Cracker-bursts: Security tightened at Sabarimala

via PNS | Pathanamthitta published on December 21, 2009

Security has been stepped up at the Sannidhanam, Lord Ayyappa’s abode at Sabarimala and the base camp at Pamba after four fire-cracker blasts occurred at four spots along the five-km trek between the two places on Sunday night and Monday morning. Police officials at Sannidhanam said the blasts had not posed any serious threat but the incidents were being viewed with utmost concern. Nobody had been injured in the cracker-blasts.

The first cracker-burst took place on Sunday night near Marakkoottam, where the uphill and downhill paths for pilgrims converged. Top police officials, bomb squad, personnel from the National Disaster Response Force and other experts examined the spot of the blast and collected the remains of the crackers.

The officials had concluded that the bursts were from low-intensity crackers, which pilgrims and wayside traders at Sabarimala used to use for scaring away elephants. However, steps were taken immediately to step up security, by tightening the scanning procedures at Pamba and Sannidhanam.

However, three bursts occurred at different spots on the Subrahmahniam Road, used by the pilgrims returning from the Lord Ayyappa shrine, escalating the concerns of the security officials. Eye-witnesses said the crackers were hurled by some pilgrims returning after having darsan, pointing at the gaping gaps in the security procedures at Pamba and Sannidhanam.

Every pilgrim was being allowed to enter the trek after security checks including body-scanning with sophisticated machines. The holy Irumudikkettu, carried by the pilgrims, also were being subjected to random scanning at Pamba and Sannidhanam. In this context, the occurrence of the blasts from the part of pilgrims returning from the shrine was a matter of serious concern as it pointed to the lapses in the procedures, admitted certain officials.

The occurrence of the bursts just when the rush of pilgrims was reaching the peak level of the season has caused bewilderment to the police. The security measures were tightened on Monday with immediate effect, by subjecting every pilgrim to detailed body-scan at Pamba and Sannidhanam. This led to complications in the movement of pilgrims from Pamba to Sannidhanam.

With the scanning delaying the movement of the pilgrims, most of the devotees had to wait in the queues for up to ten hours for having darshan. Similar complications were seen in the return movement of pilgrims from the Sannidhanam. Officials said they were trying to find a way to step up security without causing discomfort to the devotees.

The rush of devotees increased at Sabarimala as the main Mandalam pilgrimage season reached the final phase. The Mandalam Vilakku, the festival marking the conclusion of the season would be held on Saturday and the season would come to a close with special Poojas on that day. The shrine of Lord Ayyappa would be closed for eight days on Sunday, to be reopened for the Makara Vilakku pilgrimage.

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