NILAKKAL(SABARIMALA): Nilakkal has virtually turned into Ground Zero. After tension for two days, the police fully evicted the protestors from here by Wednesday early morning.
It is early morning. 4.15 am. Nilakkal, the entry point to the hill shrine is witnessing a heated debate between scores of devotees and a handful of police deployed in the area. The tension is palpable. Amidst the drizzle and the chill, flocks of protestors appear determined to take it to the next level, whatever that might be.
On the eve of the Sabarimala temple opening for its monthly pooja, angry protestors have blocked the entire stretch at Nilakkal to prevent the entry of women devotees. Even almost 24 hours into the blockade, the tense situation shows no signs of abating. In an obvious move to placate them, the police have been preventing all private vehicles from going beyond Nilakkal.
The face-off is being projected as a battle of faith against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala. Furious devotees can be seen raising threats and intimidations while hurling abuses at both the cops and the Apex Court amidst recurring outbursts with the cops as well as media persons gathered here.
"Don't forget that there will be a day when Pinarayi Vijayan will be held accountable for all these wrong-doings," warns a youngster, even as another exhorts to gather maximum supporters from across the state. The protestors from various Hindu outfits have flocked together under the 'Sabarimala Aachara Samrakshana Samithi'. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is their obvious target, as they believe he is the one out to sabotage their revered traditions and rituals.
Even as hundreds of protestors keep provoking the force, challenging them to fight back, the cops continue with their calm posturing.
The 30-odd policemen including women cops deployed here is led by Pathanamthitta SP T Narayanan, who shows admirable restraint while dealing the agitated devotees. ADGP Anil Kanth too had earlier visited the spot and taken cognizance of the situation.
Occasionally, the crowd breaks into fervent chantings of 'Swamiye... Saranayyappa...', as if to remind the gathered faithful of the purpose for which they have assembled.
In between, some of the irate protestors began targeting the media, attacking a couple of visual media journalists and their vehicles. About four people were earlier taken into custody.
At around 5 am, after about an hour long standoff between the police and the protestors, more police personnel were deployed. By 5.30 am the first KSRTC bus took the first set of devotees to the temple.
By 6.15 am, the brewing tension got out of hand, and the police were forced to break into the gathering. A couple of them were taken into custody, while others were forcefully evicted and the protest venue was fully dismantled.