Sabarimala: UDF Leaders Booked for Defying Prohibitory Orders at Base Camp
The Opposition Congress-led UDF leaders later gave up their plan to visit the shrine, saying they did not want to disturb the pilgrims.
Devotees wait to offer prayers at Lord Ayyappa temple on the first day of Malayalam month of 'Vrischikom,' in Sabarimala, Saturday (PTI)
Pamba/Nilackal: Senior leaders and activists of the Opposition Congress-led UDF, who planned to visit the Sabarimala shrine and staged protests at base camp Pamba and Nilakkal on Tuesday, have been booked for defying prohibitory orders.
The UDF leaders later gave up their plan to visit the shrine, saying they did not want to disturb the pilgrims.
The state government has clamped prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) banning assembly of four or more people in Sabarimala and surrounding areas in view of protests by devotees over the government's decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict by permitting entry of women of all ages into the hill shrine.
A large number of activists led by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former chief minister Oommen Chandy, IUML leader MK Muneer and NK Premachandran MP, staged a protest at Pamba demanding withdrawal of prohibitory orders.
UDF activists raised “go back” slogans against police and chanted 'swamiye saranam Ayyappa' mantras.
Pamba police said a case was registered against 100 'identifiable' people, including the leaders, under various sections of IPC including 147 (punishment for rioting).
Though the UDF delegation earlier said they would visit 'Sannidhanam', the temple complex, they returned after staging the protest at Pamba, about five km from the shrine. Chennithala said they were not trekking to the hill shrine, now as they did not want to disturb the pilgrims arriving at the temple.
Earlier, the UDF staged a protest at Nilackal, the base camp located about 20 km from the shrine, demanding withdrawal of prohibitory orders in force in and around Sabarimala.
Police, initially, said they cannot be allowed to visit Lord Ayyappa temple in such large numbers in view of the prohibitory orders, but later permitted them.
The UDF delegation was heading to the shrine to take stock of the facilities amid reports that proper arrangements had not been made for the pilgrims, who will throng the temple during the ongoing two-month long annual season.
The delegation demanded that all the party workers accompanying them should be allowed to visit the temple, while police said only senior leaders would be permitted in view of the prohibitory orders in place.
Later, Superintendent of Police Yatish Chandra made it clear that there was no restriction for ordinary devotees to go to the hill shrine in the state-run KSRTC buses.
Urging the CPI(M)-led LDF government to withdraw the prohibitory orders in Sabariamala, Chennithala alleged they were trying to sabotage the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
State Human Rights Commission chairperson Antony Dominic also on Tuesday visited the base camps at Nilackal and Pamba following complaints about the lack of infrastructure facilities, including toilets and drinking water shortage.
Restrictions have been imposed at the Lord Ayyappa temple following protests by devotees and activists of the BJP and RSS over the state government's decision to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict.
The Kerala High Court, on Monday, came down heavily on the police for the manner in which the Ayyappa devotees were dealt with at the "Sannidhanam" on Sunday when several were arrested and sought a report on the restrictions put in place.
The hill shrine was opened on November 16 evening for over two-month-long pilgrimage season amid tension.
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