More than a 1,000 members of the Mala Araya community who gathered under the banner of the Samyuktha Samara Samithy, seeking restoration of their alienated right to light the sacred lamp at Ponnambalmedu on Makaravilakku day, were arrested and removed by the police at Kalaketti, near Mundakkayam, on Sunday.

The community members who gathered at the Siva-Parvathy temple at Kalaketti participated in a performance by their oracle, offered prayers, and lighted the lamp to be taken to Ponnambalamedu before commencing their journey to the sacred hillock on the eastern side of the Sannidhanam. The march was inaugurated by K.R. Bhasi, president of the Aikya Mala Araya Samiti.

Speaking on the occasion, P.C. George, who spoke “as MLA and not on behalf of the government”, said documentary evidences and traditions had proved beyond doubt that the community had the right to light the lamp at Ponnambalamedu on the Makarasamkranthy day.

The community members, who thrived in the area, were driven out of their homeland by officials of government bodies, including the Forests Department and the KSEB, who pushed them out from the project areas of various hydel projects in Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts, he pointed out.

The creation of the Travancore Devaswom Board only helped to speed up the community's removal from the ritualistic traditions connected with Sabarimala, he said.

Mr. George said he would take the initiative to sort out the issue in an amicable manner and added that all stakeholders, including representatives of the Mala Araya community, authorised offices connected with the Sabarimala temple, various Hindu organisations, and government representatives, should work together to restore their alienated sacred right.

A march of the community members was blocked by the police who arrested and removed them to a hall nearby.

The sacred lamplight from the temple, to be taken to Ponnambalamedu to light the Makaravilakku, was handed over to Rahul Eswar, member of the tantri family, who said it would be kept as a ‘kedavilakku' at the temple to be taken out to Ponnambalmedu when their right was restored.