A tense situation prevailed on the eve of the ‘Chithira Attatirunal’ celebrations at the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala on Monday, as Hindu outfits staged sporadic protests against the entry of young women to the hilltop shrine, amid unprecedented security arrangements by the police.
Prohibitory orders were in force in Sabarimala and the base camps and a large police contingent was deployed before the temple opened for the special pujas by evening. All Pampa-bound vehicles were subjected to thorough security checks at different points on the road leading to Sabarimala. The devotees and temple staff were required to clear five layers of checks at Vadasserikkara, Elavumkal, Nilackal, Chalakkayam and Pampa.
A 1,300-strong police force headed by Ajay Yadav, Additional Director General of Police, and Rahul R. Nair, and Sanjaykumar Garudin, Superintendents of Police, kept vigil at Pampa and Nilackal. A 30-member team of women police personnel, all above the age of 50, was also kept ready at Pampa for emergency response. For the first time, 15 women police officers were deployed on the temple premises.
A section of pilgrims blocked vehicular traffic on the Erumely-Elavumkal Road in the forenoon, protesting against the traffic curbs imposed by the police on the Sabarimala roads. The protesters alleged that the security measures by the police were inconveniencing the pilgrims coming from different parts of South India.
Meanwhile, Sabarimala Action Council (Sabarimala Karma Samiti) workers staged a Namajapa yajnam (prayer meeting) at 200 places across the State against the alleged government move to give protection to certain women rights activists to visit Sabarimala against the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict.
Tension at Nilackal
Tension prevailed at Nilackal for about two hours in the forenoon when the police denied permission to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation for operating the Nilackal-Pampa chain service. As many as 2,000 devotees had reached Nilackal on KSRTC buses and private vehicles by 9.30 a.m.
The issue began when the police stopped them from proceeding to Pampa even by foot. However, after the initial reluctance, the police permitted them to proceed to Pampa.
Nearly 500 devotees moved along the main trunk road leading to Pampa, blocking vehicular traffic. Even the vehicles carrying senior police officers and drinking water tankers of the Kerala Water Authority were trapped in the traffic snarl along the road to Pampa, a distance of 16 km.
The KSRTC started its Nilackal-pampa chain service by 11.15 a.m.
The digital scanners of the police showed that the total number of people crossing the door-framed metal detectors had crossed 8,000 by 5 p.m. when the temple doors were opened for the rituals.
Woman seeks police protection
Meanwhile, a 30-year old woman, accompanied by her husband and two kids, approached the police control room at Pampa around 6 p.m., seeking protection to undertake the uphill trek to the temple.
A group of protesters, chanting Ayyappa mantras, strongly objected to the police escorting any woman of menstrual age to Sabarimala, leaving the situation tense.