Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

However, when they insisted, Surenderan and the others, all with the "Irrumudikettu" (bundle of offerings for Lord Ayyappa) were taken into preventive custody.

Two Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha workers were arrested by the police for waving black flags at Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

"Devotees are not terrorists, why do they need 15000 policemen here?" he added.

"Pilgrims are being treated like dacoits".

Announcing that the BJP leaders will break the restrictions imposed by the police, he urged the people to come forward to fight against the evil designs of the Government to destroy the customs and traditions.

"Section 144 had been declared in the area".

"We gave Rs 100 crore, but they have not spent even a rupee", he said.

The protesters were taken into preventive custody on Sunday night at the Sabarimala temple after fresh protests broke out at Nadapanthal area in Sannidhanam where hundreds of devotees agitated against the police restrictions.

But keeping in mind the situation, police told Desai that it would not be possible for them to escort her to the temple. At Friday's protest at Kochi airport, several state BJP leaders delivered speeches.

Indian Hindu devotees climb over the holy eighteen golden steps to worship diety of Hindu god Ayyapa at a temple premises in Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala on November 16, 2018.

"The BJP supports the devotees", the BJP president in Kerala, Mr P.S Sreedharan Pillai, told AFP.

They were taken to the Maniar Police Camp in Pathanamthitta district and were to be produced before a court later Monday. On Saturday, the minister had said the manner in which Surendran was arrested was despicable, Manorama Online reported. "Police tried to evacuate us from another gate but protesters were there as well". When they refused, the security forces took 68 of them into custody early Monday morning, the first such incident witnessed at Sabarimala.

Desai had earlier said that she would not leave Kerala until she visits Sabarimala Temple, and had been promised that she would get police protection.

A day later, BJP state general secretary K Surendran was arrested from Nilackal after he refused to heed the police plea not to go to the hill shrine at night.

It says that 1000 women have already registered their name to visit the temple during the pilgrimage season, but it is not in a position to provide them security and additional facilities.

Rajesh, one of the protesters, said, "We are devotees and we started reciting prayers but the police did not allow us, saying Section 144 (prohibitory orders) has been imposed".

HC directed the government to submit the list of police officers deployed at Sabarimala and sought clarification if the officers were trained to handle crowds.

The temple had opened on Friday evening for the 64-day annual pilgrimage season, even as the stand-off continued over the entry of menstrual age women into the shrine following a Supreme Court order on September 28.

  • Joey Payne