Centre asks Kerala govt to ensure peace in view of Sabarimala protests

RSTV Bureau
Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, Thursday, October 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, Thursday, October 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

The Centre has asked the Kerala govt to ensure peace across the state following protests against the Supreme Court order allowing women of all age groups to enter Sabarimala temple.

In an advisory, the Home Ministry said the maintenance of law and order, including providing security to women wishing to visit the temple, was the responsibility of the state govt. Meanwhile, Kerala govt, in its communication, has assured the Centre that the apex court order would be implemented.

Amid mounting protest in Kerala against the entry of women of menstrual age into Sabarimala temple, the Travancore Devaswom Board will meet today in Thiruvananthapuram to find an amicable solution to the row. Ahead of the meeting, the TDB, which administers the hill shrine, Thursday said it was ready for any sort of compromise to end the stand-off.

The Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened its doors on Wednesday evening for the first time since the Supreme Court lifted the centuries-old entry ban on women in the 10-50 age groups.

But violent protests ensured that no woman from the previously “banned” age group could enter the the shrine.

There was chaos on the road leading from Nilackal – the gateway to the shrine – to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees start the arduous 6 kilometer trek to Sabarimala.

Activists clashed with police leaving many injured and bleeding.

Elderly devotees being assisted by the police to climb up the 18 steps to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, Thursday, October 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Elderly devotees being assisted by the police to climb up the 18 steps to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, Thursday, October 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

The closest any woman in the 10-50 age brackets could reach was a point near the Pamba River from where pilgrims have to trek nearly 6 km uphill to the shrine.

Women journalists were heckled, their equipment damaged, and young female Ayyappa devotees were turned back as hordes of activists laid siege to the road leading to the temple.

A Delhi-based woman journalist of a foreign media outlet, who trekked the Sabarimala Hill, was stopped midway by Lord Ayyappa devotees opposing entry of women of menstrual age into the hill shrine.

The tense law-and-order situation prompted the district authorities to clamp prohibitory orders… banning large gatherings in a 30 square km radius of the town.

A state-wide shutdown was observed in Kerala on Thursday by a group that calls itself the Sabarimala Protection Committee.

The shutdown saw a huge response with just a few private vehicles being visible on road.  Stray incidents of violence were reported in parts of the state like Kozhikode, Malappuram and in Thiruvananthapuram.

Shops and markets were shut. Railway commuters faced the brunt of the shutdown as taxis and public vehicles stayed off the streets.

Dozens of demonstrators were detained for staging protests in violation of Section 144 of CrPc.

The Left-led government in Kerala called the attacks politically motivated violence.

Talks between board officials and major stakeholders of Sabarimala, including members of the Tantri family, those from the erstwhile Pandalam royal family and devotees’ associations, failed to yield results.

Both sides now await the Supreme Court’s decision on the review petitions which it is expected to take up shortly.

(with inputs from agencies)