A fragile peace over Kerala's Sabarimala temple, which is under a security lockdown over protests against women's entry, is under threat with the proposed visit of several opposition leaders on Tuesday.
Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala of the main opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) have announced their intention to violate the prohibitory orders claiming they were affecting the Ayyappa devotees.
The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit has said its MP V Muralidharan will visit the Hindu temple along with some other leaders.
Tuesday's was the first morning of relative peace at the forest shrine, which opened for its main pilgrimage season on Friday (November 17) after it saw violence when it briefly opened twice before for customary pujas since the controversial September 28 Supreme Court order.
The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has made clear of its intention of enforcing the apex court order allowing the entry of women of all ages to the shrine, which had banned women of the menstruating age of 10-50 from making the pilgrimage.
The temple, which saw midnight protests on Sunday and use of force by police, enjoyed relative peace on Monday night as police managed to keep the vicinity of the sanctum sanctorum free of protesters.
Those arrested on Sunday night were produced before a magistrate's court in Kottarakkara on Monday. The authorities slapped non-bailable offences on 72 protesters, of which at least 15 were facing police case over alleged violence when the temple opened earlier this season.
While the Supreme Court on Monday once again refused to entertain a petition seeking a stay on women's entry, the Kerala High Court came down heavily on what it called police excesses at the temple.
The court asked police officials not to inconvenience women, children and elderly pilgrims in the name of keeping the protesters at bay. The court directed advocate general CP Sudhakara Prasad to make a special submission. Prasad said the police were taking action only against those who arrived with the intention of staging protests on the temple premises.
On Monday federal minister KJ Alphons, who visited the temple to evaluate the arrangements there, criticised the state for failing to utilise the central funds and provide basic amenities to pilgrims. He called the centre had given the state Rs100 crore for pilgrim comforts, but the state failed to provide them. State minister in charge of temple administration Kadakampalli Surendran, however, countered Alphons saying the state had received only Rs18 crore from the Centre.
BJP state president tried to brazen out allegations of the party's attempt to make political gains out of the apex court order after some media houses circulate an internal party circular directing party units to send volunteers to the shrine. Pillai said the party was not protesting against women's entry but the communist government's attempt to destroy the sanctity of the shrine.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan retorted that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, BJP's ideological mentor, will not be allowed to make the shrine a base for its attempt to spread sectarian tension.
The temple will remain open for the Mandalam season until December 27 until it closes after the Mandala pooja. It will reopen for Makara Vilakku festival on December 30 and close on January 14.