Kerala tense as Sabarimala temple set to open today, protesters evicted

Tension mounted in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta as police used force to evict protesters opposing the entry of women of menstrual age into the hill shrine in Sabarimala, which is set to open for devotees on Wednesday, the first time after the Supreme Court verdict which allowed women of all ages access the Lord Ayyappa temple.

The temple doors are set to open at 5 pm today. Thousands of police personnel, including policewomen, were deployed at the base camps.

In Nilakkal, the second base camp, tents of devotees demolished as police dispersed protesters and warned them against preventing women from entering the shrine. They also removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti, which has called for a 24-hour bandh.

The temple authorities have removed a board on Tuesday night which had said that women in the 10-50 age group were barred inside the shrine.

The family of the tantric (head priest) was set to lead a protest in Pambha, the first base camp. Right wing activist Rahul Iswar and Bjp state president P S Sreedharan Pillai are set to start a dharna.

All small towns leading to Sabarimala, Erumeli, Vadessrikara, in Pathnamthitta remained tense as police said they would not let anyone to block the movement of the people.

DGP Loknath Behra said police was committed to enforcing law and order.

Devasom minister Kadakampally Surendran has called for a review meeting at hilltop temple.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has reiterated that his administration will not file any review petition against last month’s Supreme Court order that allowed women between 10 years and 50 years to enter Sabarimala in what has been hailed as a landmark verdict.

He said no one will be allowed to stop devotees from visiting the temple in the Western Ghats.

On a rainy Tuesday, believers of the centuries-old tradition threatened self-immolation and blocked women of reproductive age from visiting the 800-year-old shrine in south Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district since its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be celibate.

Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out of them Tuesday, PTI reported.

Some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti, who had stayed back at Nilakkal, also allegedly prevented the media persons from carrying out their professional duty, the news agency said.

The temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam.

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