FIR against 1000’s of women devotees for participating in Attukal Pongala

published on March 12, 2012

Kerala Police book thousands of women devotees
Daily Pioneer – Thiruvananthapuram

In an outrageous act, the Kerala Police registered cases against thousands of women devotees of the Goddess of Attukal Bhagavathi temple in Thiruvananthapuram, known as Women’s Sabarimala, for cooking Pongala (rice-jaggery pudding) on roadsides for offering to the Goddess during the shrine’s annual festival on March 7.

The FIRs were registered suo moto by the Thampanoor and Fort police stations. The FIRs also said cases would also be initiated against all those who took part in the festival. The cases were for registered for alleged violation of an earlier High Court order that banned roadside assembling of people and for obstructing “free movement” of people and vehicles.

After protests by various outfits erupted across the capital city and elsewhere, the Government decided to withdraw the cases. “That was a mistake. We have corrected it and have taken action against those responsible for that,” said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy towards Monday evening. “The Government has decided to suspend three police officials,” he said.

The police had registered the FIRs against the women devotees in violation of the assurance given by the Chief Minister in the Assembly on March 5 that the High Court order had nothing to do with the Pongala festival. He had later repeated his assurance during his visit to the shrine later. A minimum of 25 lakh women had offered Pongala to the Goddess on March 7.

The FIRs were registered by Sub Inspectors AK Sherry and R Sivakumar of the Fort and Thampanoor police stations respectively as per the instruction of Deputy Commissioner VC Mohan. Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose said all the three officials would be suspended from service over the issue, adding that nobody would be arrested.

Immediately after the first reports on the FIRs came out by Monday noon, Chandy, who also holds the charge of Home Affairs, denied any knowledge of the cases against the women devotees. He stated that there was no justification for the cases. He also asked DGP Punnoose to take immediate remedial measures and to give him a report at the earliest.

As per the report submitted by Punnoose to Chandy, the instruction to book the women devotees was given by DCP Mohan but this information had not been passed on to the higher authorities. However, the Fort police had told the court that copy of the report was being forwarded to the higher authorities.

The CPI(M), which had been hit hard by the resignation of one of its MLAs and an anti-women remark by Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan in the context of the March 17 Assembly by-poll in Piravam, reacted sharply. “The Chief Minister has lost his control over the Home Department,” said Deputy Opposition leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

“Is the Government planning to book the lakhs of women devotees who offered Pongala at Attukal? Can the Kerala prisons hold all these women devotees?” asked Kodiyeri, on whose query Chandy had assured the Assembly that there would be no restrictions on the Pongala festival.

Senior BJP leaders O Rajagopal and AN Radhakrishnan said such cases could not be initiated at the ordinary officials’ level. “We have an anti-Hindu government here,” said Radhakrishnan. “The Congress-led Government is denying the majority community its basic rights even when it is advocating secularism,” he added.

The Yuva Morcha, Hindu Aikya Vedi, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, DYFI, All India Democratic Women’s Association and other organizations held marches in the capital city to protest against the police. Film actress Kalpana, who had been offering Pongala for the past eight years, said that women would take to the streets against the case against the police action.

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