The Sabarimala Temple witnessed fresh protests late on Sunday night after more than a hundred devotees agitated as the police did not allow them to stay overnight in the Nadapanthal area of Sannidhanam. As many as 28 people were taken into preventive custody. The police had imposed strict restrictions at Sannidhaman because of previous incidents of violence at the hill-top shrine. However, on the second day of the two-month-long pilgrimage season, Lord Ayyappa devotees gathered at the covered pathway to the temple when they were asked to leave Sannidhanam. The protesters were taken to Pamba police station which is 3.5 km downhill from the shrine.
Kerala: Visuals of devotees protesting at Nadapanthal area in Sannidhanam last night. They were protesting as the police did not allow them to stay overnight at Nadapanthal. They were later detained by police. #SabarimalaTemple pic.twitter.com/hbcau9xy8r— ANI (@ANI) November 19, 2018
"Section 144 had been declared in the area. We had asked them to disperse after the Harivarasanam but most of them refused," said Pratheesh Kumar, Superintendent of Police as quoted by news agencies. Section 144 prohibits assembly of more than four people at a spot.
However, Kumar also said that the police was not against devotees offering prayers and those who actually want to offer prayer can stay back. "Those who have to offer 'neyyabhishekam' (anointing deity with ghee) can stay back. They can recite prayers also. We are not against it. The police will assist those who want to offer prayers," he said.
Sources said that the police had received information about a possible protest by the devotees at Sannidhanam and the police had taken precautionary measures.
"We are devotees and we started reciting prayers but the police did not allow us, saying section 144 (prohibitory orders) has been imposed," said Rajesh, one of the protesters.
He said he did not mind getting arrested for reciting prayers at Sannidhanam.
Some devotees also alleged that some of them were injured but the police denied them treatment. The arrested protesters, who were initially taken to the police post near the temple, were being taken to base camp under heavy security.
(With agency inputs)