The Sabarimala shrine opened this evening for a special puja due tomorrow.
Sabarimala: The row over protests at Sabarimala peaked today as a video surfaced that shows Kerala BJP chief Sreedharan Pillai allegedly taking credit for the way the protests unfolded. As local television channels aired the video, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted that it proves the BJP "connived to create trouble in Sabarimala". Around 2,300 security personnel -- including a 20-member commando team and 15 policewomen above the age of 50 - have been posted to keep the peace as the temple opened its doors for two days of worship this month. Last month, despite the Supreme Court order, the protesters had enforced the traditional ban on women of reproductive age at the hill shrine.
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In the video leaked to the media, Kerala BJP president Sreedharan Pillai is heard telling party workers that the Sabarimala Tanthri or head priest called him and was worried about contempt of court if he closed down the shrine to block women. Mr Pillai is heard saying he reassured the priest that in a contempt case, he would not be alone; tens of thousands of people will be with him.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted: "The odious politics and perfidious ways of BJP stand exposed. Evidence has surfaced that BJP leaders in the State connived to create trouble in Sabarimala. It must be noted that their State president himself was involved in the ruse. This is highly condemnable."
- At least 15 women police personnel, over 50 years, are at the temple complex that opened at 5 pm for five hours today. The Kerala Police have installed mobile jammers near the temple to prevent the tantri (head priest) and other shrine officials from interacting with the media and to dissuade live visuals.
- Many Ayyappa devotees, including those from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, have gathered at Nilakkal, one of the two "base camps" on the way to the shrine.
- Since Saturday, the police have banned gatherings of four or more people in Sabarimala and nearby areas. The Sabarimala Karma Samiti, a platform of right-wing outfits, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, appealed to media houses not to send young women journalists to cover the developments.
- Last month, the hill shrine witnessed huge protests which prevented around a dozen women from reaching the temple. Protesters clashed with the police over the Left-led government's decision to implement the top court order. Journalists too faced attacks from protesters.
- Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the state government would ensure complete protection to believers. So far no woman below 50 has asked for police protection to offer prayers at the shrine, he said.
- Activist Rahul Easwar, president of Ayyappa Dharma Sena that is among the outfits spearheading the protests, in a video message said, "Like police, we are also fully prepared".
- Mr Easwar, belonging to the Thazhamon family of Sabarimala thantris, is out on bail after being arrested twice last month in connection with the protests in and around Sabarimala against the government's decision to implement the court verdict and also for making provocative remarks.
- About 3,700 people have been arrested and 545 cases registered in connection with last month's violence. BJP president Amit Shah came out in their support recently, provoking opposition allegations that he was defying the Supreme Court.
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