Sabarimala Temple opens

Sabarimala Temple opens for puja amid high security

The Sabarimala temple opened on Monday for a one-day ritual as thousands of police personnel, including women officers, kept a watch on the hilltop temple that witnessed large-scale violence last month by protesters against the Supreme Court ruling allowing women of menstrual age into the shrine in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta.

The temple is being opened for Sree Chithira Attathirunal pooja, an offering to honour the last king of the erstwhile Travancore dynasty Sree Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma.

No incident was reported from two base camps, Nilakkal and Pambha, and other areas. Pilgrims blocked roads chanting hymns Ayyappa Saranam in the morning In Erumeli, saying the state transport authority was deliberately delaying buses to the base camps.

The reopening comes two weeks after the temple and surrounding areas witnessed violent protests carried out by several Hindu outfits opposing the verdict of the Supreme Court allowing women of all ages to worship at the shrine. The base camps had witnessed large-scale violence during which many including women journalists were hurt when the temple opened on October 17 for the first time after the top court’s verdict allowing women of menstruating age into the shrine.

Many Hindu outfits have once again threatened to prevent women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple. The Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an umbrella organisation of many outfits including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Hindu Aikya Vedi, urged in its letter to media houses to not send women journalists to the area, saying that it might aggravate the issue.

Police have clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, which restricts a gathering of more than four people, since Saturday night, said state police chief Loknath Behra, adding the temple and surrounding areas are under a three-tier security ring.

Around 2,300 personnel, including a 20-member commando team and 100 women, have been deployed for the security of the devotees.

Earlier, journalists were not allowed entry to the two base camps — Pambha and Nilakkal. Later, the DGP issued a statement, denying any restriction for the media.

Police have been issued strict orders to arrest anyone preventing women from entering the temple. “If a woman is willing to trek to the temple, if needed women cops will escort them,” a senior official camping at the hilltop shrine said.

As the temple issue raged, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit PS Sreedharan courted trouble after a video clip of his speech at a party meeting was leaked. In the video, Pillai is purportedly heard saying that he was in touch with the tantri (supreme priest) when two women came close to the temple in October.

Pillai is also heard saying that the Sabarimala issue was a “golden opportunity” for the BJP and other players were caught unaware by the agenda set by the party. He later admitted that the tantri had called him as a lawyer to seek a legal opinion from him.

“He asked me whether shutting the doors of the temple will invite the contempt of court. I told him if customs were violated he was free to do it,” he said

The senior BJP leader said his speech at BJYM conference in Kozhikode was deliberately leaked to create confusion among devotees.

CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has sought action against the tantri “for conspiring with the BJP leader.”

The temple tantri and officials said they would close the shrine if any female devotee from the age group 10 to 50 tried to enter the sanctum sanctorum from October 17 to 22, when the temple was open for the monthly puja, saying it was against the centuries-old temple’s tradition.

The Left government in Kerala has announced it will implement the top court’s ruling pitting it against the BJP and numerous Hindu groups which have been up in arms against the September 28 verdict.



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