Protest erupts at Sabarimala amid security, women stopped from entering sanctum

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Police appeared to have allowed persons responsible for violence against pilgrims in October to enter Sabarimala again. They included leaders of the BJP-backed Ayyappa Dharma Sena and Sabarimala Karma Samithi.

A tense situation developed in Sabarimala on Tuesday morning when a group of people launched a protest to prevent two women from worshipping at the sanctum.

The protestors had staked-out in sizeable numbers on the expansive courtyard in front of the “18 Holy Steps” early in morning. Unchallenged by the police, they took control of the sensitive locality by 5.30 a.m. and staged sit-in prayers to keep their ranks mustered.

The much-touted police plan to prevent such unlawful assemblies in the high-security zone appeared to have remained mostly on paper.

Violating prohibitory orders imposed by the district magistrate, the protestors mobbed the women who had come to the temple with their husbands and grandchildren. The police identified them as Girija and Sujatha, both above the age of 50 and residents of Thrissur. The protestors demanded that women prove their age. The police tried to assuage the demonstrators by insisting that the women were above 50 years of age. In the melee, one of the women felt faint, and law enforcers admitted her to a nearby infirmary. Later, at the instance of the police, they allowed the woman to proceed amidst jeers and boos.

Four kilometres downhill at Pampa, where a posse of media persons were reporting the pilgrimage, persons wearing “Save Sabarimala” headbands attempted to bully two women journalists working for a national media. The protestors also browbeat male journalists and camera persons at the sanctum and demanded that they broadcast only their version of events.

The situation at Sabarimala has raised questions about the efficacy of the measures put in place by the police to prevent untoward incidents at the communally sensitive pilgrim centre. The plan, which appeared fool-proof on paper, seemed to have unravelled on the field.

Moreover, the police appeared to have allowed persons responsible for violence against pilgrims in October to enter Sabarimala again. They included leaders of the BJP-backed Ayyappa Dharma Sena and Sabarimala Karma Samithi. The temple is scheduled to close after puja at 10 p.m.

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