They managed three events with no major incident

From the standpoint of crowd management and crime prevention, the Chithirai festival posed a unique challenge for the Madurai city police and rural district police.

The temple drew a capacity crowd of devotees during the Tirukalyanam or Celestial Wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar. But the car festival brought bigger crowds on to the Masi Streets. And a huge turnout of devotees marked the ritual of Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river.

In the backdrop of bomb blasts in Hyderabad and Bangalore, the focus of all State and Central security and intelligence agencies fell on providing foolproof security to the high-visibility Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai.

With an additional strength of around 1,200 police personnel drawn from different districts, the city police managed the three events without any major incident.

The city police went back to the drawing board, to learn from past experience. Last year, a spate of thefts was reported by devotees during the Tirukalyanam and Car festival.

“This was because prasadams were distributed in the absence of policemen. This time the distribution was allowed only at designated places with prior police permission,” Commissioner of Police Sanjay Mathur said. The crowds were regulated at the prasadam distribution points and queues formed under the watchful eyes of the police during Tirukalyanam.

Similarly, during the Car festival, the distribution was allowed only after the temple cars passed the spot.

“These regulations were effective with only four cases of chain snatching being reported on those two days,” Deputy Commissioner of Police K. Ferozekhan Abdullah said.

Plainclothes policemen were able to pick out habitual offenders from the crowd, thus putting a check on chain-snatching cases, he said.

Separate entry and exit points at the temple averted stampedes.

Last year, devotees coming out of the temple had difficulty in finding their way out because of overcrowding at the footwear collection centre.

This year the chappal stands were shifted outside the Chithirai Streets, Deputy Commissioner of Police R. Thirunavukkarasu said.

While the city police focused on visible policing to protect the temple and prevent crimes, the district police concentrated on advance liaison with different groups of people to avert petty quarrels during the festival.

“Last year, there were complaints that the volunteers involved in carrying the palanquin of Lord Kallazhagar were inebriated and misbehaved and tried to fleece money from devotees. We issued identity cards to them to avoid such incidents,” Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan said.

This time around, the police banned the movement of vehicles from the opposite direction of the procession on the Alagarkoil Road, a measure that prevented traffic congestion.

The elders of Kadachanendal were asked to counsel the youth against eve-teasing.

The police also held meetings with people at Vandiyur, and urged them to desist from installing flex boards that often led to quarrels.

Obscene dances were not allowed and the bursting of crackers was banned.

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