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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Sabarimala: Police out in strength as temple to open for five hours today

Hindu outfits have urged media houses to avoid sending women journalists to Sabarimala temple. Congress, BJP termed the police deployment as ‘fascism’.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2018 10:56 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Devotees pay obeisance Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Monday, Oct 22, 2018.
Devotees pay obeisance Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Monday, Oct 22, 2018. (PTI File Photo)
         

With less than a few hours left for Sabarimala shrine to be opened for one-day pooja, several Hindu outfits opposing the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to worship at the hill temple have written to media houses not to depute women journalists to cover the one-day event.

In a letter to editors, Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an umbrella organisation of many outfits, including Viswa Hindu Parishad and Hindu Aikya Vedi, urged the media houses to not send women journalists to the area, saying that it might aggravate the issue.

“We recognise your right to support or oppose devotees’ stand on the issue, but the issue is highly emotional and we expect you will not take a stand that will aggravate the situation,” the letter said. When the temple opened for the first time after the apex court verdict on October 18, the base camps had witnessed large-scale violence hurting many including women scribes.

The hill temple and its base camps looked like a fortress with heavy police deployment even as many Hindu outfits have threatened to prevent women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple.

Police have clamped prohibitory orders (Section 144 of IPC) since Saturday night and all vehicles passing through the areas are checked randomly for possible troublemakers, said state police chief Loknath Behra, adding the temple and surrounding areas are under a three-tier security ring. Earlier, journalists were not allowed entry to the two base camps — Pambha and Nilakkal. Later, the DGP issued a statement, denying any restriction for the media.

Meanwhile, strict orders have been given to the police to arrest anyone preventing women from entering the temple. “If a woman is willing to trek to the temple, if needed, women cops will escort them,” a senior official camping at the hilltop said. Besides, 2,000 police officers and a team of commandos has been deployed in and around the Sabarimala.

Opposition Congress and BJP have decried the heavy deployment of police, saying it will disturb the serene atmosphere of the temple and curb free movement of pilgrims. “It is nothing but fascism. Even media movement was curbed,” said Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran.

“No other temple in the country might have faced such an ignominy. Devotees will have to go through five check posts. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is in hurry to allow women to the temple and he will be fully responsible for its outcome also,” said BJP state chief P S Sreedharan Pillai, adding he will go to the temple on Monday for a ‘darshan.’

The Pandalam royal family, considered to be the custodian of the temple, also said heavy deployment of security personnel will affect the divinity of the shrine. “Situated in the midst of a tiger reserve it is one of the peaceful shrines of the country. Now it looks like a police camp. It is sad to have a ‘darshan’ under police cordon,” said Sasikumar Varma, scion of the royal family.

The Sabarimala Karma Samiti said though the Supreme Court had decided to hear the writ and review petitions, the state government was “intentionally ignoring the mass movement against the verdict and hastily trying to enforce it using brutal force.”

First Published: Nov 05, 2018 07:00 IST

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