Tension prevailed this morning in Kerala’s Nilackal, the main gateway to Sabarimala, , after the police used force to disperse devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the hill shrine. Acting tough, the police, deployed in large numbers in Nilackal, some 20 kms away from the Sabarimala hilltop, also removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.
The protesting group of devotees had been staging a sit-in chanting Ayyappa mantra in the shelter in protest against the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine. The protesting people, who were fewer in numbers, ran from the spot when the police initiated action in the early hours Wednesday when they tried to block the buses from the key entry point to the temple.
As Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple is opening today for the first time since the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine, the big question – will women get to enter the shrine on the first day itself. The Apex Court verdict to allow them to worship Lord Ayyappa at his temple had received praise from several women rights groups and rationalists but irked devotees in Kerala and beyond. There have already been widespread protests against it.
Hours ahead of opening of the hill shrine for the monthly prayer, the police said they would not let anyone to block the movement of the people. Taking the full control of Nilackal, Police also warned against those who create hurdles in the ways of pilgrims to the hill shrine.
The police took strong action against the protesters after some of them checked the vehicles heading to Pamba and prevented the women in the age group of 10 and 50 from entering the hill shrine. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has warned that no one would be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala.