TV cam­era­man in­jured in scuf­fle to block woman at Sabari­mala

Financial Chronicle - - FUNDAMENTALS, POLITICS -

IN A tense show­down at Sabari­mala in Ker­ala, about 200 fren­zied devo­tees on Tues­day tried to prevent a woman pil­grim from en­ter­ing the hill­top shrine sus­pect­ing her to be of men­strual age and al­legedly at­tacked a cam­era­man of a Malay­alam tele­vi­sion news chan­nel.

Ig­nor­ing pro­hibitory or­ders, devo­tees and right wing ac­tivists gath­ered in huge num­bers at San­nid­hanam, the shrine com­plex, fol­low­ing which a se­nior state RSS leader ad­dressed them us­ing a mi­cro­phone to bring the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­trol.

Though a rush of pil­grims is hardly wit­nessed dur­ing the an­nual “Sree Chi­tira Atta Thirunal”, the hill tem­ple saw an un­prece­dented flow of devo­tees this time when it was opened for the two-day spe­cial puja on Mon­day evening. Clap­ping and chant­ing ‘Ayyappa saranam’, a huge crowd of devo­tees sur­rounded Lalitha Ravi (52), sus­pect­ing her to be of men­strual age, but po­lice in­ter­vened and es­corted her out.

The woman showed her Aad­haar card to them to prove she did not be­long to the “tra­di­tion­ally barred” age group of 10-50 years though the Supreme Court has al­lowed en­try of girls and women of all age groups. Po­lice later es­corted her to the shrine to of­fer prayers along with her other women rel­a­tives. Po­lice at san­nid­hanam said a case has been regis­tered against 200 “iden­ti­fi­able” per­sons in con­nec­tion with the in­ci­dent, based on her com­plaint.

When the sit­u­a­tion went out of con­trol, se­nior RSS leader Val­san Thillankeri, who has been camp­ing at the shrine com­plex since Mon­day, paci­fied the an­gry ag­i­ta­tors and asked them to main­tain calm and cau­tioned against al­leged “un­ruly el­e­ments”, who could in­trude to for­ment trou­ble. “The lead­er­ship has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to avoid any kind of un­to­ward in­ci­dent. That’s why I ad­dressed the devo­tees. It was to help the po­lice,” he told re­porters.

Val­san also courted a con­tro­versy for al­legedly vi­o­lat­ing the key tra­di­tion of the Sabari­mala shrine by climb­ing the sa­cred 18 steps without car­ry­ing the cus­tom­ary ‘iru­mudikkettu’ (sa­cred of­fer­ings to Lord Ayyappa) on his head. TV channels aired vi­su­als of the Sangh leader stand­ing on the golden steps, lead­ing to the sanc­tum sanc­to­rum. How­ever, he re­jected the charge and said he did carry the of­fer­ings while climb­ing the holy steps.

Scores of devo­tees shouted at Vishnu, the cam­era­man of a Malay­alam TV news chan­nel, as he was tak­ing vi­su­als of their protests. TV channels also aired vi­su­als of some pro­test­ers hurl­ing a plas­tic chair at the cam­era­man, who climbed up the sun­shade of a build­ing to cap­ture the protest. The news chan­nel also al­leged that the ag­i­ta­tors threw a co­conut at him, which devo­tees of­fer to the de­ity. Vishnu was seen hand­ing over his cam­era safely to other jour­nal­ists stand­ing below. No case has been regis­tered in the in­ci­dent. Chief Min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan said “cer­tain peo­ple” were try­ing to de­stroy the peace­ful at­mos­phere in Sabari­mala.

Pro­test­ers hurl a chair at the cam­era­man, who climbed up the sun-shade of a build­ing to cap­ture them

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