Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra on Wednesday said no one will be stopped from going to Sabarimala as the chief priest of the Lord Ayyappa temple announced that women from the royal and tantri families will take part in the prayers.
“There is a very strong police presence in and around Sabarimala,” Behra told the media here as a police force of over 1,000 personnel took position in Nilackal and Pamba — the foothills of the famed Lord Ayyappa temple.
“None would be stopped nor would anyone be allowed to take law into their hands. Sabarimala is safe and anyone can come and pray,” the police chief added.
Activist and tantri family member Rahul Eashwar, who is leading the protest, was called up by Additional Director General of Police Anil Kanth earlier in the day.
Kanth told Eashwar that they should see to it that laws were not broken.
“We told the officer that we are not here to create any issues. All that we are doing is sit and pray. Senior members, including women from the royal and tantri families will be taking part in our prayer sessions, which will start very soon at Nilackal,” said Eashwar.
Wednesday, is going to be a crucial day for the temple, as at 5 p.m, the doors of the temple would be opened for the monthly pujas which would end on October 22.
This is the first time that the temple would be opening after the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict allowing women in the 10-50 age group to enter the famed temple.
Barring the ruling Left government-led by Pinarayi Vijayan, the Congress, BJP and numerous Hindu organisations are on a war path warning of strong protests if any temple traditions were broken.
Early on Wednesday, police officers chased away a group of protesters who were holding fort at Nilackal and were stopping and checking vehicles, for any women in the age group between 10 and 50.
Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham, who is in charge of security, told the media at Nilackal that the police is fully geared to face any eventualities.
“By now itself we have registered three cases and seven people have been arrested. We are unable to say if there would be any issues… None will be stopped anywhere and those who want to come can come,” said Abraham.
Those who are opposed to breaking the century old traditions of the temple include the Pandalam Royal family, the tantri family of Sabarimala temple and numerous Hindu organisations.
The custodian of the temple is the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), which is presently led by senior CPI-M leader A.Padmakumar.
Former Congress legislator and previous TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said that this temple is adored by lakhs of devotees around the world and it was not protest that they were doing.
“Instead we are showing extreme patience to see that the traditions of the temple is protected. We, the believers, are attached to no political parties and our only concern is that traditions should be protected and I will go to any extent, even laying down my life for it,” said Gopalakrishnan.
Earlier, the protesters stopped two women state government health officials who had come to take part in a routine meeting at the temple.
The women both medical doctors were allowed to go in only after they showed proof that they were above age 50.
Protesters also shooed away a few women police constables who were trying to go to areas of the temple town, which are out of bounds for women in the age group 10 to 50.
CPI-M legislator Raju Abraham under whose constituency the Sabarimala temple comes said that all wish and want there should be nothing that disturbs the peace of the temple town.
Firebrand senior BJP women leader Shoba Surendran said it was Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s ploy to post Abraham here.
“We warn the officials that they should not try to create problems and we express our strong resentment in the way our people who are protecting the rights of the temple was chased away by the police. We women will not sit idle,” said Surendran to the media at Nilackal.
Six-time independent legislator P.C.George, under whose constituency Poonjar lies, which is nearby to the temple town said that he will see that no traditions of the temple are broken.