The Sabarimala temple opened its doors for women of all ages for the first time on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruling which lifted the ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 and the temple premises and surrounding areas have seen protesting mobs resorting to violence to ensure women do not enter the temple.
Here are six important developments that have taken place till Thursday, which is the second day that the temple doors have been opened to the public.
1) As of 12 AM on Thursday, Section 144 has been declared in Pamba, Nillackal, Sannidhanam and Elavunkal for a period of two days. A police control room has been formed in Nilakkal.
2) Early on Thursday morning, a New York Times journalist named Suhasini Raj, accompanied by a colleague, attempted to climb the Sabarimala hill. She reached Marakkoottam, which is located a few kilometres away from Sannidhanam, before angry demonstrators began hurling stones and abuses at her, forcing her to turn back.
3) Despite Section 144 being clamped down in 4 areas, a 41-member strong group of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and protesters, disguised as Ayyappa devotees, managed to sneak past the police posted at different points on Sabarimala hill. With Section 144 imposed, no protests or demonstrations can be legally held in those areas. The BJP and BJP Yuva Morcha protesters blocked the road at Nilakkal, leading to the arrest of 5 of the 41 protesters, who were then taken away to Pamba police station. The protesters could be heard chanting Ayyappa slogans and making threats that they will â€˜thwartâ€™ the SC's verdict.
4) Before being driven away, BJP Yuva Morcha leader Prakash Babu promised that not a single young woman would be allowed into Sannidhanam. He shouted that BJP Yuva Morcha members were present in the area in 'sufficient numbers' and would not permit any woman to enter, despite there being a heavy police presence.
5) The police posted at various points in and around Sabarimala hill are equipped with tear gas, indicating that they are expecting and prepared to deal with any further violence. Pathanamthitta SP Narayanan told reporters that they have divided police forces stationed there into 6 sectors with an SP in charge of each sector, and are patrolling the hill and surrounding area carefully.
6) Meanwhile, VN Vasudevan Namboothiri has been appointed as the new melshanti (chief priest) of Sabarimala. He is a member of the Palakkad Varikkaserry Illam and is presently the chief priest of the Jalahalli Sri Ayyappan Temple in Bengaluru. The current head priest, Kandararu Rajeevaru of the Thanthri family, speaking to the media earlier on Thursday blamed 'outsiders' of indulging in violence. "Most of the devotees are desperate after the SC verdict. It is my request that please maintain the system and the custom of the Sabarimala Temple. I don't agree with violence. It hasn't been done by devotees but by others," Kandararu Rajeevaru told ANI.