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The former president of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs more than 700 temples across Kerala including the Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala which is now at the centre of a row has said that the state and central governments should issue ordinances to nullify the Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of menstruating age to pray at the temple.

At the same time, Kandararu Rajeevaru, the headpriest of the temple atop the Western Ghats, while not crticising the verdict said the Supreme Court thinks only about the law of the land, not about the customs and traditions. So many devotees still want that the old custom should be maintained. “I have only one opinion, which is based on the old custom and tradition. Most of the devotees are desperate after SC verdict. It’s my request that please maintain system and custom of the temple.”

Referring to the violence that broke out yesterday and this morning after the temple opened its doors for this year’s pilgrim season, he said those indulging in violence were not devotees but others brought in from outside.

Meanwhile, large parts of Kerala resembled a ghost town as a hartal called by various Hindu outfits in Kerala against the decision to allow women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple began Thursday. Special security arrangements have been put in place at various locations including Pamba, Nilackal, Erumeli en route to the Sabarimala temple, located in Pathanamthitta district, officials said.

However, stray incidents of stone-pelting on Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses were reported from some parts of the state, police said. However, private vehicles were plying in some areas.

Police have also promulgated section 144 of CrPC in four places including Pamba, Sannidhanam to check any kind of protest and violence.

The Sabarimala Samarakashna Samithi, an outfit of devotees, has called the hartal to protest the Wednesday ‘police lathicharge’ against Lord Ayyappa devotees at Nilackal, the base camp of Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala.

The BJP and its NDA partners have extended their support to the hartal call.

The Congress said it would not join the strike but hold protest demonstrations across the state on Thursday.

Protesters opposing the Supreme Court order allowing the entry of women of menstrual age group into the shrine turned violent at Nilackal and clashed Wednesday and the police resorted to baton-charge.

Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad led by Parvin Togadia has also called for a hartal demanding that the CPI-M led LDF government promulgate a law to get around the apex court verdict.

—India Legal Bureau

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