THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/KOTTAYAM — Kerala police say they have arrested 1400 people who took part in demonstrations across Kerala against entry of women in the age group of 10-50 into the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
State police chief Loknath Behera on Thursday said the arrests were made in the last two days and that 440 cases were registered in connection with violent incidents following the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of menstrual age to offer prayers at the hill temple.
Kerala Governor P Sathasivam on Thursday met Union Home minister Rajnath Singh at New Delhi and apprised him of the law and order situation and the recent events in and around the shrine following the top court verdict.
Addressing an LDF meeting in Kottayam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asserted the state government would implement the supreme court order permitting entry of all women into the Lord Ayyappa temple.
He said the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) that manages the shrine would evolve a new system to prevent stay of "criminals" at Sabarimala Sannidhanam (temple complex).
He condemned activist Rahul Easwar's statement that they had a contingency plan to force the closure of the temple by spilling blood on its premises by some devotees in case any woman in the 'barred' age group managed to reach it.
Without naming Easwar, he questioned the intention of "the leader of the protesters" opposing implementation of the supreme court order.
He alleged that the Congress and the RSS were leading agitations against the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the BJP alleged that efforts were made to violate the temple customs by facilitating "darshan" of women having Maoist links at the temple when it was opened for the monthly pooja last week.
Police have released photographs of over 200 people suspected to have been involved in the protests at Sabarimala to prevent the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine last week.
Special teams would be formed in all districts to identify the suspects whose photographs were released on Wednesday, police sources said.
Pathnamthitta district police chief T Narayanan said a list of 210 people, who are suspected to have taken part in the protests and their photographs have been been sent to Superintendents of Police of various districts for identification.
As part of steps to beef up security at the 'Sannidhanam' (temple complex), it has been decided to deploy 5,000 additional police personnel during the three month-long 'mandalam-makaravillaku' season starting on November 17.
The number of police personnel at Sannidhanam, Pamba and Nilakkal would also be increased and more CCTV cameras would be installed, a police press note said.
The temple had witnessed high drama recently with around a dozen women in the 10-50 age group being prevented by protesting devotees from entering it after the doors were opened for all women following the apex court verdict.
Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakkampally Surendran Thursday claimed that effective police intervention had foiled the protesters' bid to "desecrate" the Ayyappa temple by spilling blood in the premises if women devotees in the 10-50 age group offered prayers.
He said the "conspiracy" of the devotees was made clear by Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar, who had said the faithful had plans to make the Lord Ayyappa shrine "impure" by spilling blood on its premises, forcing its closure if young girls and women devotees tried to enter the shrine.
"This was a planned attempt to desecrate the holy temple, but effective police intervention defeated their efforts," Surendran told reporters.
Easwar, who belongs to the Thazhamon family of Sabarimala tantris (priests), had said they had drawn up a contingency plan to force the closure of the temple in case young devotees in the "barred" age group managed to reach the shrine for darshan.
The minister said this disclosure showed that there was a well conceived plan, similar to that followed by nations to attack their enemies and added that this attempt was not only seditious, but also against the interest of devotees.
Rahul Easwar had said the faithful were prepared to inflict knife injuries on themselves on the temple premises, which would have forced the priests to close the gates.
The Kerala High Court Thursday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation seeking barring of entry of women in the menstrual age group into the Sabarimala hill shrine till additional facilities were set up for them, and said the petitioner can approach the Supreme Court.
In a related development, a meeting of Tantris (priests) held at Kochi accused the chief minister of making statements humiliating the temple priests in the state. They also condemned his reported remarks against the chief priest of Sabarimala.