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Can’t Stop Pilgrims in Groups, Chanting of Ayyappa Songs: Kerala High Court Tells Police

The authorities had imposed restrictions on movement in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the violent protests in October against the entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala

Neethu Reghukumar | CNN-News18

Updated:November 23, 2018, 1:12 PM IST
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Can’t Stop Pilgrims in Groups, Chanting of Ayyappa Songs: Kerala High Court Tells Police
Protesters oppose the entry of women to the Sabarimala Temple. (File Image: AP)
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Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala high court has ruled that Sabarimala pilgrims should not be prevented from moving in groups and chanting Ayyappa keerthanam (devotional songs) by police due to prohibitory orders at the shrine.

But the court did not order the police to lift Section 144, which has been imposed since November 15 outside the temple, as it considered a batch of petitions challenging the prohibitory orders.

The authorities had imposed restrictions on movement in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the violent protests in October against the entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala.

The court ruled that it was the duty of police to ensure that any insurgents or protesters are not able to reach Sabarimala to spoil a smooth and peaceful pilgrimage for devotees.

The HC held that since imposition of Section 144 was meant for smooth movement of pilgrims, and since going to the temple in groups and chanting devotional songs are part of the pilgrimage, the police cannot prevent devotees from doing that. It is up to the police to take action if there are protests, it ruled.

The decision was passed after the state police chief assured the court that prohibitory orders only prevent marches, unlawful assembly and group prayers in the form of protests.

He also said that it is not applicable to the devotees who come to the temple for darshan even in groups and that there is no restriction for chanting Saranam mantras in groups or individually. “It only intends to prohibit protest by way of chatting Saranam mantras by people who assemble with purposeful intention to create a law and order situation in the shrine,” the DGP said.

The high court in its order said it is up to the police to conduct search and analysis, which cannot be prevented. “However, care and caution has to be taken to ensure that, it does not limit in any manner, particularly when the District Magistrate also projects the importance of smooth ‘darshan’ to be provided to genuine pilgrims.”

The court also said prima facie all stake holders, be it the petitioners, the state police or the Devaswom board, all are collectively responsible for the sad state of affairs.
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