On Tuesday, while hearing a plea filed by Thiruvananthapuram native Abhijit, the Kerala High Court orally observed that the Kerala police’s decision to require police-issued vehicle passes for the upcoming Mandala-Makaravilaku pilgrimage, scheduled to begin on November 17, does not violate any laws.
In hearing his plea, the High Court questioned how mandating vehicle passes violated any traditions or religious beliefs, or the right to exercise them. The Chief Justice of Kerala HC said that the Kerala police’s decision should be seen as a precautionary attempt to avoid any violence at Sabarimala in the upcoming pilgrimage season, and that it was a routine measure and reasonable restriction adopted by the police to this end.
Upon hearing these remarks, and understanding that his plea was most likely to be dismissed, Abhijit withdrew his plea.
On November 9, Kerala police had announced that vehicles without a police pass would not be allowed to park at Sabarimala, particularly at Nilakkal base camp. In the upcoming pilgrimage, only KSRTC buses will be allowed to proceed past Nilakkal. Pilgrims will have to board government buses to approach Pamba, for which seats can be booked online. These tickets reportedly include a return fare and are valid for 48 hours, meaning that pilgrims must complete their pilgrimage and return to Nilakkal within 48 hours. Identity cards have also been made compulsory for employees of shops and eateries on Sabarimala hill.
These are among the new measures being implemented by police in order to curb violence and ensure no untoward events take place during the first Mandala-Makaravilaku season after the SC verdict allowing women of all ages entry into Sabarimala temple. The previous two times the temple opened after the verdict saw instances of violence and dramatic protests. Protesters attempted to stop women devotees from climbing the hill and entering the shrine; they also attacked women journalists who attempted to carry out their work reporting the events taking place on the hill.