Sabarimala board files suit seeking more time while HC flays state govt for “police excesses”

The Left-led government of the state was accused of running a “dictatorship” and ignoring recommendations by the Centre, by Union Minister KJ Alphons

SABARIMALA, Nov 19: Advocate Chandra Uday Singh on behalf of the Travancore Devaswom Board (which manages the Sabarimala shrine)  has filed an application in the Supreme Court asking for more time to implement the apex court order allowing women of menstrual age to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple.
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court has questioned the Pinarayi Vijayan –led state government over “police excesses” in Sabarimala, saying policemen should be in the barracks and not harass pilgrims. Sangh leader Sasikala, who is out on bail, is also said to have reached the temple.

The Centre inspected facilities for pilgrims at Kerala’s Sabarimala hill shrine on Monday and came to a conclusion similar to the Congress, who had done the same earlier.

The Left-led government of the state was accused of running a “dictatorship” and ignoring recommendations by the Centre, by Union Minister KJ Alphons who had made after a couple of earlier visits. The minister, who reached the shrine the morning after mid-night violence and police crackdown on protesters is said to have stated: “A situation worse than emergency is happening here, the devotees are not allowed to go up. Section 144 is imposed for no reason,” added

Around 70 people were arrested on Sunday after slogan-shouting protesters, in devotees’ attire, thronged the sanctum sanctorum after the temple had closed for the night. Alphons remarked: “This is like Stalin-era in Soviet Union… they are determined to say you don’t have the right to faith. They want to make sure that pilgrims who come don’t have basic facilities,” Mr. Alphons told NDTV.

The minister termed the facilities en route the temple, which draws around 30 million pilgrims annually, as “tragic, pathetic, unacceptable”.  He questioned the lack of the very basic infrastructure and said, “We (the Centre) have given 100 crores. They haven’t spent one rupee. This is pathetic”.

The BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya too has claimed the devotees had “no place to rest en route, people have had to sleep next to pig droppings and dustbins, young children and aged suffer as taps run dry, no food, no toilets”.

On Sunday, Congress leaders — including two former ministers Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and VS Sivakumar – visited Sabarimala to check the facilities provided for Lord Ayyappa’s devotees. Later, they too had criticized the Pinari Vijayan government.

With the Supreme Court order lifting the traditional bar on women between the ages of 10 and 50 at the Sabarimala temple, the issue has snow-balled a huge political battle, with both the Congress and the BJP are pitted against the Pinarayi Vijayan Government.

Both the Congress and the BJP have attacked the state government over its handling of the protests. The state government maintains the protests are backed by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

In the last two instances that the temple was open, the protesters threatened, heckled and forced women who attempted the journey, into turning back. Reporters covering the protests were attacked.

Mr. Alphons has denied that the BJP has had anything to do with the protests, and added “We are not saying anything against the Supreme Court ruling. We will wait for verdict”. “The people of Kerala have expressed their views in one voice,” he added questioning the police posse – around 15,000 cops including a bomb squad has been deployed.

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