To ensure the safe passage of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple which is opening on Monday for a day, the Kerala police has stationed a group of 15 women police personnel at the Sannidhanam. The women police personnel are all above the age of 50, confirmed Pathanamthitta DySp A Santoshkumar.
This the first time that a women police battalion had been deployed at the Sannidhanam, according to reports. Following the violent protests that were witnessed in October, Pathanamthitta officers confirmed that an all-women battalion has been stationed at Pamba as well.
Prior to the temple opening in the second week of October, a meeting took place between the Kerala Chief Minister, the Pandalam family, police and various groups. It was then decided that the police would not deploy women officers at the Sannidhanam and they would be restricted to the Pamba base camp. However, after the Sabarimala temple was opened activist and president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena Rahul Easwar had accused the Kerala police of going back on its word, pointing out that he had seen a few women officers on duty at the Sannidhanam in October.
The Kerala police now say that they have no option but to deploy women officers following the violence that was witnessed in October. They have, however, chosen to depute women police personnel above the age of 50 to ensure the safety of women devotees.
Until the September 28 verdict, which lifted the ban on women of all age groups entering Sabarimala, girls below the age of 10 and women above the age of 50 were allowed into the temple. With the Supreme Court removing this restriction, massive protests have rocked the temple and its surroundings with protestors heckling and abusing young women journalists who were reporting near the temple premises and women who attempted to enter the temple. Several people have also been arrested in connection with the violence that broke out in the temple last month, when it opened for 5 days.
The Sabarimala sanctum will reopen for a day on November 5 for the Chittira Aata Vishesham. Tight security measures have been deployed in and around the temple in anticipation of protests breaking out against entry of women. Around 2300 police officers have been stationed in different points of the temple premises to ensure safety. A 20-member commando team too has been stationed to boost the security and safety of pilgrims.