Citing infrastructure and law and order issues, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which administers Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, Monday approached the Supreme Court, seeking extension of time to implement its September 28 order allowing women of all age to enter the hill shrine.
In an application filed in the Supreme Court in the wake of protests by devotees across Kerala, the Board said the court verdict had “evoked a strong response from certain people and political parties which has led to severe law and order problems in the State of Kerala and particularly in the areas around the Sabarimala temple”. It said that on November 11, a few women tried to enter the temple but could not do so “on account of the severe resistance on the part of those opposing the judgment”.
The Board said it had learned that about 1,000 women had registered to visit the shrine and “therefore the security of women being the primary responsibility and consideration of the Applicant, the Applicant submits that at present it is not in a position to provide that much of additional facilities for them”.
The Board said it was “in constant dialogue with the relevant state authorities who have tried to ensure and provide all possible assistance and security to women visiting the Sabarimala temple but even the unprecedented security and effort of the state authorities have not discouraged the protesters from threatening and impeding the women devotees from paying obeisance at the Sabarimala temple.”
The application called these “acts of hooliganism and assault” and said they had been “repeatedly reported in the media… and the same are in public domain”. On infrastructure, the TDB application said that in August, Kerala had witnessed “unprecedented floods which caused huge loss and damage to the infrastructure in the entire state”.
The “calamitous floods also destroyed the infrastructure at Pampa and its surrounding areas which is the base camp of the pilgrimage for the devotees of Lord Ayyappa”.
All facilities in Pampa were badly damaged, it said, saying buildings, stalls, pilgrim shelters, toilet facilities, sewage network system etc had been almost completely washed away. “Even the access to Sabarimala was blocked because the course of river Pampa was diverted and a huge amount of sand was deposited on the banks of the Pampa”, the Board submitted, adding access was restored due to its efforts.
The course of the river too was restored to its original with help from different governmental agencies. The Board, however, said it was not in a position to restore all amenities that were lost in the floods because of “stringent conditions” imposed by the Central Empowered Committee in making permanent constructions on the banks of the Pampa. Therefore, “it was decided to shift the base camp from Pampa to Nilakkal”.
“Though earnest efforts where undertaken by the applicant, the Nilakkal camp is yet to reach its original capacity as planned in the Master Plan due to scarcity of time. Basic amenities are provided at the Nilakkal and Pampa by providing temporary toilets,” the Board said.
The Committee had also raised certain objections to the utilisation of forest land transferred to the Board and filed a report in this regard before the apex court. “That therefore, until the objections raised by the Central Empowered Committee is not finally adjudicated by this Hon’ble Court, the Applicant is not in a position to undertake further arrangements at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilakkal”, the Board contended.