Minister’s entourage ‘violates’ Sabarimala rule

via Daily Pioneer - Pathanamthitta published on January 3, 2012

The visit of Kerala Agriculture Minister KP Mohanan to the Lord Ayyappa temple at the Hindu pilgrimage centre of Sabarimala on Monday sparked off a controversy with two woman police officers in his entourage trekking along with him through the forest path where, according to devotees, women of fertile age were not allowed.

Additional DGP of Kerala Police (Intelligence) Hema Chandran ordered an inquiry into the incident which caused protests from devotees. The two woman cops, who had joined the Minister’s entourage to assist his sisters, had reached the Neelimala hills – said to be off-limits for women below 50 years of age – on the way to the shrine.

Mohanan, belonging to the Socialist Janata (Democratic), a minor constituent of the Congress-led ruling UDF, has been visiting Sabarimala for the past 40 years but this was the first time he had arrived in the shrine as a Minister. There were 35 pilgrims in his group, including his two sisters, and the woman cops were accompanying the group to assist them.

Though the woman cops had reached the Neelimala hills on the way to the shrine, they were sent back the moment their presence there became an issue. There was no opportunity for denial as their images were recorded by the close circuit television cameras installed at many points along the 4.8-km trek to the shrine from the base camp, Pampa.

Minister Mohanan did not deny the presence of the women police constables in his entourage. “They returned to Pampa just when they had reached the point from where they should not have walked further,” he said. But he later admitted that they had reached the Neelimala incline, where women were not permitted. There were six women pilgrims in Mohanan’s group.

An official at Pampa had reportedly instructed the two women cops, drawn from Thiruvananthapuram, to accompany the Minister’s group to Sabarimala. The special police officer at Pampa, who was looking into the matter, was likely to submit his report to the ADGP late Monday night or Tuesday.

Many women police officers are posted at Pampa but the purpose of this is to prevent women pilgrims below 50 years of age from moving to the Lord Ayyappa shrine, where they are not allowed. Two women below 50 have held for trespassing at Sabarimala so far in this pilgrimage season.

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