Kerala Police to Use Helicopters to Transport Women Ayyappa Devotees

Over 500 women have signed up online for Shabarimala darshan in the upcoming season, according to reports.

Kerala police, are reportedly mulling over the use of helicopters to transport women devotees from Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to Shabarimala in order to spare them the attacks of protesters who are expected to gather there to stop women from entering the temple, according to a report.

The Shabarimala temple is set to reopen on 17 November for the 41-day Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.

There are two review petitions pending in the Supreme Court on its controversial September verdict the entry of women of all ages into Shabarimala temple. The SC will hear this petitions on November 13.

A senior police official told that security arrangements would hinge on the outcome of these review petitions. If the SC upholds the verdict, the Kerala police will have to ensure that women devotees have safe passage into the shrine.

If they do plan to use helicopters, the Kerala police will have to obtain permission from the Forest Department to use a landing spot that was made in the 1980s, for a planned visit by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. That visit did not take place.

Meanwhile, reports said that over 500 women between the ages of 10 and 50 have expressed their intention to travel to Shabarimala during this period, by booking online for darshan at Sannidhanam.

The online booking system is also known as a “virtual queue,” and was opened for bookings on October 30. In addition to the bookings from women of the specified age group, 3.20 lakh men have also booked their darshan online through the portal.

A senior police official, Tomin Thachankary, told that while the data may be accurate, the numbers still couldn’t be taken as a confirmation that all 500 registrations would be translated into women devotees arriving there during the season.

“This data has to be taken cautiously because there is no way to validate this. The online booking on the Kerala police website, doesn’t ask for an identification card before registration. It also doesn’t have a payment gateway through which we can authenticate the identities of those who have registered.”

He also added that the online portal of the Kerala government road transport corporation that runs buses to Shabarimala had not seen similar bookings from women between 10 and 50 years.

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