Sabarimala: The Sabarimala shrine Tuesday witnessed moderate crowd of pilgrims, even as eight people were taken into preventive custody from the temple complex and opposition congress-led UDF leaders booked for violating prohibitory orders at the base camps.
The police said the eight were taken into preventive custody by police from ‘Sannidhanam‘ Tuesday night based on intelligence report that they were at the shrine to create trouble. A senior police officer told PTI that they were taken into custody after they had offered prayers.
Inflow of pilgrims is yet to pick up five days after the hill shrine was opened on November 16 evening for the over two-month-long pilgrimage season amid tension. As the stand-off continued over entry of menstrual women into the shrine, a political slug fest broke out between chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and BJP president Amit Shah.
Shah slammed the CPIM-led LDF government’s handling of the situation in Sabarimala as “disappointing” and accused the Kerala government of treating pilgrims as “Gulag inmates” and making them spend nights next to “pig droppings.”
Reacting to Shah’s tweet, Vijayan said “arrangements might have caused inconvenience to the Sangh Parivar elements who are bent on formenting trouble with ulterior motives. Shah must have been “carried away” by the campaigns unleashed by these elements, Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
“Rajnath Singh, the union home minister, has gone on record that the government does not have any option but to execute the order of the apex court. This itself is a reply to the allegations levelled by Shah,” Vijayan said.
Vijayan earlier lashed out at the BJP and right-wing outfits, accusing them of exploiting the Sabarimala issue for their “political gains” and trying to ‘capture’ and take control of the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
In hard-hitting remarks, he alleged that the Sangh Parivar’s agenda was to create trouble by sending “kar sevaks” to take control of the temple and make the pilgrims the “scapegoats.”
In a series of tweets, Shah said, “If several reports of flushing resting places for devotees and them having to spend nights next to pig droppings and dustbin are true, then Pinarayi Vijayan must realize that he can’t treat Ayyappa devotees like inmates of Gulag. We won’t let LDF crush people’s faith with impunity.”
BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said it was a “police raj” in Sabarimala and alleged that the ruling CPI(M) was trying to “crush” the sangh parivar workers who were staging a “Gandhian model” of protest.
Vijayan said Sabarimala would not be allowed to be transformed into a “centre of violence” and defended the arrest of 69 people from the temple complex Sunday night. The Chief Minister also slammed the Congress for opposing implementation of the Supreme Court order allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers and alleged that the RSS and Congress “have become one” on the Sabarimala issues.
Both the main opposition Congress-led UDF and the BJP have decided to intensify their agitation on the Sabarimala issue. Meanwhile, UDF leaders defied prohibitory orders at Nilackal and Pamba base camps and sought withdrawal of Section 144 CrPC banning assembly of four or more people.
Police have booked 100 identifiable persons, including Congress opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and former chief minister Oommen Chandy. They later abandoned their plans to visit the shrine, saying they did not want to cause difficulties to the pilgrims at the temple complex.
Urging the CPI(M)-led LDF government to withdraw the prohibitory orders in Sabarimala, Chennithala alleged it was trying to sabotage the Sabarimala pilgrimage. BJP MPs V Muraleedharan and Nalin Kumar Kattil, who visited the temple complex and the base camp, flayed the government for the “meagre” facilities at the shrine for the pilgrims.
Muraleedharan alleged police officers with criminal background have been posted at the complex. As BJP has decided to line up its central leaders, including ministers and MPs from other states to visit the temple complex in the coming days, Vijayan said “they are welcome,” but if they defy the restrictions, the state government would have to take steps accordingly.
The day also saw a minor protest at Erumeli, over 90 km from Sabarimala, as rumours floated that a young couple were on their way to Sabarimala. The couple from Vijaywada were informed by some people over the issues at the hill shrine, following which they changed their plans to visit Sabarimala.
They left for Chengannur in Alappuzha district after informing protesters that they came to Kerala to offer prayers in various temples. Vijayan said security would be provided to women, wishing to offer prayers at the shrine, if they reach Nilackal.
“It is not possible to give protection to those who want to visit the temple from where ever they want. If they come to Nilackal, they will be provided with security,” he said.
The Kerala Human Rights Commission, which had observed that there was “gross violation” of human rights of sabarimala devotees, Tuesday visited the temple complex for an on-the-spot assessment of the facilities.
State Human Rights Commission chairperson Antony Dominic visited the base camps at Nilackal and Pamba following complaints about the lack of infrastructure facilities, including toilets and drinking water shortage.
Restrictions have been imposed at the Lord Ayyappa temple following protests by devotees and activists of the BJP and RSS over the state government’s decision to implement the 28 September Supreme Court order.