Stop ‘police raj’ in Sabarimala: Congress

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala unit of the Congress on Saturday asked the Pinarayi Vijayan government to end the prevailing “police raj” in Sabarimala for more pilgrims to visit the Lord Ayyappa shrine.

The district authorities have now extended the prohibitory orders in and around the temple town till November 26 and according to official figures, there has been a drop of Rs 14 crore in revenue for the first week of the season as compared to the previous year.

Last year the total collection was Rs 22 crore.

“We were there at the temple town and the place looks deserted. If one looks into the previous seasons, by now a million pilgrims would have come and gone, whereas this time due to the ‘police raj’ prevailing at the temple town, just around 2 lakhs have come till today,” Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media here.

“Pilgrims will only come when the ‘police raj’ is lifted,” Chennithala said, adding that Sabarimala was the only religious place where prohibitory orders were in force.

An uneasy calm has been prevailing in the temple town ever since protests by Hindu groups started after the September Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged 10-50.

The apex court on November 13 refused to stay the September verdict, three days before the temple opened for this season.

The Left Democratic Front government led by the CPI-M has been trying to implement the apex court’s verdict even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and several Hindu groups were up in arms against it.

Reacting to the drop in revenue, State Minister for Devasoms (temples) Kadakampally Surendran told the media that while the state government will not have any issues due to it, the salaries, pension and other expenditure of the Travancore Devasom Board will be affected.