activist out of airport fail

After a tense stand-off that lasted over 14 hours at the Cochin international airport late into Friday evening, gender equality activist Trupti Desai and six other women chose to return without offering prayers at the Sabarimala temple in the face of unrelenting protest that gained in intensity over the hours.

The group finally secured tickets on a Mumbai-bound flight of Air India originally scheduled for departure from the international terminal at 8.10 p.m., but was delayed by a hour. Central Industrial Security Force personnel escorted them from the domestic arrival terminal to the T3 international terminal along the air-side to avoid any risk of skirmishes that would have followed had they taken the normal route outside the terminal.

The decision for sending the women back crystallised around 6.30 p.m. following sustained efforts by the police, airport, revenue, and Central Industrial Security Force authorities to convince Ms. Desai of the seemingly insurmountable odds against exiting the airport and continuing the onward journey to Sabarimala. The women had planned to proceed to Kottayam and from there to Sabarimala on Saturday.

The decision brought much relief to police and the other authorities concerned who had been on tenterhooks right from the time Ms. Desai and her team arrived by an Indigo flight amidst stiff protests at 4.40 a.m. Efforts by the police to arrange a cab and to even spirit them away through an exit other than the one at the domestic terminal had all failed.

Protest intensifies

The protesters had made it clear at the very outset that they would not allow the women to move out of the airport in a police vehicle.

Hence, the women had to remain cocooned in the safety of the terminal for the next many hours in the face of the stiff protest by hymn-chanting protesters organised by the BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits. Their number kept swelling outside the terminal by the minute. Though a huge police posse under J. Himendranath, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Kochi City, was deployed at the airport, never did they exert force against the protesters to make way for the women pilgrims.

The eventual solution was reached after many rounds of failed negotiations during which both Ms. Desai and the protesters remained steadfast in their positions, declining to back down.

The police have registered a case against 200-odd people involved in the ongoing protest.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 8:18:26 PM |

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