Protests back at Sabarimala; Alphons visits Pamba

Supporters Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shout slogans as they block a highway during a protest against the arrest of their leader K Surendran, who police said was taken into preventive custody on Saturday night at Nilakkal base camp near the Sabarimala te

Spontaneous protests broke out at the Lord Ayyappa shrine here on late Sunday night with hundreds of devotees opposing the restrictions imposed on them resulting in the detention of nearly of 80 of them, even as the police action evoked criticism from all quarters.

The protests broke out a little after 11 pm at the Sannidhanam, the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple, after the police asked the devotees in the area to leave after ‘Harivarasanam’ song was played and the presiding deity was put to sleep. Devotees chanting slogans “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” sat outside the Sannidhanam and protested the restrictions, leading to police action.

Also read: No restrictions during day: TDB

Police removed the protesters forcefully and detained 80 of them and brought them to Pamba, the foothills, early in the morning. The protests took place despite Sabarimala has heavy police personnel, including the deployment of armed guards. Due to security concerns, police banned pilgrims from staying through the night outside the Sannidhanam, though they have allowed to stay in the hills.

The police action triggered angry reaction from BJP and RSS cadre who held an agitation outside Chief Minister Pinnarayi Vijayan’s residence in Thiruvananthapuram and shouted slogans against the detention of devotees. Union Tourism Minister K J Alphons also added fuel to the fire by visiting Nilackel, the base camp, and Pamba on Monday.

After reviewing the facilities at Sabarimala, which has been criticised by pilgrims and others, Alphons charged the CPI(M) government of “imposing Emergency” in Sabarimala. “Not even one rupee of the Rs 100 crore given by us (the Central Government) has not been spent by the state government. There are no facilities for pilgrims in Nilackel and Pamba,” he said.

Alphons also said there was no need to impose prohibitory orders in Sabarimala and “pilgrims are not extremists.” "The government is trying to brand them extremists and put them in jail. This does not happen in a democracy," he said.

Also read: Sabarimala standoff: BJP leader remanded; protests

Superintendent of Police (special officer) Pratheesh Kumar said people were detained for violating Section 144 that prohibits assembly of more than four people at a spot.

"Section 144 had been declared in the area. We had asked them to disperse after the Harivarasanam but most of them refused," the SP said, adding that the police was not against the devotees who wished to offer prayers.

Tension gripped Nilackel, the base camp, after Hindu Aikya Vedi leader K. P. Sasikala arrived to visiting the Sabarimala temple, two days after she was arrested for trying to enter the shrine. However, she was allowed to proceed to Pamba from where she would trek to Sannidhanam following an assurance that she would return by afternoon and would not create any problem.

 

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Protests back at Sabarimala; Alphons visits Pamba

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