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Sabarimala meeting fails; Kerala firm on obeying SC

Sabarimala meeting fails; Kerala firm on obeying SC

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sabarimala temple will open on Friday amid unprecedented security for the two-month long annual pilgrim season amid the continuing stand-off over entry of menstrual age women as consensus eluded a crucial all-party meeting called to resolve the issue. At the meeting Thursday, the Kerala government took a firm stand it would implement the September 28 Supreme Court order, allowing women of all ages to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple, prompting the opposition to walk out in protest.

The temple opens Friday evening, for the third time since the apex court lifted the age-old ban on entry of women in 10-50 age group, though no girl or woman pilgrim in the age group could offer prayers so far following stiff resistence by devotees and activists, opposing any change in the temple traditions. Officials said prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC banning assembly of four or more people would be in force in Sabarimala from midnight Thursday for a week.

State Director General of Police Loknath Behara told reporters at Nilackal, a base camp, security has been doubled at Sabarimala and nearby areas for the season, compared to the previous two occasions when the temple opened last month and early this month. Over 15,000 personnel, including women police personnel and 860 women civil police officers, would be deployed during the season, when lakhs of devotees from different parts of the country are expected to throng the shrine, police said.

Earlier, at the end of the nearly three-hour long all party meet, dubbed as a 'farce' by opposition, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said his government was duty bound to enforce the court's September 28 verdict as it had not been stayed. Vijayan convened the meet in the backdrop of state-wide protests by devotees after the Supreme Court ended the ban on entry of women in the 10-50 age group.

"The government has no other option as Supreme Court has made it clear that the September 28 verdict has not been stayed, which means women in the 10-50 age group have the right to visit the Sabarimala temple," Vijayan told reporters. Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP staged a walkout at the meeting.

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