Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, who was on his annual pilgrimage to the Ayyappa temple on Wednesday, came down heavily on the “unnecessary and avoidable restrictions imposed on the pilgrims’’ by the police and the administration at Sabarimala.
The alleged misbehaving of the Police Special Officer at the Nilackal base camp, Yatheesh Chandra, with the Union Minister on the latter’s arrival at the Nilackal base camp has invited criticism.
Mr. Radhakrishnan too stated before the media persons at Sabarimala Sannidhanam, hinting at the “arrogance” of the police official who had asked him “whether he would take the responsibility for the consequences,” if all vehicles are allowed to proceed to Pampa and return to Nilackal after unboarding the passengers at Pampa.
“Can the officer ask the same question to a Kerala Minister?,” Mr. Radhakrishnan asks. Mr. Radhakrishnan said he had been undertaking pilgrimage to Sabarimala for the past several years and that he always preferred to be an ordinary pilgrim avoiding VIP treatment. “But, I never witnessed such a sad state of affairs at Sabarimala where pilgrims move with a sad face as they were afraid of chanting ‘Sarana Ghosham’ like ‘Swamiyei Saranam Ayyappa’,” he said.
Mr. Radhakrishnan said it was beyond comprehension as to what prompted the authorities concerned to clamp prohibitory orders under 144 CrPC at a place like Sabarimala where pilgrims move in groups, chanting ‘Ayyappa Sarana’ mantras throughout the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.
Referring to his own meeting with the media persons at the holy hillock, the Minister said, “now, we too could be booked for violating the ban order that seldom permit gathering of people in groups.
“Pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and various other parts of the country come to Sabarimala in groups. Now, they are afraid of police action following the clamping of prohibitory orders at the pilgrim centre. Sabarimala temple and Lord Ayyappa belong to the whole world and the State government should understand this reality,” he said. The Union Minister said the SP at Nilackal told him that they had prepared a ‘master plan’ for Sabarimala. “Given the sorry state of affairs at Sabarimala, I presume that their master plan might be for demoralising the devotees,” he said.
Mr. Radhakrishnan said the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board should correct themselves, lest the people would correct them.
He said the prohibitory orders at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilackal should be withdrawn without any further delay in the larger interests of the Ayyappa devotees.
To a question, whether the Centre would intervene in the matter, the Union Minister said, “If the State is not capable of setting the things right, then only we can think of such options. The government should not treat pilgrims as trouble-makers and chanting ‘Sarana Ghosham’ as slogans,” he said.
BJP State general secretary A.N. Radhakrishnan also accompanied the Minister who travelled by a KSRTC bus from Nilackal to Pampa.