With the Lord Ayyappa shrine opening for a day later this evening, the temple town has been virtually taken over by some 2,300 Kerala Police personnel after protests marred the last pilgrimage season. The reopening of the temple shrine comes just weeks after there were violent protests by several Hindu organisations against the Supreme Court verdict lifting the age restriction on women entering the temple.
The protesters had sent back several women who came close to the shrine and even attacked media vans and women journalists. With Hindu outfits having mobilised scores of protesters at the temple this time as well, orders banning assembly of four or more people have been imposed in Sabarimala and nearby areas.
Prohibitory orders have also been issued for the base towns of Pamba, Nilakkal, Erumeli and Elavunkal. Around 2,300 personnel, including a 20-member commando team and 100 women personnel, have been deployed to ensure smooth ‘darshan’ and security of devotees.
While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asserted that the government was committed to implementing the SC order, Devaswom (temple affairs) Minister Kadakampally Surendran said no young woman had approached authorities so far seeking police protection to trek to the temple. Temple opens its door at 5 pm on Monday and closes on Tuesday at 10 p.m.
All the roads leading from Nilackal to the base camp of the temple town Pamba are barricaded and have been declared out of bounds till Monday morning by the police. The police are checking each and every vehicle that passes in and around the temple town.
Hundreds of pilgrims at Nilakkal and Erumeli were seen arguing as they faced repeated obstacles from the police from advancing. What irked them most was the insistence to check their identity proofs and answer questions as they tried to reach the sanctum sanctorum.
For the first time 15 women cops aged above 50 years, deployed at Sannidhanam. More pilgrims started moving to Pamba from Nilakkal and Erumeli. Media personnel have also not been allowed to leave Nilackal for Pamba and ‘Sannidhanam’ (temple complex) from the base camp here till 9 am this morning.