State Police Chief Loknath Behera said on Friday that 452 cases were registered in connection with clashes that broke out around the hill shrine and protests held between October 17 and 22, when the temple was open for monthly pujas.
Most of the arrested men have been released on bail while cases have also been registered on non-bailable charges. Women were also involved in the protests; some of them conducted their own checks in vehicles at the base camp of Nilakkal, to ensure that women in the 10-50 years age group were not allowed in.
The arrests are in line with the CPM-led state government’s stand that it would continue efforts to implement the September 28 judgment of the Constitution Bench which allowed entry for women of all ages to the temple.
During the six days, protesters managed to thwart attempts by around 15 women, even with prohibitory orders in place at the temple and surrounding areas, to enter the Sannidhanam, the deity’s abode.
“We are responsible to provide security for women who visit the temple (during the pilgrimage season which commences in mid-November). We are discussing ways to enforce a system to address the issue,” the DGP told reporters here.
The annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season at the temple will commence on November 17. With the BJP-RSS backing the protests and Hindutva groups raising pitch of agitation against the state government’s resolve in implementing the apex court’s judgment, Sabarimala is set for a volatile pilgrimage season.
Meanwhile, the statement by Rahul Easwar – president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena – that protesters would have spilled their own blood at the Sannidhanam (and forced closure of the temple for purification rituals) if young women entered the temple has caused a stir. The statement is also seen as a call for resistance against a government which maintains that it’s only implementing the top court’s judgment.
Action on the ground will shift again, briefly, to the shrine when it opens on November 5, at 5 pm, for Sri Chithira Attathirunal, the celebration of the birth anniversary of Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, erstwhile king of the royal family of Travancore. The temple will close the next day, at 10 pm.
Shah at Kannur Airport
As the BJP state unit chalks out strategies ahead of the pilgrimage season, the party’s national president Amit Shah will visit Kannur on Saturday, to inaugurate a district office of the party. Shah is scheduled to arrive, in a private aircraft, at the Kannur International Airport 43 days ahead of the airport’s official opening, on December 9. Many BJP activists have termed Shah’s visit a virtual “inauguration” of the yet-to-be-commissioned airport.
In Kannur, the BJP president will visit the home of a slain party activist at Pinarayi, the native village of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Shah will also visit Thiruvananthapuram in his two-day visit to the state.