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India

Last day of Sabarimala darshan today, Kerala Police warns of attacks on media in Pamba

There are reports that there might be some attempts by women to enter the temple again. 

News agency ANI says that the Kerala Police has alos issued warning to media personnel camping in Pamba. Police officials informed media in Sannidhanam and Pamba to vacate the area as police had inputs of a targeted attack being planned on the media.

On Sunday, four women were prevented from the entering the Sabarimala temple by a large number of devotees of Lord Ayyappa as the stand-off over entry of women of menstrual age into the famous hill shrine continued for the fifth day.

The devotees, up in arms against implementation of the Supreme Court order lifting ban on entry of women in 10-50 age group, chanting Ayyappa mantras blocked the four Telugu speaking women from reaching the famed shrine amid high drama.

Sunday was the fifth day since the temple gates were opened for the monthly puja after the apex court last month lifted the centuries-old ban.

Though attempts were made by some young women, including an activist, to enter the temple of the 'Naishtik Brahmachari', the eternally celibate deity, since Wednesday, the devotees backed by priests have stood their ground, saying they would not allow the tradition to be breached.

By all available indications, not a single woman in the age group of 10 and 50 has so far reached the temple which will close Monday at the end of the monthly puja.

BJP demanded a special assembly session to seek the Centre's intervention, while the Congress sought an ordinance by the NDA government.

The Pandalam royal family, the traditional custodian of the Sabarimala temple, alleged the CPI(M)-led LDF government was trying to destroy sanctity of the shrine of the "Naishtik Brahmachari" by taking women in the menstrual age group there.

On Sunday, a 47-year old woman reached up to the 'Nadappandhal' close to the sanctum sanctorum, but was prevented by the devotees chanting "Swamiye Saranam Ayyapa" after three others were stopped enroute to the hills.

The woman, who complained of uneasiness, was brought to a hospital here by the police.

A elderly woman devotee who was present at the spot said as the identity card of the woman showed she was born in 1971 and had not attained the 'permissible age", the other devotees started chanting Sarana mantra.

Earlier, the protesters prevented two women, in their 40s, at the foothills itself. The women were accompanied by their relatives.

The police, who took the women to the safety, said the two informed them that they came to Sabarimala without knowing the customs of the temple.

They were part of a pilgrims group visiting temples in Kerala and other women not in the 'banned' age group were allowed to climb the holy hills by the protesters.

After the women were brought Nilackal, the base camp, they gave in writing to the police that they did not want to break the centuries-old custom of the temple, sources said.

Another woman was blocked by the devotees at Marakkoottam enroute to the shrine and sent back on suspicion that she has not reached the permitted age of 50.

Amid mounting protest in the state against the Supreme Court order, BJP Sunday urged the Kerala government to convene a session of the assembly and pass a resolution seeking the centre's intervention to overcome the crisis.

BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai claimed even CPI(M) members in the state were opposing the bid to break the custom of the ancient shrine, which draws lakhs of devotees from across the country, especially from southern states.

A small group of BJP leaders was arrested for violating ban orders in force under Section 144 of the CrPC at Nilackal, a key entry point to Sabarimala.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress urged the Centre to bring an ordinance to overcome the Supreme Court verdict.

CPI(M) politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai claimed the devotees opposing the apex court verdict were in a minority and they did not have the support of the entire Kerala society.

He supported implementation of the court verdict on Sabarimala.

Meanwhile, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi intensified its agitation against the CPI(M)-led government's "hasty" move to implement the court order.

Thousands of people participated in the "namajapa yatra" (protest march chanting Ayyappa mantra) to police stations across the southern state against alleged police action on the samithi activists near Sabarimala last week.

Hundreds of women participated in a protest march held in Erumeli, a key pilgrim centre connected with Sabarimala.

State police chief Loknath Behera said the police will conduct a review of the alleged police lapses while handling the issues related to Sabarimala after the doors of the shrine close on Monday.

He said the Sabarimala annual pilgrim season beginning next month was going to be a challenging one for them.

A Dalit woman activist, who was planning to visit the Sabarimala shrine Saturday, had put her plans on hold and left Pamba following heavy rain.

In another development, activist Rehana Fathima, who had made an attempt to enter the temple on Friday, has been expelled from the Muslim community for "hurting the sentiments of lakhs of Hindu devotees", the Kerala Muslim Jama'ath Council said.

The state has been witnessing massive protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple since the government decided to implement the apex court order. 

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