Midnight drama at Sabarimala as devotees hold sudden protest, court arrest
Tension gripped the hilltop Sabarimala shrine late on Sunday night as over 100 Ayyappa devotees suddenly gathered to chant hymns outside the temple. After nearly an hour-long stand-off, they were taken into custody and being brought downhill to the base camp.
The devotees, who surprised the police by gathering despite the heavy security deployment, refused to disperse from the area. There was a heated argument between superintendent of police Yatish Chandra and the devotees, which led to a minor scuffle.
When police tried to arrest four of the organisers, the protestors resisted, saying they can’t be arrested for chanting ‘Swami saranam’. Police backed down, apprehending a stampede-like situation.
As the drama continued, the hymn-chanting devotees finally agreed to court arrest.
Superintendent of police Pradeesh Kumar said the protesters were taken into custody for flouting prohibitory orders banning gathering of four or more people.
“We gave them enough time to disperse but they refused. It is our duty to enforce law and order,” he said.
Devotees alleged that some of them were injured but the police denied them treatment.
The arrested protesters, who were initially taken to the police post near the temple, were being taken to base camp under heavy security.
The incident came on the eve of Union tourism minister KJ Alphons’ visit to Pambha, one of the base camps of the temple, to see the arrangements. “There are many complaints that devotees are facing innumerable problems due to heavy security and other restrictions,” he said today.
Earlier on Sunday, an uneasy calm prevailed at Lord Ayyappa Swamy shrine on the second day of the 64-day annual pilgrimage season but many other parts of the state witnessed protests against the arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state general secretary K Sudhakaran, who was held on his way to the temple Saturday night and sent to two weeks judicial custody. The party observed Sunday as a protest day, taking out rallies and hymn-chanting processions at many places.
The temple opened for annual pilgrimage season on Friday as a fierce standoff continued between the state government and protesters over entry of menstruating women to the temple, allowed by the apex court’s September 28 verdict.
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