District authorities in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta on Tuesday night extended the prohibitory orders in Sabarimala, Nilakkal and Pamba areas for four more days, till December 8, PTI reported.

“Prohibitory orders have been extended till December 8 after considering various reports filed by officials” such as the police commissioner, Collector PB Nooh said.

The Kerala Police had imposed restrictions at the Sabarimala temple and nearby areas after repeated incidents of violence at the temple. Several organisations have appealed in court against the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which prohibits four or more people from gathering in one place. The Kerala High Court, while hearing the petitions, had said pilgrims could not be stopped from moving in groups or chanting and singing songs near the temple but said it would not interfere with the restrictions for now.

The temple opened on November 16 for the third time since the Supreme Court in September allowed women of all ages to enter the shrine. But so far, no woman between the ages of 10 and 50 has been able to enter the temple due to massive protests. Before the top court’s September 28 ruling, women of menstruating age were not permitted to enter the temple.

The shrine will remain open till December 27 for Mandalapooja, and then between December 30 and January 20 for another festival.

High Court-appointed panel visits temple

Meanwhile, a three-member committee appointed by the Kerala High Court visited the hill shrine on Tuesday to check the facilities provided for devotees and felt they were adequate, according to ANI.

The court had formed the panel, comprising retired Justice PR Raman, Justice S Sirijagan and Additional Director General of Police Hemachandran, to ensure the pilgrimage is smooth. They will now assess and submit a final report.

Raman said the facilities were satisfactory, and Hemachandran said there was “widespread misconception due to propaganda-driven news”.

Children used as ‘shields’, claims minister

State Social Justice Minister KK Shylaja on Wednesday claimed that protestors at Sabarimala had used children as “shields” during agitations, PTI reported. Speaking in the state Assembly, the minister said that the government would have to act as such practices violated the Protection of Child Rights Act.

“Children were being used as shields in several agitations, including in the recent Sabarimala stir,” she said. “The government cannot permit the use of children as shields and we have to take action against such practices.”

Kerala mulls new airport closer to Sabarimala

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday told the state Assembly that his government was considering the possibility of constructing a new airport near Erumeli, which is about 25 kilometres from Sabarimala, for pilgrims. The airports at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are currently the closest to the hill shrine.

“We have decided in-principle to build a greenfield airport for the Sabarimala pilgrims,” Vijayan was quoted as saying by India Today. “Cheruvally estate has been chosen for this project. Louis Burger Consulting Private Limited has been assigned to study the techno-economic feasibility and environmental impact.”