Say guidelines impose ‘unwarrabted’ restrictions on Sabarimala pilgrims

Various Hindu organisations have taken exception to the eco-tourism guidelines submitted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) before the Supreme Court aimed at controlling or regulating the number of pilgrims to temples situated in forests and to utilise 10 per cent of the temple revenue for development of local communities.

Talking to The Hindu here on Saturday, Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom (ABASS) national general secretary N. Velayudhan Nair and Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary Kummanam Rajasehkharan alleged that the Union Ministry’s proposal was aimed at sabotaging the Sabarimala pilgrimage and was against the interests of scores of Ayyappa devotees.

According to them, devotees consider the Sabarimala forests a sacred grove, `Poonkavanom’ as they call it reverently, of Lord Ayyappa and they would never destroy the forests. However, it was unfortunate that the Union Ministry had considered them as destroyers of forests and those engaged in anti-forest activities, he alleged.

The ABASS leader said the guidelines prepared by the Union Ministry could only be considered as an encroachment upon the fundamental rights of the devotees to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala.

Though the proposed guidelines submitted by the Union Ministry before the apex court categorically mentioned it as one applicable to temples located in the forests, it was amply clear that the guidelines were particularly aimed at imposing “unwarranted restrictions” on Sabarimala pilgrims coming from different parts of the country and abroad, he alleged.

The ABASS leader said the Sanghom would oppose the move in the larger interests of protecting the interests of the devotees.

Mr. Rajashekharan said the very concept of Sabarimala pilgrimage itself was forest conservation and environment protection was deemed as ‘Ayyappa Dharma’. Devotees carrying coconut tree saplings to plant them in the sacred grove while undertaking the pilgrimage to the Ayyappa temple was self-explanatory, he added.

Revenue sharing

Mr. Rajashekharan alleged that the proposal to share 10 per cent revenue of the temples situated in the forests for local community development was yet another hidden agenda aimed at sabotaging the Sabarimala pilgrimage.

The Hindu Aikya Vedi leader alleged that the proposed guidelines were part of a conspiracy to destroy devotees’ faith and Hindu pilgrim centres.

He said failure on the part of the government as well as the authorities concerned in providing adequate basic pilgrim amenities at Sabarimala and at various base camps was basic cause of all ills plaguing Sabarimala.

Both Mr. Rajashekharan and Mr. Nair warned of serious consequences in the event of introducing the proposed guidelines at Sabarimala.

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