Kerala police plan to turn Sabarimala into fortified zone

To prevent attacks on women when temple opens for the annual pilgrimage

The Kerala police will turn Sabarimala into a highly secure zone to prevent attacks on women devotees when the temple opens for the annual pilgrimage season on November 17. As a first step, they have told the government to make online reservation mandatory for pilgrims to prevent troublemakers from entering the temple in the guise of worshippers.

Priority Officers at the Nilackal base camp, 26 km downhill from Sabarimala, would accord priority to those who have booked their ‘darshan’ time in advance. Those without reservation would have to wait till the police vetted their background and gave them security clearance. Such persons would also have to wait for the crowd at Sabarimala to abate. The security checks would start at Nilackal and continue at several points uphill till the sanctum. The police said the suggested measures would help shorten snaking queues and facilitate even phasing of devotees over the three- month pilgrimage season. The police said they would encourage group reservation to help spread out devotees through the puja hours and bring the daily numbers of worshippers to a more manageable figure. The police would not allow pilgrims to spend more than 16 hours at Sabarimala. They have asked temple authorities not to rent out rooms to pilgrims for more than a day. They would post plainclothes officers along the hill path to prevent a recurrence of the ‘flash mobs’ that seemed to appear out of nowhere to bully and shout down women pilgrims and journalists who attempted the trek. Anti-riot police officers on all-terrain vehicles would back them. Artificial intelligence-powered computer programmes would analyse surveillance video images and trigger alerts if any violence or gridlocks occurred on the trekking path. The system would identify troublemakers and help control room officials track their movement to and from the temple. They would extern rabble-rousers and their followers to stymie any effort to turn the pilgrimage centre into a hotspot for political protests. Law enforcers would not allow any assembly on the courtyard in front of the ‘holy steps’ at Sannidhanam.

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