The Lord Ayyappa shrine witnessed comparatively heavy crowd on Saturday, even as a war of words erupted over the government's handling of the Sabarimala issue.
Congress veteran and former Defence minister A K Antony reportedly attacked the state government, saying it was encouraging the BJP and RSS on the matter. Hitting back, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the statement was with "ulterior motives."
Sabarimala Row: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan meets Governor, pledges to improve amenities for pilgrims
"Antony's statement that the violence witnessed in Sabarimala was due to inept handling of the issue by chief minister and the DGP was with ulterior motives," Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
He said the government's measures had been appreciated by the Kerala high court and this statement was to spread canards about the government.
Vijayan also said footfall of devotees had gone up at Sabarimala as all facilities had been arranged for them.
KERALA CM ACTING AS 'GODFATHER' TO BJP, RSS: CONGRESS LASHES OUT AT PINARAYI VIJAYAN
Meanwhile, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala lashed out at the chief minister, alleging that he was acting as a "godfather" to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He also said an "atmosphere of fear" prevails at Sabarimala due to restrictions imposed there and the
government was not doing anything to ease the troubles of devotees.
The Kerala unit of the Congress on Saturday urged Pinaryai Vijayan government to end the 'police raj' in Sabarimala.
"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," Chennithala told the media.
"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.
BJP LEADER K SURENDRAN DENIED BAIL
A court in Kerala on Saturday denied bail to BJP General Secretary K Surendran in a case of alleged involvement in violent protests at Sabarimala earlier this month.
Surendran was arrested earlier this week from Nilackal, the base camp of Sabarimala, after he refused to go back despite a request from the police.
He was produced before a local court at Ranni in Pathanamthitta and remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. Later he was granted conditional bail.
Subsequently, he was arrested in the case relating to violence at Sanndihanam when a 52-year-old woman, who had come for the 'choorunu' (rice feeding ceremony) of her grandchild, was blocked and allegedly attacked.
While denying him bail Saturday, the court, however, allowed Surendran to talk to his family members through phone in the presence of the jail superintendent.
Police were also granted permission to question the BJP leader for one hour this evening.
DEVASWOM MINISTER MEETS GOVERNOR, APPRISES HIM OF SITUATION
Amid the stand-off over entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine, Devaswom (temple administration) minister Kadakampally Surendran met Governor P Sathasivam and apprised him of the current situation at the shrine.
"The governor was very attentive to the issues relating to Sabarimala. He understood the issues there and wanted all stakeholders to cooperate to ensure peace and tranquility in the shrine," the minister told reporters after the meeting.
The minister said the governor wanted the government to also focus on the rebuilding exercise of the state which was devastated by an unprecedented deluge in August.
The temple has been witnessing a moderate turnout of devotees after it re-opened for the two-month long annual
'Mandala Makkaravillaku" pilgrimage season on November 16, causing concern for the government.
The restrictions imposed by police at the temple complex saw lesser number of pilgrims coming in the early days. The restrictions were clamped following protests from devotees and right-wing outfits after the state government made it clear that it would implement the apex court verdict allowing all women to offer prayers at the shrine.
The revenue from the shrine has gone down considerably and the minister expressed concern that it could impact the disbursal of salaries and pension of devaswom employees. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the hill shrine, has over 1200 temples under it which are all dependent on the revenue from the hill temple.
The temple town and the nearby places witnessed large-scale protests started by various Hindu groups after the Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged 10-50.
Earlier on September 28, in a 4:1 verdict the five-member constitution bench, headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra lifted the decade-old ban, paving the way for the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple.
Since the September 28 verdict, large-scale protests and counter-protests have brought Kerala to a standstill.
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.