The number of devotees to Sabarimala temple has reportedly crossed 1.1 crore this season and the authorities expect a rise in footfall during the final leg of the Mandalam season (file photo)

On Sabarimala opening eve, activists warned, no security to women

In less than 48 hours since the Supreme Court refused to stay the order that allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple even while referring the matter to a 7-judge bench to review it, the Kerala government has stated that women preferring to visit the shrine need to produce a copy of the top court's order.

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In less than 48 hours since the Supreme Court refused to stay the order that allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple even while referring the matter to a 7-judge bench to review it, the Kerala government has stated that women preferring to visit the shrine need to produce a copy of the top court’s order. The state administration has also asserted that activists will not be permitted to display their activism.

Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, on Friday (November 15), said, “If any woman wants police protection to trek to Sabarimala, she will have to produce a court order for that.”

Cautioning activists over the matter the minister said, “The government will not allow any activist to display their activism in the hill shrine. people like Trupti Desai should not utilise the opportunity to show their strength. Sabarimala is not a place for such dramas.”

Reports say that CPM state secretariat — the party’s top decision-making body in Kerala — has advised the government not to push the matter hard in the larger interest of maintaining law and order.

All this comes in the backdrop of the Sabarimala temple set to be thrown open, on Saturday (November 16) evening for a two-month long pilgrim season amid tight security.

Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu would open the sanctum sanctorum and perform the pujas. A K Sudheer Namboodiri would take charge as the Sabarimala Melsanthi and M S Parameshwaran Namboodiri as Malikapuram Melsanthi.

The pilgrims would be allowed to climb the 18 holy steps after the padi puja and have darshan.

The portals of the hill shrine, located in a reserve forest in the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of the state, would be opened for the two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku season this evening around 5 pm.

Devotees have started arriving at Nilackal and Pamba from various parts of Kerala and neighbouring states, but would be allowed to leave for the shrine only by 2 pm.

Also read | SC sends Sabarimala review pleas, other religious practices to larger bench

The state and temple precincts had witnessed frenzied protests by right outfits and BJP workers last year after the LDF government had decided to implement the Supreme court’s verdict of September 28, 2018, allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.

For centuries, women in the menstruating age group of 10-50 years were barred from entering the temple. However, this year, even though the top court has not stayed its verdict on entry of young women into the shrine while posting various petitions on the matter to a larger bench, the government was exercising caution.

It has decided not to give police protection to women in the 10-50 age group to trek the holy hills to reach the temple.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has made it clear on Friday (November 15) that Sabarimala was not a place for activists to display their activism and said the government would not encourage such women who want to visit the shrine for publicity. Those who want to visit the temple can procure a court order to enter the temple, he said.

Social activist and Bhumata bridge leader, Trupti Desai, who was not allowed to offer prayers last year and had to return from Kochi airport due to protests from devotees, said in Mumbai that she would be visiting Sabarimala on Sunday. “If women need protection to trek the hills, police should provide the same. Whether the government gives protection or not we will be reaching on November 17 to offer prayers,” she said.

People like Trupti Desai should not make use of the opportunity to exhibit their strength, the minister said, adding that Sabarimala is not a place for such dramas.

Maintaining that this pilgrim season would be peaceful, Law Minister A K Balan said if anyone tries to hamper the darshan of the devotees, the government would take strong action. “If someone thinks that they can exploit the devotees by spreading lies and turn them against the government, let me tell you, it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Attempts by around a dozen women, including activists and journalists in the 10-50 years age group, to climb the sacred hills had come to naught last year as frenzied devotees of Lord Ayyappa heckled and hassled them and forced them to retreat.

However, defying protesters, two women, in their 40s — Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, had entered the Ayyappa temple in January this year and offered prayers scripting history. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which is managing the Ayyappa shrine, has also sought legal opinion on the apex court directive.

Also read | With Sabarimala shrine set to open, minister says not a place for activism

The unprecedented floods during August last year had also played havoc with the pilgrimage season with most of the facilities for the devotees being destroyed.

The board has made elaborate arrangements to provide maximum amenities to the devotees. The resting places for the devotees at Nilackal, Pamba, and Sannidhanam has already been set up along with medical, water and toilet facilities.

Over 10,000 police personnel would be posted in phases in and around the Lord Ayyappa temple for security purposes during the pilgrim season.

The five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday (November 14) said that a larger bench will re-examine various religious issues, including the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple and mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

A 3:2 verdict decided to keep pending the pleas seeking a review of its decision regarding the entry of women into the shrine, and said restrictions on women in religious places were not limited to Sabarimala alone and was prevalent in other religions as well.

The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala, is situated on a hilltop about 4000 feet above sea level–

The devotees have to trek through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to pamba.

(With inputs from agencies)

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