Portending violent protests when the Sabarimala temple opens for the two-month long mandalam-makaravilakku pilgrimage season next week, a total of 550 women in the age group of 10 to 50 are believed to have signed up for darshan through the online booking facility of the Kerala Police.
Every year during the festival, the Kerala Police operates the virtual queue system similar to the Tirupati temple through which pilgrims can select the date and time of their choice when they could have darshan of the deity at Sabarimala. This system was put in place a few years ago to control and channel the huge crowds that stream into the temple especially during this period.
The opening of the virtual queue system this year comes barely two months after the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on the entry of women of all age groups at Sabarimala. The two times the temple opened in the last 2 months, there were violent protests and agitation by activists of right-wing groups against the verdict. Till date, no woman in the previously restricted age group has been able to climb the hill.
However, the police are not sure about the identities of the 550 women who have registered through the facility. Since the website does not ask for an identification proof, it cannot be ascertained if these people are indeed who they claim to be.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Supreme Court which will hear the review petitions filed against its verdict on November 13, just a couple of days before the temples reopening. The present government has made it clear that it will do everything possible to implement the ruling of the top court and ensure safety and security of women devotees. Both the opposition BJP and the Congress have set off street protests and agitations against the stand of the state government.