The new security measures being launched by Kerala Police to deal with law and order issues triggered by the 28 September Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala may compound the chaos during the two-month Mandalakala puja from 16 November.
The protests by the Sangh Parivar and Hindu organizations against the Communist-led government’s bid to implement the verdict led to widespread violence at the holy place in the term of the monthly puja last month and a special puja on 6 November. The police could not ensure safe darshan to even women outside the banned age group, let alone taking women of menstruating age to the hill shrine despite doubling the deployment and installing high-tech equipment.
While the police made a futile attempt to take women between the ages of 10 and 50 to the temple during the monthly puja between 17 and 22 October, they tried to dissuade women from attempting the trek to the hilltop during the special puja on 6 November. The new measures do not inspire confidence among women who would like to exercise the right granted to them by the apex court.
The new measures cover an online booking system to control pilgrims and a pass system for vehicles. The advance booking system called Digital Crowd Management System (DCMS), modeled on the lines of the crowd management system at Tirupati Devasthanom, is an online portal for devotees to book a slot on the different queue maintained by the Kerala Police.
The police claim that this will help devotees to reach Sannidhanam without waiting in the long queue usually formed at Pampa. The system will make a fixed number of coupons for every hour. Devotees can reach Pampa at the specified time and enter the queue without waiting. This dedicated queue will be manned by the police exclusively for those coming with the queue coupons. The coupons and ID card will be verified by the police before devotees are permitted to enter the queue.