In view of the mounting protests from different quarters, the Kerala government has decided to revise the handbook issued to the police personnel on duty at Sabarimala with a revised one.
Addressing the media here on Thursday, Devaswom Minister K. Radhakrishnan indicated that the government neither had a malicious intention as alleged by opponents nor any plans to upset the status quo. “Some of the contents in the book may have been drawn from the previous years without verification. If any mistakes have cropped up, a direction will be issued to withdraw the book,” he said.
Besides the Minister, the State police too have termed the controversy unintentional. “A preliminary investigation suggested that the matter in the duty books in the previous years was copied without verification . A few other mistakes in the book too have come to our notice. In view of this, the State Police Chief has directed to issue a new duty book. At the same time, the police have been asked to continue with the existing system at Sabarimala,” said M.R. Ajit Kumar, Additional Director General of Police.
The handbook, issued by the Home department, sparked a controversy after one of its general instructions had noted that all pilgrims were permitted entry to the hill temple as per a 2018 Supreme Court order. “All devotees are permitted entry to Sabarimala as per the order WP (C) 373/2016 by the honourable Supreme Court on 28/09/2018,” it read.
The directive sparked a controversy with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State unit warning of dire consequences and yet another round of protests as in 2018.
Earlier on Thursday, the Minister visited the Sabarimala pilgrimage zone and inaugurated a slew of projects, including the refurbished trekking path through Neelimala, free meal distribution and sanitation campaign.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), according to the Minister, has prepared 16 lakh containers of Aravana payasam for distribution. “As many as 1.75 lakh containers of the offering are being rolled out on a daily basis, while about 2 lakh packets of Appam have also been stocked. Another 1.5 lakh appams are to be filled into the packets,” he said.
Sabarimala has been witnessing an unprecedented rush since its opening for the annual pilgrimage season on Wednesday evening. As per estimates, around 90,000 people visited the temple till Thursday evening and most of the devotees belonged to the neighbouring States.