Allow Genuine Devotees To Offer Prayers At Sabarimala: Court To Police

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Terming the protests as "acts of hooliganism", the board said that even unprecedented security and efforts of state authorities have not discouraged protestors from threatening and impeding women devotees who want to visit Sabarimala. The Travancore Devaswom Board announced that it will move the Supreme Court, seeking time to implement its order of allowing women of menstrual age to offer prayers at the shrine.

The Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala has become a major battleground between Hindu radicals and gender activists.

About 700 women have registered to visit the shrine, which opens on Friday ahead of the start of a Hindu festival beginning on Saturday.

The leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, Ramesh Chennithala slammed the government for the police action, saying the government was trying to "brand" Ayyappa devotees as Sangh Parivar activists.

Among those unable to get to the temple was prominent female activist Trupti Desai who was stopped from leaving one of the state's main airports.

"We tried to hire taxis several times, but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do", Desai told Indian television.

The chief minister said his government was not taking any steps to take women to Lord Ayyappa temple but made it clear that post the Supreme Court verdict, it has the constitutional responsibility to provide security to women devotees reaching the hill shrine to offer prayers. "We are exploring all opportunities to expand the protests nationwide".

On the roads around the temple, 150km south of Kochi, police meanwhile set up barricades to check cars.

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It sought the details of the police officials deployed at the Sannidhanam and their experience in Sabarimala pilgrim management.

The applicant has stated that in order to cater to the entry of women and to ensure their wellbeing, additional infrastructure such as restrooms, washroom and other facilities will have to be created at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilackal for which more time is required.

"We told them (the police) that we will discuss it and decide by 6.30 pm", she said. About 2,000 people were later arrested. Accordingly, around 100 protesters were removed to the police camp at Maniyar, around 30 kilometres away from the temple.

The youth wing of the BJP has planned to organise a protest on Monday.

"The BJP supports the devotees", the BJP president in Kerala, Mr P.S Sreedharan Pillai, told AFP.

"This government is destroying Sabarimala".

Activists say the ban at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity. "Law and order is the responsibility of the state govt".

But the talks ended late on Thursday in an acrimonious failure. Sunday night and early Monday morning saw police brutality of the worst kind perpetrated on Hindus and Lord Ayyappa devotees. The rule violated women's right to equality and right to worship, said the 4-1 verdict of the Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

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