Kerala Police considering to airlift women devotees to sabarimala temple

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Kerala police are considering 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.

According to the Travancore Devasom Board, till Friday close to 3.50 lakh pilgrims have booked for ‘darshan’ through the Kerala Police online facility. It includes 550 women between 10 and 50 years, the temple custodians said.

To regulate and streamline the devotees, the online registration designed and developed by the police was opened to weed out troublemakers who have created disturbances in the last two months in and around the temple.

Both temple authorities and protesters stopped 15 women from the 10-50 age group from praying at the Lord Ayyappa shrine in October and November despite a September 28 Supreme Court ruling that allowed all women to enter the hilltop 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.

However, the tour did not transpire. An official said pilgrims often used helicopters to visit the Kedarnath temple on the Himalayan ranges.

Officers said the police would have to clear a safe path for women pilgrims from the landing spot to the temple and back.

The police said their earlier position was to avoid the use of force against demonstrators at Sannidhanam. However, if the SC dismissed the review petition, the police would have no other option but use force to disperse anti-women protesters.

The government, which is intent on upholding the right of women to worship at Sabarimala, is locked in an acrimonious tussle with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

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