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Kerala: Police considering choppers to airlift women devotees to Sabarimala

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 11: The Kerala police are planning to use of military helicopters to airlift women devotees to Sabarimala from Thiruvananthapuram or Kochi as a last and drastic recourse to save them from 'Save Sabarimala' protesters.

As many as 560 women between the ages of 10 and 50 have expressed their intent to visit the temple when it opens for the 41-day Mandalam-Makaravilakku period on November 17.

Kerala: Police considering choppers to airlift women devotees to Sabarimala

Top officials said most of the women who had registered themselves with the police queue management portal appeared to be educated professionals and their children. An estimated 3.20 lakh men had also reserved their darshan time in advance through the portal.

Also Read | Amid protests, 550 women enlist online to enter Sabarimala

As per the government site, digital Q ticket is invalid without a KSRTC bus ticket to take the pilgrims from Nilackal to Pamba, the base camps. Private vehicles are being allowed only till Nilackal.

However, in the case of 539 bookings, KSRTC bus tickets have not been booked, the official said. "If some people decide to go by foot, we cannot insist that they should travel by bus. Although we advise them to take KSRTC bus pass," he said.

Meanwhile, state-based Ayyappa Dharma Raksha Samithi, a pro-Hindu outfit, has decided to launch a prayer campaign to "protect" the rights of Lord Ayyappa by lighting lamps at five crore houses across seven states during the 41-day annual pilgrim season.

On November 6, around 200 devotees had tried to prevent a woman pilgrim from entering the hill shrine, suspecting her to be of menstrual age, and allegedly attacked a cameraman of a Malayalam news channel.

Also Read | Protest in Sabarimala Temple not justifiable, says Kerala HC

Officers said the police would have to clear a safe path for women pilgrims from the landing spot to the temple and back.

The government, which is intent on upholding the right of women to worship at Sabarimala, is locked in an acrimonious tussle with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Both the opposition parties want the government to file a review petition against the order in the Supreme Court.

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