A temple board governing the famous hill shrine of Sabarimala has appealed to the Supreme Court for more time to implement the court's order allowing the entry of women of all ages. The the Travancore Devaswom Board told the top court today that it would need time to prepare for the entry of women. Infrastructure to cater to women devotees, like washrooms and other facilities have to be created especially since the existing facilities at Pamba and Nilakal were washed away in the floods that ravaged the state in August, the board said.
The appeal came a week after the top court agreed to review its decision that ended the traditional ban on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years at the popular hill shrine.
Protests have been raging since a five-judge bench led by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra passed the order, which various sections claim pits two fundamental rights - on gender equality and the freedom to practice religion - against each other.
With the court refusing to put the order on freeze it till the hearing in January, around 1000 women have registered themselves to visit the shrine. They, however, have sought protection in view of the massive protests since October, that saw a dozen-odd women who attempted the journey being threatened, heckled and forced to turn back.
In its appeal for more time, the board, too, has cited the protests, saying it needs to put in place proper security measures that would enable women to visit the shrine.
The Left-led state government contends that the protests are backed by the BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - an accusation the party has denied.
The BJP, which is in the opposition in Kerala, however, has questioned the need for stationing 15,000 security personnel at the shrine during the current phase of opening.
Before midnight yesterday, the police had cracked down on a group of protesters who gathered outside the temple and eventually arrested around 70 of them.
The board has also argued that a Centrally Empowered Committee has stopped all construction work at Pamba and Nilakal - two key stops on the route to the hill shrine. Since Pamba is in a forest area, until the objections of the committee are addressed, facilities for women pilgrims can't be built, it said.
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