HC committee visits Ayyappa temple, satisfies with arrangement for pilgrims
The three-member monitoring committee, appointed by the Kerala High court to review facilities at the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, Tuesday visited Sannidhanam (temple complex) and said it was satisfied with the amenities arranged for the pilgrims. The monitoring committee comprised retired judges P R Raman, S Sirijagan and DGP A Hemachandran.
"The facilities here (Sannidhanam) are satisfactory. The bathroom and toilet facilities for pilgrims are also satisfactory. But the restrictions imposed by the police are there. We will submit a detailed report as early as possible... by next Monday," the Committee members told reporters.
Meanwhile, BJP leader A N Radhakrishnan continued his indefinite fast in front of the Secretariat at the state capital, which entered the second day Tuesday, demanding the withdrawal of police restrictions, including prohibitory orders at Sabarimala and adjacent areas. In a separate protest, three Opposition Congress MLAs are also on a sit-in at the Legislative Assembly portico for the second day, raising similar demands. The three-member committee had visited Nilackal, the base camp and Pamba Monday.
"A false campaign was going on, saying that there were very few facilities for pilgrims at the two places," DGP Hemachandran had said at Nilackal. "The media should telecast the real picture", he had said, adding that more facilities needed to be given to police personnel, deployed for temple duty. The members had visited Pamba, which saw the maximum devastation during the August floods, with many facilities for the pilgrims, including toilets, being washed away.
The High Court had appointed the committee following large-scale complaints that the facilities at the temple complex were meagre. The committee, which held its first meeting at Kochi Sunday, had said they would assess the existing facilities at the temple complex and make suggestions to add more facilities If needed.
The hill shrine had been witnessing protests by devotees and right-wing groups against the government's decision to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups to pray at the temple. Since the Apex court verdict, no women in the 10-50 age groups have succeeded in offering prayers at the shrine, where the deity is "Naishtika Brahmachari" (perennial celebate). The Ayyappa temple was opened on November 16 for the over two-month-long pilgrimage season amid tension.
(With inputs from agencies.)