Sabarimala protests: So far no girl or woman in the previously banned age group have entered the temple.
New Delhi: Amid tight security and a shutdown call by a right-wing group following the arrest of its Kerala chief, thousands of devotees trekked to Sabarimala and offered prayers to Lord Ayyappa. The hill-top shrine opened for the third time on Friday since the Supreme Court order for 62-day-long Mandala Pooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage. Lakhs of devotees are expected to throng the shrine during this period. Over 500 women between the ages of 10 and 50 years have already registered, but no woman of menstrual age attempted the trek today. KP Sasikala, the state president of Hindu Aikya Vedi, was arrested past midnight for trying to create law and order problems, police said. "You break law, you will be booked," tweeted Kerala minister Thomas Isaac.
Here are the top 10 developments on Sabrimala:
- KP Sasikala, who is over 50, was taken into "preventive custody" when she was about a kilometre from the 18 steps -- the golden steps -- that lead to the sanctum sanctorum of the famous shrine. She was let off this evening with a warning.
- Devaswom board minister Kadakampally Surendran said the police repeatedly requested her to leave from Marakkottam, near Sabarimala, but she didn't. "She had to be moved away, in accordance with law, because of her intentions. This hartal (strike) is an attempt to trouble devotees. Many people are stranded without drinking water because of the hartal," he said.
- "We will be restrained but firm. To prevent untoward incidents like RSS volunteers taking control of Sannidhanam no one is permitted to stay back or go there after 11 o clock. Ms Sasikala has (sic) no exemption. Sorry, you break law you will be booked, hartal or no hartal," Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac tweeted today.
- Since the historic court order, no woman under 50 has been able to enter the hilltop shrine because of massive protests by the devotees who believe changing the tradition would be an insult to Lord Ayyappa. More than a dozen women tried and failed to make it to the temple, even with heavy police protection. Over 3,700 persons have been arrested during protests across the state.
- While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the state government will follow the Supreme Court's order and facilitate entry of women of mentrual age into the shrine, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the temple, said it will ask for more time to implement the order.
- VV Rajesh, a BJP leader who has been camping at the Sabrimala shrine since Friday noon, has blamed the government for creating an "unhealthy situation". "Till up to last year, the police won't use batons on protesters. This year, however, the police have been asked to bring sticks and batons. The government and the police are trying to instill fear among devotees," he said.
- At least 500 women in the 10-50 years age group have registered themselves for the darshan. However, Pathnamthitta District Collector PB Nooh said no woman in the 10-50 age group has so far approached the local administration seeking protection to visit Sabarimala.
- Over 15,000 police personnel, a 20-member commando force, a special bomb squad with 234 personnel have been keep a vigil. In a first, pilgrims heading to the shrine in private vehicles will need passes detailing their identity and age.
- On Friday, activist Trupti Desai was forced to return home from the airport after a tense standoff with protesters at the Kochi airport. "The police are concerned about situation here. They have asked us to return, but promised to help us the next time we decide to come," she told NDTV over the phone.
- The Supreme Court is slated to hear petitions seeking review of its September 28 order in January, but has refused to put it on hold.
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