Sabarimala: Prohibitory orders were clamped on a 30-km radius of Sabarimala for two days on Wednesday evening after pitched battles raged through the day between the police and pro-Sangh Parivar agitators, leaving scores injured, including eight journalists, and causing extensive damage to vehicles and other assets at the Nilakkal foothills.
The shrine at Sabarimala sannidhanam opened in the evening for the customary puja during the first five days of the Malayalam month. Pathanamthitta district collector P. B. Nooh, who clamped the orders, said utmost restraint had been used, hoping the agitators would agitate peacefully.
“But the situation has slipped up and now we can’t take chances. We will ensure Sabarimala remains peaceful for pilgrims to offer prayers”, said Mr Nooh.
Pampa, Nilakkal, Sannidhanam and Elavunkal are four places under ban orders.
Fifty people have been charged with violence. Ayyappa Dharma Sena and Achara Samrakshana Samiti activists held Nilakkal and Pampa to ransom, taking advantage of the small-sized police pickets. The police arrested prominent activist Rahul Eswar and other members of the tantri family.
Sepcial branch SP’s car fell into a ravine, caught in the attack by agitators.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran accused "RSS criminals" of fomenting violence and attributing it to the pilgrims. However, the police failed to ensure safe passage for two women- Ms Lebi from Arthunkal in Alappuzha, and Ms Madhavi and her family from AP- to have Ayyappa darshan despite the top court’s verdict and the state government’s assurance of protection to young women. Ms Lebi was stopped by agitators in Pathanamthitta town while Ms Madhavi and family were escorted for some distance up the hills and turned back by the police.
ADGP Anil Kant and I G Manoj Abraham were on the scene, chalking out the police action after first round of stone-pelting and vigilante checking of vehicles.
The police personnel, heavily outnumbered by the agitators, apparently were under orders from high-ups, and held back even when goons masquerading as pilgrims stopped vehicles, including KSRTC buses, targeting young women. They turned their ire on journalists, especially women, belonging to the national media. A woman devotee lay injured in the stampede.
In the forenoon, the police removed a roadside marquee set up by the agitators, after which agitators massed in from different directions. It was at about 3.45 pm when a group of devotees started pelting stones indiscriminately at Nilakkal junction. Soon stone-throwing spread to Pampa; the police retaliated in kind and resorted to caning. The BJP and the Congress leaders held their satyagraha at separate venues as the battle raged.
Earlier in the day, Minister Kadakampally Surendran was closeted with Travancore Devsawom Board (TDB) officials and public representatives for a review in connection with preparations for the pilgrimage season. However, the TDB’s half-hearted approach to the SC verdict was clear as it ensured only women older than 50 years to attend the meeting.
Even Health officials, additional director K J Been and deputy director Dr Meenakshy were subjected to checking by TDB officials for proof of their ages. They had to show their ID cards and sign on the register.
After their eviction, a group of BJP leaders began the 'namajapa' (prayer) meet at the same venue. BJP state general secretaries K Surendran, M T Ramesh and Shobha Surendran were among those who led the prayer meet. They alleged that the police removed the members of the traditional tantri and royal families without any provocation.
Inaugurating the sit-in, Congress State working president K.Sudhakaran reiterated that government was trying to create violence in Sabarimala in the name of the verdict. He went onto say that it was the ego of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan which created a crisis in Sabarimala.
Meanwhile, police will check vehicles from Erumeli and Vadasserikkara to ensure than only genuine devotees proceed to Sabarimala and to prevent miscreants, state police chief Lokanath Behera said in a statement....