Sabarimala temple
Kerala: Sabarimala temple has a new name, and for a good reason. In picture: Devotees throng the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Kerala.IANS File Photo

Tensions continue to rise on Monday in and around Kerala's Sabarimala temple where prohibitory orders are in force amid protests against a Supreme Court order allowing the entry of women of all ages.

Union minister of state for culture and tourism Alphonse Kannanthanam visited the temple area. He told news reporters that the state government's prohibitory orders were unnecessary on the temple premises.

The federal minister said he was there to see how the state authorities had utilised the federal funds granted for providing infrastructural facilities in and near the temple. The state had failed to utilise the amount properly and provide the devotees the basic facilities, according to him.

BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai demanded a judicial probe of Sunday night's police action in front of Sannidhanam or the sanctum sanctorum. The police used force to remove protesters from among the devotees whom the authorities had allowed to stay overnight for early morning rites in the temple.

Police said the arrests were necessary after there were protests at Sannnidhanam defying the prohibitory orders. About 100 protesters were removed to a police camp about 30km from the temple. Police have slapped non-bailable offences on about 70 protesters.

Right-wing leaders

Right-wing activists have gathered outside the gate of the police camp demanding the release of those taken into custody.

The base camp at Nilakkal saw some tense scene early in the morning after Hindu Aikyavedi president KP Sasikala, who had been arrested and charged with violation of the prohibitory orders on Friday, boarded a bus. Police intervened and took an undertaking from her that she would not remain at the Sannidhanam after here prayers and would not do anything provocative.

BJP state general secretary K Surendran continues to be in police remand following his arrest on Saturday for alleged violation of prohibitory orders.

The BJP-led right-wing outfits are organising sit-in protests in front of district police offices. The authorities expect more leaders of Hindu rightwing outfits to reach the temple posing security headache to the police.

The state BJP that enforced a shutdown on Saturday to protest Sasikala's arrest, organised road blockades on Sunday to protest against police action against Surendran.

Several state Congress party leaders including former home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan visited the temple on Sunday and said the deployment of police hindered peaceful pilgrimage.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM)-led government has maintains that the BJP and the main opposition Congress party are trying to make political gains out of the situation arising from the apex court order allowing the entry of women of all ages into forest shrine.

Inadequate amenities

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.

A section of the pilgrims is complaining about the inadequate amenities at Pampa from where the pilgrimage is on foot. The government has not been able to complete the reconstruction of the facilities that were destroyed by the devastating floods earlier this year.

The state transport corporation is running buses between Nilakkal and Pampa in security convoys. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond Nilakkal.

The government has deployed police in force fearing untoward incidents as hundreds of women devotees within the 10-50 age group have sought protection for safe temple visit. The protesters have declared their intention to stop any woman within the 'menstruating age' group from visiting the temple.