Sabarimala protesters target women, police book 200

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Sabarimala, Nov 6 (IANS) Sabarimala protesters on Tuesday raged, intimidated and sent back at least one woman from the hitherto banned age group of 10-50 years as they refused to allow them to break the tradition. Police registered cases against 200 protesters.

The Kerala unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the way the pilgrims had to go without water and other basic facilities.

After the Lord Ayyappa temple opened on Monday at 5 p.m for the special one-day session amid tight security, there were violent protests by devotees late in the night and early on Tuesday as they saw women from the banned age group approaching the shrine.

Two women on Tuesday were apprehended on their way through Pamba and threatened after devotees found they were without the holy kit (Irumudi Kettu).

Shouting Ayyappa slogans, the protesters stopped them from advancing any further. This was despite the fact that they were above 50 years, the police said.

It was not until their leaders announced on megaphone that the protests ended. Later, the women were helped to complete their darshan and perform puja at the hilltop temple.

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Speaking to the media, senior RSS activist Valsan Thillenkeri from Kannur who was seen speaking on the megaphone standing near the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, said he came here as a pilgrim.

“When I went up 18 steps to the temple and prayed, I heard a noise and saw a commotion. Someone handed me a megaphone and I appealed to all not to create any trouble as no tradition of the temple would be broken,” said Thillenkeri at the temple town.

The first protests were witnessed late on Monday, when a 30-year-old woman along with her husband and children was stopped. Following the violent outbursts, the woman retreated.

She was sent back home along with her family early on Tuesday under police security.

Although the Kerala Police has literally taken over Sabarimala posting a dozen women officials over 50 years of age near the shrine, there has not been any woman devotee inside the sanctum sanctorum from the hitherto banned age group despite the Pinarayi Vijayan government promising to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict.

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The police have registered cases against 200 people for creating trouble in the temple compound.

According to the available figures, close to 15,000 pilgrims had taken the pathway to the temple hilltop, compared with less than 1,000 devotees the same day last year.

The temple had witnessed massive protests between October 17 and 22, after it opened for the first time following the apex court’s ruling allowing the girls and women between 10 and 50 to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine.

The temple town is witnessing one of its most stringent security arrangements. There were more than 2,300 police officials posted at various points up the pilgrimage path after the state took over the shrine’s security on Saturday.

Several metal detectors have been kept at a various points and crowd combating arrangements are also in place.

The Kerala government has announced it would implement the apex court’s ruling, pitting it against the BJP and numerous Hindu groups, which have been up in arms against the verdict.

State BJP president told reporters Tuesday at Pathanamtitta — the district where the temple is located — that they have already filed a petition at the NHRC, stating that the devotees over the past 24 hours have been suffering.

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“The basic facilities have been denied to the pilgrims and purposely haunting the pilgrims and they are being denied even the basic things like water, toilet facilities and even food. This is not acceptable and hence have approached the NHRC,” said Pillai.

Seven-time Independent legislator P.C. George, whose Poonjar constituency includes part of the temple town, said he fails to understand what has happened to the Chief Minister.

“I have been supporting him all through, but he has goofed up on the Sabarimala issue very badly and has hurt the devotees very badly just because of his adamant stance,” said George.

Vijayan, however, said that things are under control in and around the temple town.

“Some vested interests are trying to scuttle peace and tranquillity in the temple town, but the police have been doing their job and everything is fine,” Vijayan told the media on Tuesday.



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