A temporary ban on large gatherings was imposed on Kerala's Sabarimala town on Saturday night as the temple shrine prepared to reopen its gates on Monday amid fears of violence and protests by right-wing activists. Restrictions prohibiting the assembly of four or more people will be in force across Elavunkal, Nilakkal, Pamba and Sannidhanam until Tuesday midnight.
According to Pathanamthitta Superintendent of Police T Narayanan, as many as 1,500 police officers have been deployed in and around the pilgrimage site. The security arrangements are being monitored by Additional Director General of Police Anil Kanth, and mediapersons have been asked to stay away from the temple shrine until the day of the reopening. Comprehensive traffic arrangements have been made, and barricades erected at many places on the way to Nilakkal to prevent the entry of potential agitators.
Besides policemen, a 20-member commando team has also been deployed at Sannidhanam, Nilakkal and Pamba.
Female devotees and journalists approaching the hill shrine were attacked by right-wing activists on October 17, when its gates were opened for the first time after the Supreme Court discarded an age-old ban on women of menstrual age entering its premises. Several women attempted to enter its sanctum sanctorum in the days that followed, but were forced to turn back in the face of aggressive protesters. This forced the district administration to impose restrictions in the four areas from October 18 to 22.
However, Mr Narayanan claimed that he is yet to be approached by women who want to enter the shrine during this phase of the pilgrimage. "If anybody comes forward, the police will see that the apex court verdict is carried out," he said.
As of Saturday, police had registered 536 cases and arrested 3,719 people in connection with last month's violence. Around 100 are still in prison.
In a related development, Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai alleged that he received a death threat from somebody who allegedly intends to attack him during the Sabarimala Protection Rathyatra from November 8 to 13. The party has reportedly alerted Director General of Police Loknath Behara to the incident.
(With inputs from PTI)