For the first time, Sabarimala is fully under police control and strict regulations have been imposed on cops and pilgrims.
From having to leave Sannidhanam, the temple premises, once the temple closes for the day, pilgrims will not even get food as shops have been ordered to down shutters by 10 pm. The prasadoottu hall will have to close by 11 pm.
Worse still, the prasadams that devotees buy like appam and aravana will be available only till 10 pm. Devaswom authorities are unhappy with the restrictions imposed by the police. The devaswom executive officer told mediapersons that they had received orders from the police to return keys of the guest houses once the temple closes at night. No devotee is to stay back at Sannidhanam after the temple closes. They have to move to Pamba and from there to Nilackal.
The early morning neyyabhishekam (offering of ghee), a major part of the pilgrimage, will also be affected as it was customary for pilgrims to stay back at night and be in the long queue to make the offering. Devaswom authorities have told the police to make relaxations since neyyabhishekam is a crucial part of the pilgrimage.
While prohibitory orders have been issued at Sannidhanam, Pamba and Nilackal, police, for the first time will, have to move around in full uniform as per orders from Kochi Range Inspector General Vijay Sakhare, incharge of the security arrangements in and around Sabarimala..
From wearing caps and belts to tucking in their shirts, policemen would also have to salute their superiors. Not to stop at that, police on duty at Nadappandal are to have their lathi and shield. The only relaxation would be for cops posted at the 18-holy steps and at the Sopanam.
More than 2,000 police personnel have been deputed at Nilackal base camp and over 1,000 officers, including 15 women cops above 50 years, have been posted at Sannidhanam. Besides, around 1,000 police personnel are at Pamba.
According to police, these changes have been introduced as a security measure as there could be protests against entry of young women.