Devaswom Board moves SC seeking more time

Sabarimala: Citing lack of basic amenities, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple, moved the Supreme Court seeking more time to implement its September 28 verdict allowing women of all age groups to pray at the hill shrine.

The TDB move came amid the stand-off over entry of women in the 10-50 age group, traditionally barred at the shrine.

The day also saw three young women expressing their desire to visit the holy shrine, but in a "friendly atmosphere".

Reshma Nishant and Anila from Kannur district and Dhanya from Kollam district said they had been observing the "vritham" (the mandatory austerities for visiting Sabarimala) for visiting the shrine.

Since the September 28 top court verdict, no women in the 10-50 age group has succeeded in offering prayers at the shrine, where the deity is "Naishtika Brahmachari" (perennial celebate).

About a dozen women, including social activist, Trupti Desai, had made futile efforts to go to Sabarimala.

A division bench of the Kerala High court, comprising Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar, reprimanded police for acting against the devotees and warned of stringent action if such incidents were repeated.

Sixty-nine people, picked up from the temple complex early Monday and subsequently arrested, were produced before a court here this evening and remanded to 14 days judicial custody.

The men, who had participated in the "nama japam" (clapping and chanting the name of Ayyappa) protest were detained late last night from the temple complex after they refused to vacate the "nadapandal" (pathway leading to the shrine) despite repeated pleas by the police.

Protesting the police action, activists of the BJP, its youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and other right-wing outfits Monday escalated their protests across Kerala.

Meanwhile, five Yuva Morcha activists waved party flags and two of them tried to jump in front of the chief minister's convoy Monday morning.
Two of them have been arrested, Kozhikode district police chief S Kaliraj Mahesh Kumar told PTI.

The activists also took out a march to the state secretariat in Thirvananthapuram.

Slamming the RSS, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan alleged the RSS had launched "Khalistan model" agitation in Sabarimala to take control of the shrine.

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the government was trying to "brand" Ayyappa devotees as Sangh Parivar activists.

Declaring an "open agitation" against the state government over the issue, he said a UDF delegation, comprising coalition leaders, would violate the prohibitory order clamped in Sabarimala Tuesday, if the state government did not withdraw it

BJP state unit chief P S Sreedharan Pillai demanded a judicial probe into the police action.

As the shrine opened on the third day of the "Mandala Makkaravillaku" pilgrimage season, there was a steep fall in the arrival of devotees, especially from Kerala.

According to police sources, so far around 60,000 devotees have visited the shrine since it opened on Friday evening for the 64-day annual pilgrimage season. PTI

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