The Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened for devotees on Friday evening for an annual pilgrimage season amid tight security. The shrine will remain open till December 27 for Mandalapooja, and then between December 30 and January 20 for another festival.
This is the third occasion the temple has opened since the Supreme Court in September quashed a centuries-old tradition to allow women of all ages to enter the shrine. Despite the order, protestors have kept women aged 10 to 50 out of the shrine so far. Before the ruling too, women of menstruating age were not permitted to enter the temple.
Over 15,000 police officers – 920 of them women and 55 of superintendent and additional superintendent ranks – will be deployed at Sabarimala for security over the entire period of rituals, reported Manorama Online. During the first phase from November 15 to November 30, 3,450 of them are on duty. A special bomb squad comprising 234 personnel is on duty, as are two companies of the Rapid Action Force. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force are also deployed.
The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the shrine, decided to move the Supreme Court to seek more time to implement the verdict, PTI reported. Earlier this week, the top court agreed to hear a batch of 49 review petitions against its verdict, but the hearing will take place only on January 22, after the temple closes again. The court clarified that its September order will continue to be in force. The Kerala government has said that it will continue to implement the top court’s order, enforcing which was marred by massive protests and some violence last month.
Meanwhile, police filed cases against 250 persons for protesting against women’s rights activist Trupti Desai at the Cochin International Airport earlier in the day, Mathrubhumi reported. They were booked for protesting at a high-security zone. Desai and her colleagues had reached the airport early in the morning to visit Sabarimala. Protestors stopped them from leaving the airport. Several police personnel were deployed to control the situation.
Activist Rahul Easwar, who also joined the protestors outside the airport, said Trupti Desai would have to “step on our chests and walk over us if she wants to enter the temple”. Desai claimed that taxi drivers at the airport have been warned not to offer her a ride.
However, in the evening, Desai decided to return to her hometown Pune by the 9.30 pm flight. She said the police had advised her team to return.