Thousands of Ayyappa devotees belonging to the 'Ayyappa Samrakshana Samithi' and various other Hindu organisations from across the state have started on a march to Thiruvananthapuram, demanding that the state and central governments form an ordinance to reinstate the old traditions of the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala.
The Supreme Court had last month allowed women of all ages entry into the shrine, a decision, which has since then faced with opposition from both political parties including Congress and BJP as well as from activists groups across the state.
The BJP had on Wednesday flagged off its march from Pandalam to the state Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, and other activists groups are also participating in the protests. The groups have asked the Kerala government to intervene and pass an ordinance restricting the entry of women between the age group of 10 to 50 years inside the temple premises, Times Now reported.
Rallies, marches and roadblocks in the past few days have marked the protests by Hindu outfits against the government's decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict, as the state government maintained that it would not go for a review.
Devotees, including a large number of women, squatted on the road at different places, chanting "Protect the rituals of Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala".
A minor scuffle was also reported between the protesters and the general public at Aluva and Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district. A group of BJP activists showed black flags to Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran at Kazhakootam near Thiruvananthapuram, leading to tension for some time.
The BJP rally, which started on Wednesday, will end with a demonstration on 15 October in front of the Secretariat in the state capital.
BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) president Thushar Vellapally are leading the march.
Pillai said the party was with the believers and alleged the government was trying to destroy the hill shrine.
In Thiruvananthapuram, a huge rally was taken out by members of the Nair Service Society (NSS) on Wednesday from the state secretariat to Palayam against the SC verdict.
Meanwhile, a two-day meeting of Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the Lord Ayyappa temple would take stock of preparations for the upcoming Mandala-Makkaravillaku festival, beginning 17 November.
The board had earlier told the Kerala High Court that it can make only limited arrangements for women pilgrims as of now. The bench, consisting of Justices PR Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran had asked the board to inform the court about the steps taken to facilitate women's entry in the temple.
Surendran said the government would ensure necessary facilities for devotees visiting Sabarimala. He said there was no point in launching agitations against the government as it was only implementing the apex court's order on the matter.
The apex court in its majority verdict on 28 September had allowed entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala saying that the rules put in place by the temple administration violated Articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2018 13:59:33 IST