Kerala police are reportedly mulling over the use of helicopters to transport women devotees from Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to Sabarimala in order to spare them the attacks of protesters who are expected to gather there to stop women from entering the temple, according to The Hindu. The Sabarimala temple is set to reopen on 17 November for the 41-day Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.
However, other reports suggest that such a development may not be true as helicopters are usually deployed only in cases of emergency where evacuation of devotees are required.
There are two review petitions pending in the Supreme Court on its controversial September verdict the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple. The SC will hear this petitions on November 13. A senior police official told The Hindu that security arrangements would hinge on the outcome of these review petitions. If the SC upholds the verdict, the Kerala police will have to ensure that women devotees have safe passage into the shrine.
If they do plan to use helicopters, the Kerala police will have to obtain permission from the Forest Department to use a landing spot that was made in the 1980s, for a planned visit by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. That visit did not take place.
Meanwhile, NDTV reports that over 500 women between the ages of 10 and 50 have expressed their intention to travel to Sabarimala during this period, by booking online for darshan at Sannidhanam. The online booking system is also known as a “virtual queue,” and was opened for bookings on October 30. In addition to the bookings from women of the specified age group, 3.20 lakh men have also booked their darshan online through the portal.
He also added that the online portal of the Kerala government road transport corporation that runs buses to Sabarimala had not seen similar bookings from women between 10 and 50 years.