Security beefed up at Sabarimala as temple closes tonight
Security has been tightened at Sabarimala and other pilgrim centres connected to it amid reports that women in the menstrual age group are planning to visit the hill shrine on Monday, the last day of the "darshan".
Devotees opposing the entry of girls and women in the age group of 10 to 50 years into the temple of "naishtika brahmachari" - the eternally celibate deity - are camping at the Sabarimala Sannidhanam temple complex to prevent them from reaching the shrine situated in a dense forest.
Despite clamping section 144, CrPC at Sabarimala Sannidhanam, Pamba, Nilackal and Elavumkal, hundreds of Ayyappa devotees have prevented around 12 women who attempted to visit the shrine, forcing them to give up their plan.
According to latest reports, a woman armed with the Supreme Court order - permitting the entry of all women into the shrine - has approached the police, seeking help to offer prayers at the temple as the stand-off over the entry of women of menstrual age into the famous hill shrine continued for the sixth day.
Police have tightened the security at Sannidhanam and other areas following the reported move of some women to visit the temple.
Inspector General of Police (IG) S Sreejith, a top official deputed to ensure the security of women devotees, offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple on Monday morning.
Visuals of the officer offering prayers with tearful eyes before the deity were telecast by the local media.
Sreejith had faced the ire of the devotees for taking activist Rehana Fathima to the temple amid tight police security.
However, the police could not take her up to the temple due to strong protests by the Ayyappa devotees.
Six women were prevented from entering the Sabarimala temple on Sunday by a large number of devotees.
Amid high drama, the devotees, up in arms against the implementation of the Supreme Court order lifting the ban on the entry of women in the 10-50 age group, chanting Ayyappa mantras, blocked the six - all Telugu-speaking women - from reaching the famed shrine.
By all available indications, not a single woman in the age group of 10 to 50 years has so far reached the temple which would close Monday at the end of the monthly puja.
Kerala has been witnessing massive protests by Ayyappa devotees opposing the entry of girls and women into the Sabarimala temple since the government decided to implement the apex court order.
The agitation intensified since the shrine was opened for the five-day monthly rituals on October 17.
On September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra, lifted the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.