Advocate General of Kerala CP Sudhakara Prasad informed the Kerala High Court on Monday that workers of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh were creating trouble in Sabarimala. The temple opened on Friday evening for the third time after the Supreme Court in September allowed women of all ages to enter the temple. However, so far, no woman between the ages of 10 and 50 has been given entry into the temple due to massive protests.
“RSS workers with criminal antecedents are creating trouble in Sabarimala,” Prasad alleged. “Ayyappa devotees are not facing any difficulties in offering prayers there.” The court had asked the advocate general to appear before it to explain the restrictions placed on devotees visiting the hill shrine.
Sixty-nine people were remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody on Monday, a day after they were arrested for allegedly defying prohibitory orders, according to News18. According to the police’s new rules that came into effect from Friday, no pilgrim will be allowed to proceed to the temple after 7 pm as the temple closes for the day at 10 pm.
Advocate General Prasad produced a copy of a circular, allegedly issued by the state Bharatiya Janata Party, in court. The circular, issued on November 17, asked cadre to participate in protests at Sabarimala till December 15, and also identified the leaders who will lead them. The temple closes for three days on December 15.
Following this, the court decided not to intervene in the police arrests at Sabarimala. “All the political parties have their own agenda in Sabarimala,” the special bench for Devaswom matters, comprising PR Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar, observed.
The court also asked the state police chief to submit an affidavit by later this week, detailing the nature and reasons for the restrictions in Sabarimala, besides the experience of the police personnel in controlling crowds. The court added that it will interfere if it finds the restrictions to be too harsh and unreasonable, according to Live Law.
The court also directed the Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the Sabarimala temple, to file an affidavit with details on how many people can stay at Sannidhanam at a given time.
Earlier in the day, the court had observed that police excess cannot be permitted at Sabarimala in the guise of implementing the Supreme Court order. The court said police personnel cannot be present at the nadappandhal (covered pathway). “How can the police do such high-handedness in the name of the Supreme Court verdict? Why do you need 15,000 police in Sabarimala?”
The court remarked that police restrictions are causing hardships to genuine devotees. It then directed the police not to send back devotees at night who wish to offer Neyyabhishekam, which is the practice of anointing the god with ghee. It also directed the police to not stop elderly people, children, women and disabled people from resting at Sannidhanam.
Union minster KJ Alphons on Monday criticised the Kerala government for turning the Sabarimala temple complex into a “war zone” as fresh protests erupted near the hill shrine. Alphons said the situation at the hill shrine was worse than the Emergency. “Devotees are not terrorists, why do they need 15,000 policemen here?” he asked.
However, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan defended the arrests and said those held were not Ayyappa devotees. “RSS workers were camping at Sannidhanam with a motive to create trouble,” he said. “The government cannot let anyone create trouble at Sabarimala.”