Congress-led opposition to intensify stir over Sabarimala

Congress-led opposition to intensify stir over Sabarimala

On Sunday night, the police arrested 72 pilgrims after they refused to leave the temple premises as they were singing Lord Ayyappa hymns well beyond the scheduled closure of the temple at 10 p.m.

They continued with the chants even after being requested, forcing the police to take action and forcefully evict them.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala shrine, would move the SC on Monday seeking more time to implement its order allowing women of menstrual age to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple.

This is the third time that the temple has opened after the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50.

"We will deploy over 15,200 police around the temple for the entire season up to January 15", Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.

But when Sabarimala, perched on top of a hill, re-opened for a few days twice in mid-October, hardliners prevented women from getting anywhere near, clashing with police and assaulting female journalists.

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"A while back they tried to take us out from a back door but the protesters spotted us and attacked the cars", she said. "I am here with other locals to protest against the arrest of devotees", Raghunathan Nair, one demonstrator said. The Bharatiya Janata Party - which holds power at the national level but only a single seat in the Kerala legislature - has seized on the temple controversy as a chance to present itself as the defender of Hindus and their faith. As many as 68 devotees were also arrested.

"Things are becoming clear that the Pinarayi Vijayan government wants to destroy Sabarimala by coming out with rules that will affect the traditions of the temple", said Pillai. They also arrested a senior BJP leader.

Despite pleas from the police, Desai said she would not return without visiting the Lord Ayyappa shrine.

On Saturday, to reach the temple, devotees braved bus delays and a call by right-wing Hindu groups to close all roads, shops and businesses. He said, "A situation worse than emergency is happening here".

Reshma Nishanth, a 32-year old teacher from the city of Kannur in Kerala, has spent recent weeks making the traditional preparations for the Sabarimala pilgrimage, including observing a 41-day fast.

Protestors had gathered in large numbers in front of the Chittar Police Station last night soon after the BJP leaders and others were brought to the police station.

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