Sabarimala temple reopens amidst protests, violence

The police cane-charged protesters on Wednesday as the Sabarimala temple opened for the first time since the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry to women of all ages to the hill shrine. As many as 13 policemen and 200 protesters from Hindu fringe outfits were injured in the incidents. Nilackal, the base camp situated 20 km from Pampa, witnessed unruly scenes as a mob, allegedly linked to Sangh Parivar outfits, tried to block entry of women of menstrual age and hurled stones at them. From Nilackal, pilgrims have to take State-run buses to reach Pampa, from where it is a 5-km trek to the Ayyappa temple. Till reports last came in, no woman devotee from the 10-50 age group had made it to the shrine. The police resorted to cane-charge four times at Nilackal and once at Pampa to handle the stone-throwing mob. Women journalists were heckled, their equipment snatched and vehicles smashed, and young women devotees turned back as activists, including of Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi, besieged the road leading to the temple. At one point, the police threw stones back at the protesters in Nilackal. Chaos and mayhem reigned on the Nilackal- Pampa road since Tuesday, as activists fought pitched battles with the police. The Pathanamthitta district authorities promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC banning assembly of four or more people in strife-torn Pamba and Nilackal.

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