Sabarimala protests: Shutdown in Kerala as state remains tense, temple reopens at 5 pm

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New Delhi | Updated: October 18, 2018 3:54:02 PM

Sabarimala protests: Kerala is in the grip of tension for the second consecutive day over the Supreme Court's last month decision to grant permission to women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Sabarimala temple protestsHindu devotees wait in queues inside the premises of the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district in the southern state of Kerala, India, October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Sabarimala protests: Kerala is in the grip of tension for the second consecutive day over the Supreme Court’s last month decision to grant permission to women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple. Though the doors of the temple were opened last evening for a five-day pilgrimage to allow devotees to offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa, no woman was allowed to enter the temple premises.

Police said that Section 144 has been imposed in Pampa, Nilakkal, Sannidhanam and Elavungal to prevent mass gathering. But when a female journalist along with her colleague, a foreign national, managed to go past the Pamba gateway, they were stopped midway by the devotees and forced to return.

“I had reached half way and then the protests grew stronger. I was hit by a stone and then we decided to return. The police had provided us with all the security,” Suhasini Raj, who works as the India reporter for The New York Times, said.

Police assure security to women devotees

Pathanamthitta District Collector PB Nooh said that the situation is under control and Section 144 will be there till Friday midnight. The official added that police will provide security to any woman who wished to go to the temple.

Sabarimala temple

“Situation is peaceful. There is no problem here. We have deployed sufficient police force in Pampa and Sannidhanam. There is no issue. Currently, this (Section 144) has been imposed for two days, further decision will be taken as per situation,” Nooh said.

Head priest criticises SC decision

Sabarimala temple head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru today criticised the Supreme Court’s verdict. He said that the custom to restrict the entry of women is based on old tradition and people want to follow it.

“The Supreme Court thinks only about the law of the land, not about the customs and traditions. So many devotees still want that the old custom should be maintained. I have only one opinion, which is based on the old custom and tradition. It is a dangerous situation. Most of the devotees are desperate after the Supreme Court. It is my request that please maintain system and custom of the Sabarimala Temple. “I don’t agree with violence. It hasn’t been done by devotees but by others,” he said.

“We have the highest regards for women. And those who otherwise come to pray at the temple are treated with utmost respect. We always respect the law of the land but in the wake of the apex court’s ruling, we humbly request women that they should not try to break the tradition of this hallowed temple,” he added.

Review plea in Supreme Court

Meanwhile, the All-Kerala Brahmins Association has moved the Supreme Court seeking review of the verdict that lifted the ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in the temple. In its plea, the association said that there are “several serious errors” that have resulted in a “grave miscarriage of justice” for actual devotees of Ayyappa.

Sabarimala temple

Violence near base camp

On Wednesday, strong protests were reported as political and religious groups turned out in large numbers near the base camp to prevent women devotees from undertaking the yatra to the hill shrine. Some protesters even clashed with police and heckled women journalists. As a result, police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and several protesters were arrested. On account of the violence, the administration imposed Section 144 to prevent mass gathering near the temple and base camp.

Today, police presented arrested protesters before the Magistrate Court in Ranni. The court sent 20 out of 30 arrested protesting devotees to two weeks judicial custody. The arrested activists included a member of the Tantri family, Rahul Eashwar.

Police monitoring activities online

Kerala DGP today said that officials are also monitoring activities on social media which protesters are using as a toll to incite others for violence. The DGP said that directions have been issued to the cyber cell to register cases against people who are spreading religious hatred posts related to incidents of violence in Nilakkal and Pamba on social media.

IGP Thiruvananthapuram range said that situation is under control and police officials are on the ground. “We will give protection to everybody going up. It is our job, to give protection to all pilgrims. We will put more manpower and secure all routes.”

Sabarimala temple

Shutdown in Kerala

The Sabarimala Karma Samithi has called for state-wide shutdown today. The bandh call saw a good response. Almost all shops, markets remained closed since morning. Also, public transport was badly hit with a few private vehicles moving on the road. At a few places in Kozhikode and Malappuram, angry protesters pelted stones on buses of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation. News agency IANS reported that there was poor attendance at the IT parks in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi.

Temple reopens at 5 pm

The temple will reopen at 5pm today for the rituals. Today is the second day of five-day long monthly rituals. The temple will remain open till October 22 to allow devotees to offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa.

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