A 24-hour strike called by a little-known Hindu outfit over the subject of entry of women of a certain age group at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala ended up affecting lots of pilgrims streaming into the temple on Thursday. Lots of pilgrims who depend on public conveyance like buses to reach the remote hill shrine in Pathanamthitta district had to either postpone their journey by 24 hours or pay exorbitant prices for cabs. A large number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu disembark by train at Chengannur or Kottayam railway stations and then take buses to reach Pamba, the base camp of the temple. However, the unavailability of state transport buses, private buses or autorickshaws hurt the pilgrims a lot.
Amudha Bhaskar, 63, and her husband who arrived at Chengannur railway station by train and planned to take a bus to Pamba were disappointed to hear of the strike. ‘We had to spend Rs 2500 on a cab from Chengannur to Nilakkal. And then, we had to take another bus from Nilakkal to.Pamba. they should have announced the strike earlier so that we can plan,’ she said.
While usually private vehicles are allowed to pass through Nilakkal to.Pamba, a 20 km distance, due to the imposing of Sec 144 and the possibility of violence, only state transport buses made shuttle trips between the two places.
Similarly, a PhD scholar from Palakkad district who climbed the hill at Sabarimala on Thursday was unsure how to return home. He had reached Pamba the night before the strike began. After offering prayers at the temple, he said, officials forced them to climb down immediately.
‘I am not sure how to go back home. I will see if I can get a bus,’ he said.
Throughout Kerala, the bandh called by the Sabarimala Samrakshana Samiti protesting the police action on devotees of Ayyappa at Nilakkal was complete. The protests were supported by the BJp as well. In several places, stones were pelted at state transport buses and demonstrations taken out on the streets. While private buses and auto rickshaws completely stayed off roads, services of state transport buses were severely curtailed. In most districts, shops and establishments remained shut. In Erumely town, small restaurants and shops remained open. The streets were mostly empty and only private cars and bikes operated.