Sabarimala Devotees, Media Should Not be Stopped, Says Kerala High Court as Shrine Reopens Today
The Kerala High Court on Monday said devotees and media personnel should not be blocked from visiting the Sabarimala temple and the government should not interfere in the day-to-day activities of the shrine.
The court’s remarks come on a day when the Lord Ayyappa shrine is scheduled to re-open at 5pm for a special ‘puja’.
This is the second time the hill temple will open for 'darshan' after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of all age groups into it.
Frenzied protests had rocked the temple last month and around a dozen women in the age group of 10-50 were prevented from reaching the shrine as protesting devotees sought to “protect” their customs and beliefs.
The situation led to a pitched battle between police and the agitators as thousands took to the streets against the decision of the LDF government to implement the court orders.
Taking note of the violent protests, the court said a department-level inquiry must be ordered to check the role of policemen who had damaged devotees’ vehicles.
Meanwhile, devotees who arrived at Erumeli since Sunday evening, protested on Monday morning for not being allowed to leave for Pamba and Sannidhanam. They also blocked traffic chanting 'Ayyappa Sarnam'.
"We have been waiting since last evening. We were told that we would be allowed to leave at 6am. Now, they are telling us that KSRTC buses will be allowed to leave only by 12 pm. We have come to offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa. Please allow us to go," an angry devotee said.
If private vehicles are not being allowed, they should be taken in the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses to Pamba, the devotee said.
Media personnel have also not been allowed to leave Nilackal for Pamba and 'Sannidhanam' (temple complex) from the base camp here till 9am.
Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behara has said no restriction of any sort has been imposed on media persons. "To ensure necessary protection to the media, we are not allowing them now. As soon as security arrangements are complete, media will be allowed in Sabarimala and nearby places," he said.
The Pandalam royal family, which is closely associated with the Ayyappa shrine, said it was "pained" at the heavy security in and around Sabarimala. "Saddened that devotees will have to offer prayers at the shrine amid thick police cover," it said.
Protesting the apex court verdict, a 'prayer yagna' will be held, the family said.
Activist Rahul Easwar, president of Ayyappa Dharma Sena that is among the outfits spearheading the protests, in a video message said, "Like police, we are also fully prepared".
Easwar, belonging to the Thazhamon family of Sabarimala thantris, was arrested twice last month in connection with the protests in and and around Sabarimala against the government's decision to implement the court verdict and also for making certain remarks and is out on bail.
Police have stepped up deployment around the temple in view of the tense situation. Mobile jammers were installed near the temple to prevent the ‘tantri’ and other shrine officials from interacting with the media and to dissuade live visuals.