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Human rights violations at Kerala’s holiest Sabarimala temple

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It is extremely distressing for anyone who is familiar with the Sabarimala Temple to hear about the happenings there. The repeated multiple human rights violations on devotees undertaking the sacred pilgrimage of Sabarimala is unimaginable.

The incidents taking place in the holy hill-top temple shrine of Sabarimala is unthought off. In the aftermath of Kerala floods, the road to the temple, the crossover bridge on River Pamba, neighboring shops & areas have been totally destroyed. Instead of utilizing their resources to rebuild & reconstruct whatever facilities have been destroyed, in preparation for the busy pilgrimage season (from mid-Nov to mid-Jan), the government through the Temple Board is using all its means to torment devotees who have come to offer prayers. They have literally left the devotees to fend for themselves.

In a gist, there have been multiple human rights violations. The travel-weary pilgrims – adults, young kids and older people have had to sleep on the ground littered with trash; with wild pigs roaming around freely, sniffling through the waste.

Wilds pigs scour through garbage as pilgrims rest

After trekking for 4.5 kms ‘one-way’ to climb to the mountaintop, they find no sanitation facilities there. The tired & exhausted pilgrims are not allowed to rest in Shelters. Section 144 is implemented at the hill-top. So they are herded like sheep & forced to do a hurried ‘darshan’ before being sent back to the foothills at Pamba.

From Pamba, the nearest town of Pandalam is 21 kms away. Devotees either have to take State-sponsored KSRTC buses or walk to the town, if the buses are not available.

Under the pretext of a law & order situation, the police (advised by Kerala government) demanded closure of all rest houses & hotels in Pandalam, the town closest to Sabarimala temple. They also ordered all the open shops selling foods, goods etc. in the vicinity, to be shut down – thus cutting off food, water & rest for devotees.

Specialized facial recognition cameras were expeditely purchased from America and installed at the shrine and its neighboring areas; cell phone jammers installed. All this despite a reduction in the number of devotees coming to the temple because of the Police Raj prevalent there.

In a surprise to the whole nation a month or two back, the police under government orders made 3,500 arrests overnight. They either set the bail amount very high or converted the arrests into non-bailable offences. For many devotees, this was their first arrest, coming from well-reputed backgrounds with no previous records.

Disappointed devotees stopped putting their monies in the cash boxes (hundis) of the temple. And when the Temple Board realized that the donations they were getting this season were significantly lower than what they got on the same date last year, they decided to install Card Swiping Machines, thinking it might induce devotees to make donations. That plan failed miserably!

There has never been a law and order situation at the Sabarimala temple in the previous years when millions and millions of devotees undertook this pilgrimage. And today, quoting it as a law and order situation, the government has left no leaf unturned to torment the hapless pilgrims. Many places the police initiated violence and devotees have been hurt mortally.

One would have to wonder about the government’s role in this, considering Sabarimala temple is ‘supposed’ to be managed by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) Temple Board.

The recent SC verdict has definitely hurt millions of Ayyappa devotees worldwide, but the atheist CPI-M govt has been rubbing salt into their wounds, injuring their religious sentiments & whole-heartedly making a mockery of their faith.

The Hindus in Kerala are being punished for being a ‘Majority Religion’ – and this in India, where 79.8% of the country’s population identifies itself as Hindus.

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