Over 2,400 police personnel were deployed at Sabarimala to implement the Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all ages to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple, but they seemed to have conceded the control of the hill shrine to the protesters led by the Sangh Parivar.
The cops led by two inspector generals (IGs) remained mute spectators when activists of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other Hindu outfits allegedly blocked and assaulted women belonging to even the permitted age group from going to the temple besides preventing the media from discharging their duty during the special Chithira atta visesham puja on Tuesday.
The trouble started when a 52-year-old woman from Thrissur reached Nadappanthal, which is very close to the main temple, for the choroonu function (first rice feeding ceremony) of her grandson. The protesters pounced on the woman, who was identified as Lalitha, saying she had lied about her age. Though the woman told the protesters that she was above 50, the latter was not willing to listen to her words.
The protesters surrounded Lalitha chanting Ayyappa slogans. Some even allegedly assaulted the woman devotee. The protesters relented only after the police confirmed that her age was 52 after checking her certificates. Lalitha, who suffered injury in the melee, was taken to a nearby hospital by the police, who later escorted her to the temple through an alternate route.
Curiously, the police did not come to the rescue of the woman when she was reportedly heckled by the protesters. The women police, who were deployed at Sannidhanam especially to provide protection to the women devotees, were not even seen anywhere near the site of agitation.
They also did not come to help eight women, who were stopped by the protesters near the 18 Holy Steps.
The protesters prevented the women, who came from Andhra Pradesh, as they did not carry the irumudi kettu (offering to Lord Ayyappa). Earlier, the police reportedly joined the protesters at Pampa in turning away another group of six women from Andhra Pradesh. The women were persuaded not to go to the temple citing the tense situation prevailing at Sannidhanam.
The police also remained silent when the protesters allegedly vent their ire on media persons as the latter tried to record the protests in the camera. Two television channel camera men reportedly suffered injuries in the attack. The police also imposed several restrictions this time on the media at Sannidhanam. They had prevented the media from talking to the thantri of Sabarimala on Monday.
The police had tried to provide full protection to young women devotees, who reached Sabarimala to enter the temple following the Supreme Court verdict during the monthly puja last month. However, this time, the cops all along reportedly tried to dissuade the young women devotees from going to the temple as wanted by the protesters.
The police took eight hours to persuade the husband of a 30-year-old woman from Cherthala in Alappuzha district to drop his plan to take his wife to the temple. The man, identified as Abhilash, relented only after the police roped in his family members to dissuade him from the mission.
The police appeared to be playing second fiddle to the protesters at Sannidhanam. Though they had claimed to have made high-tech security measures to prevent protesters from infiltrating the hill top disguised as devotees like last time, the Sangh Parivar reportedly managed to deploy adequate number of their cadres in and around the temple to prevent young women devotees from going to Sabarimala.
Senior leaders of both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the RSS were allegedly allowed to station at the Pampa base camp as well as Sannidhanam throughout the Chithira atta visesham puja to give direction to the protesters. Even though police had earlier said nobody would be allowed to stay more than 24 hours at Sannidhanam, they did not implement it.
The police also did not intervene when the devotees staged protests on the 18 Holy Steps against the temple custom and in violation of the prohibitory orders promulgated under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). In fact, the police allegedly sought help of the RSS leaders to calm down the agitating devotees.
The police reportedly even gave their public address system to Valsan Thillankery, a senior RSS leader from Kannur, to control the protesting devotees.
Thillankery appealed the protesters not to be worried about women belonging to the restricted age group reaching Sannidhanam as they had taken all measures to prevent them from crossing the entry points.
Interestingly, the RSS leader had addressed the protesters from the 18 Holy Steps without irumudi kettu, which the RSS insists for the devotees to enter the temple through the 18 steps.
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) member Shankar Das termed the RSS leader’s act as a violation of the Sabarimala temple custom. Das said that the Board would conduct a probe into it and take appropriate action if the violation was proved correct.
Former Congress MLA from Chengannur P C Vishnunath alleged that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was trying to help the RSS implement the latter's agenda in Sabarimala. He claimed that the LDF government had allowed the Hindutva outfit a free hand as part of their strategy to weaken the Congress party in the state.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan denied the allegation that the police had given control of Sabarimala to the RSS.
“The shrine is under the strong control of the police, who are trying to maintain peace in the temple. The situation in Sabarimala is now under the full control of the police,” he told reporters in Kozhikode.
Thillankery said that he had intervened on behalf of the police to ensure that the protests did not go out of control. The RSS leader said that the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) had deployed their cadres at the hill shrine for deliberately crating trouble.
“Their attempt was to turn Sabrimala into a conflict zone. I have cautioned the devotees against this and urged them not to play into the hands of the trouble makers,” he added.
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Updated Date: Nov 06, 2018 19:10:31 IST