As the showdown between police and devotees continues at the Sabarimala temple, the Kerala High Court on Monday observed that the high-handedness of the police cannot be allowed under the guise of implementing the Supreme Court order on allowing the entry of women aged 10-50.
Hearing a number of petitions questioning police restrictions at the hill shrine, a division bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar said that everyone has to obey the Supreme Court order, but police excess under the guise of implementing the order cannot be allowed.
The court said it would intervene if the restrictions are found to be arbitrary and infringe upon the rights of pilgrims.
The bench directed the state police chief to submit an affidavit by Friday on the police deployment and restrictions introduced at Sabarimala, where the two-month-long pilgrim season began last week.
Observing that the court is concerned about genuine pilgrims, the bench said all parties and groups have been using Sabarimala issue to further their vested interest.
The court questioned the necessity of a police directive, stating that pilgrims should leave the shrine soon after the darsan. The bench also warned the police against preventing devotees from staying at the shrine at night to perform neyyabhishekam (pouring of ghee on the idol of Lord Ayyappa). The pilgrims should not be prevented from performing the ritual at any circumstance, the court said.
Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad told the court that Sangh Parivar organisations were creating trouble at the temple. He also produced a circular, purportedly issued by the BJP, which urges leaders to mobilise maximum number of people from all constituencies in the state to Sabarimala. The circular also has named leaders who should be present in rotation at the temple for next one month, the AG pointed out.
Meanwhile, the police arrested 69 persons from the premises of the sanctum sanctorum late Sunday night after they stayed back at the temple after the day’s rituals were over. Slapped with non-bailable offences, these pilgrims were on Monday produced in a court in Pathanamthitta, which remanded them in judicial custody for two weeks.
BJP and Congress deplored the arrest of the devotees who wanted to stay back at the shrine to perform rituals. Protesting the arrest of devotees, BJP workers have taken to the streets, chanting Ayyappa keerthanam. They also grouped in front of the official residence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the wee hours of the day.
Opposition leader and senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the police were treating the pilgrims as terrorists. Senior Congress leaders Oommen Chandy, Chennithala and Benny Behnan said party workers would go to Sabarimala on Tuesday, violating the prohibitory orders which are in place.
BJP also has decided to step up its Sabarimala agitation. On Monday, Union Minister K J Alphons visited the base station at Pamba to review the facilities for the pilgrims. Senior party leaders and MPs would trek to the temple in the coming days.
Senior CPI (M) leader and convener of the LDF, A Vijayaraghavan, said the BJP and RSS were deputing criminals and anti-social elements to foment trouble at Sabarimala.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Monday justified police action in Sabarimala. “They were not Ayyappa devotees. RSS workers were camping at Sannidhanam with a motive to create trouble. The government cannot let anyone create trouble at Sabarimala,” he said.