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Kerala Govt Making Sabarimala Centre of Dispute to Destroy Its Uniqueness, Says BJP State Chief

The pilgrims offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa shrine early Sunday, the second day of Malayalam month 'Vrischikom'. The devotees were relieved to get more time for 'darshan' due to less crowd

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Updated:November 18, 2018, 5:28 PM IST
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Kerala Govt Making Sabarimala Centre of Dispute to Destroy Its Uniqueness, Says BJP State Chief
Police personnel assist devotees to climb up the 18 sacred steps of the Lord Ayyappa temple for offering prayers, on the 2nd day of Malayalam month of 'Vrischikom,' in Sabarimala, on Sunday. (PTI)
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Kochi/Sabarimala: Spearheading a campaign against the Kerala government over the Sabarimala issue, BJP state unit chief PS Sreedharan Pillai on Sunday alleged that the CPI(M)-led dispensation was making the Lord Ayyappa shrine "a centre of dispute to destroy its uniqueness".

Condemning the police action against "peacefully agitating" devotees, he said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will extend all possible assistance to the protesters to protect the hill shrine from the "hidden agenda of atheists".

Pillai said the BJP and Sangh Parivar will expand the ongoing agitation against the state government's "hasty move" to implement the Supreme Court verdict, permitting entry of women of all age groups into the temple, to other parts of the country. "What is going in Kerala (over Sabarimala) is a fight between devotees and atheists," he said.

"BJP workers will continue to join the devotees' protest if any woman in the menstrual age group tries to enter the temple. The devotees have so far succeeded in preventing such women from breaking the custom," he said.

The Kerala BJP unit chief said the government did not permit the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which administers the shrine, to file a review petition against the apex court's September 28 order.

"It was the Hindu faithful who launched an agitation against the state government. They all hit the streets against the government's move to destroy the unique nature of the temple and Lord Ayyappa faith in the name of the Supreme Court verdict. We just extended our support to them," he said.

Pillai said the saffron party will continue to support the devotees' demand that the centuries-old custom of the hill shrine be protected. "Sabarimala is not an ordinary temple. It is unique. Over five crore devotees visit the shrine annually. But the CPI(M) wanted to make it an ordinary temple by destroying its centuries-old custom," he said.

The Lord Ayyappa shrine witnessed an uneasy calm on Sunday, marking the second day of the two month-long annual pilgrimage season. The situation in the hills remained peaceful even as the rest of Kerala was rocked by protests against the arrest of BJP General Secretary K Surendran while on his way to the temple.

The temple had opened Friday evening for the two-month-long annual pilgrimage season as a stand-off continued over entry of menstrual age women into the shrine. So far, more pilgrims have arrived from other states than from within Kerala.

The pilgrims offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa shrine early Sunday, the second day of Malayalam month 'Vrischikom'. Though the devotees were relieved to get more time for 'darshan' due to less crowd, many were unhappy at not being allowed to spend some more time at the sannidhanam — temple complex.

Some pilgrims also expressed anguish over the fact that it took them over two hours to reach Pamba from Nilackal, which is just 18 km away.

"We reached Nilackal at around 4 AM. But we had to wait till 6 AM to catch a bus to Pamba. Otherwise everything was fine for us. We had a good darshan," Coimbatore resident Palaniswami, who was heading a group of 21 people, told PTI.

However, when PTI contacted the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) office at Pamba, they dismissed the devotees' claims about delay in service and said many buses were running with vacant seats.

Police have introduced several restrictions this time, Palakkad resident Renish said, adding that "devotees are treated as criminals by making them undergo strict security procedures".

"My mother, who is old, had to go through heavy security procedures. They checked our bags and even water bottles as if we are criminals," Renish said.

Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhare, in charge of the security of the hilltop shrine, had said Saturday that security was tightened due to the recent incidents of violence.

"Most people have apprehensions about the restrictions imposed by police. To top that, there was a hartal Saturday and today some parties are observing as a protest. All these reasons have resulted in less crowd at the Sannidhanam," a top Devaswom official said.

Surendran was taken into preventive custody Saturday night, later remanded and sent to the Kottaraka Sub jail Sunday, as police suspected that he might create "trouble" at the temple complex, a day after Hindu Aikya Vedi leader K P Sasikala was taken into preventive custody and granted bail later.

BJP workers observed a " protest day" Sunday and blocked vehicles on the highways at various places in the state, protesting the police action against Surendran.
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