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Prohibitory orders that are in force in and around the Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala are due to come to an end tonight but with no let up in the tense situation at the hilltop shrine, it is likely to be extended.

Last week, the authorities had sought extension of the Section 144 until January 14, but it was granted for only four days. The temple that opened on three separate occasions from October 17 has seen unprecedented scenes after pro and anti women entry groups clashed openly with each other. The Suprme Court had on September overturned a
centuries old tradition that barred women of menstruating age from offering prayers at the temple and decreed that all women irrespective of their age would have the right to pray at the temple.

Though the Marxist led government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated time and again that it is duty bound to implement the court order and promised protection to any woman who wanted to visit the temple, so far not a single woman has reached the temple thanks to the protesting devotees who have even resorted to force to stop them.

The State Director General of Police has called a meeting of his top officers to review the situation after which a decision will be taken whether to extend Section 144 for a further period.

—India Legal Bureau

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