Alleged police assault on pilgrim sparks protests

Pilgrims faced hardships on the main trunk road leading to Sabaimala, Pampa, Sannidhanam, and on the traditional path over the past 36 hours.

Pilgrims were even reportedly subjected to physical harassment by the police personnel on duty at Pampa and Sannidhanam, leading to widespread protests from various organisations. The High Court on Tuesday sought a report from Special Commissioner K. Babu regarding the manhandling of a man by the police, in front of his child, near the Government Hospital, Sannidhanam.

Sabarimala had been witnessing unprecedented rush since Monday and the police had started periodically blocking the entry of pilgrims into the trekking path from Pampa as part of crowd control. This was besides the blocking of the Pampa-bound vehicular traffic at Plappally, Nilackal, and Elavumkal with a view to easing pressure on Pampa and the Sannidhanam. Pilgrims trapped in the traffic, in the forest stretches, were denied drinking water and food for hours.

A group of pilgrims from Chennai told The Hindu that it took nearly eight hours for them to cover the 20-km between Nilackal and Pampa on Tuesday.

The alleged unscientific crowd management of the police, coupled with the unprecedented rush, had made the pilgrims wait for 10 to 12 hours inside the thickly packed barricades.

The medicated drinking water supply system and biscuit distribution of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) also went haywire.

Directive

A Division Bench of the High Court on Tuesday directed the police not to block vehicular traffic on the Sabarimala road without obtaining prior permission from the Special Commissioner.

Devaswom Commissioner P. Venugopal told The Hindu that Additional Director General of Police A. Hemachandran had assured TDB of additional deployment soon.

Ayyappa Seva Sanghom national vice-president D.Vijayakumar and Hindu Aikyavedi State secretary M.P. Appu demanded action against the police personnel.

More In: Kerala | National