Tension prevailed Wednesday morning in Kerala’s Nilackal, the main gateway to Sabarimala after the police used force to disperse devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the hill shrine.
Acting tough, the police, deployed in large numbers in Nilackal, some 20 km away from the Sabarimala hilltop, also removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.
The protesting group of devotees had been staging a sit-in chanting Ayyappa mantra in the shelter in protest against the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.
The protesting people, who were less in numbers, ran from the spot when the police initiated action in the early hours Wednesday when they tried to block the buses from the key entry point to the temple.
Hours ahead of the opening of the hill shrine for the monthly prayer, the police said they would not let anyone block the movement of the people.
Taking the full control of Nilackal, Police also warned against those who create hurdles in the ways of pilgrims to the hill shrine.
The police took strong action against the protesters after some of them checked the vehicles heading to Pamba and prevented the women in the age group of 10 and 50 from entering the hill shrine.
A couple from Tamil Nadu, aged 45 and 40, on their way to Pamba, were forced to get down from the KSRTC bus Monday night allegedly by some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.
Although the couple had said that they would go only up to Pamba and not climb Sabarimala, the activists prevented them.
The police later took them to safety.
Some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti, who had stayed back at Nilackal, also allegedly prevented the media persons from carrying out their professional duty.
The crew of various TV news channels were asked to leave the place. They could return the spot after more policemen were deployed in the area.
Around 500 police personnel, including women, have been deployed in Nilackal to ensure a safe passage to the pilgrims to the Lord Ayyappa temple.
Meanwhile, another group of devotees said they would stage a Gandhian style peaceful protest in Pamba.
The shrine located on the mountain ranges of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats opens later in the evening for the first time after the recent Supreme Court.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said no one would be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala.
Groups of women devotees including senior citizens, clad in traditional sarees, had stopped each and every vehicle at Nilackal Tuesday.
Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out of them Tuesday.
Very few police personnel were present when the incidents happened.
Protesting women had said no women belonging to the banned age group of 10-50 will be allowed to travel further from Nilackal and offer worship at the shrine.
The temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam. PTI