Various Hindu organisations have expressed serious concern over the reported move to regulate the number of Ayyappa devotees undertaking pilgrimage to the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala situated in Periyar Tiger Reserve, on the basis of a report submitted before the Supreme Court of India by the National Tiger Conservation Authority attached to the Union ministry of Environment and Forests.

Talking to The Hindu here on Friday, the Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajom general secretary, Kummanam Rajashekharan, said the sacred grove of Sabarimala (Poonkavanom) and the Ayyappa Temple situated on the fringes of PTR were there much before the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act and setting up of PTR.

Moreover, Sabarimala pilgrimage could never be treated as tourism and the pilgrimage to the forest shrine itself was in the form of nature worship, he said.

Ayyappa devotees trekking the hills with coconut saplings for planting them at Sabarimala as part of a custom and tradition is a common scene. Pilgrims throwing rice balls into the forests at Appachimedu is another gesture of wildlife conservation, he added.

Seeks special Act for Sabarimala

The SASS leader has further called upon the Union Government to enact a new legislation exclusively for conservation of the sacred grove of Sabarimala, delinking it from PTR.

The Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament led by Buta Singh had also stressed the need to delink Sabarimala forests from PTR, taking into consideration the special status of the national pilgrim centre.

Mr. Rajashekharan said the proposed act should be on the lines of the one introduced in the case of Amarnath in Jammu, earlier.

State’s intervention sought

Talking to The Hindu, N.Velayudhana Nair, Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom general secretary and D.Vijayakumar, vice-president, said the State Government should implead in the case pending before the Supreme Court, by engaging a senior lawyer on an emergency basis with a view to protect the interests of the scores of Ayyappa devotees across the globe.

Mr. Vijayakumar said the ABASS would explore the possibility of impleading in the case, taking it a serious issue concerning the Ayyappa devotees.

The ABASS leaders said the Government should take effective steps to ensure better basic pilgrim facility at Sabarimala, instead of regulating the number of devotees undertaking the pilgrimage to the forest shrine.

Move to regulate the pilgrims at Sabarimala was nothing short encroaching upon the fundamental right of the Ayyappa devotees, they alleged.

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