Tension at Sabarimala as Hindu outfit leader arrested

The temple opened on Friday amid a tense standoff involving social activist Trupti Desai in Kochi and a move by its administrator to seek time from the Supreme Court to implement its verdict. PTI Photo 

Tension gripped Sabarimala on Saturday after the arrest of the leader of a Hindu outfit and detention of a top BJP leader at the base camp to avoid “law and order issues”, even as thousands of devotees continued with their pilgrimage.

While Sasikala, 62, was arrested in the early hours, BJP general secretary K Surendran was stopped at Nilackel, the base camp, in the evening and was taken into custody after he failed to heed to police’s advice to return.

Mary Sweety, a woman below the age of 50 years who had earlier attempted to climb the hills to Sabarimala, was turned away from Chengannur, 90 kms away from here, after she sought permission to reach Pamba. Rahul Easwar of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena was also forced to return from Nilackel.

The arrest of K P Sasikala, the Kerala chief of Hindu Aikya Vedi, prompted the Sabarimala Karma Samithi to call for a day-long hartal in Kerala that caused severe inconvenience to thousands of pilgrims who were stranded in several places. However, she was released on bail in the evening.

Barring few hours of tension, the second day of the annual Mandala Pooja-Magaravilakku pilgrimage season passed off peacefully with hundreds of devotees continuing to climb the hills to have a darshan of Lord Ayyappa.

Though both Sasikala and Surendran carried the traditional ‘irumudiketu’ (bag containing offerings to Lord Ayyappa), police stopped them saying their presence at the Sannidhanam would lead to law and order problems. Police sources said Sasikala was arrested as she climbed the mountain in the early hours even as prohibitory orders were in place in and around Sabarimala.

Surendran, who arrived at the Nilackel base camp at around 7 pm, was detained after he remained adamant that he will not return without offering prayers at the shrine. Police said they would not allow any politicians to proceed towards Sabarimala as their presence in the shrine would lead to problems. The BJP has supported the protests against Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age into the temple.

Pamba did not sport the usual festive mood on Saturday as the number of devotees was much less when compared to Friday as many were stranded in various parts of Kerala as the KSRTC drivers stopped buses mid-way after the bandh call. The bandh, which was supported by the BJP, was near total in many districts with all shops and commercial establishments downing their shutters in Pathanamthitta district.

However, the bus services from Nilackel, the base camp for Sabarimala pilgrims after Pamba was ravaged by August floods, were normal, though many complained about “lesser number of vehicles” being deployed for transporting them from the base camp to Pamba and back. The government accused the BJP of causing major inconvenience to the pilgrims by backing the bandh call.

The temple, which opened for the 62-day annual pilgrimage on Friday evening, will witness at least 60,000 to 70,000 devotees thronging Sabarimala every day.
Sabarimala is under a thick blanket of security due to protects against entry of menstruating women into the temple.

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Tension at Sabarimala as Hindu outfit leader arrested

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