Thiruvananthapuram: Tension prevailed on Wednesday morning in Kerala at Nilakkal, the main gateway to Sabarimala, after the police used force to disperse devotees opposing the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the hill shrine.

Acting tough, the police, deployed in large numbers in Nilackal, some 20 kms away from the Sabarimala hilltop, also removed a makeshift shelter erected by a protesting group Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti.The protesting group of devotees had been staging a sit-in chanting Ayyappa mantra in the shelter in protest against the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.The protesting people, who were less in numbers, ran from the spot when the police initiated action in the early hours Wednesday when they tried to block the buses from the key entry point to the temple.

However, Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra said no one will be stopped from going to Sabarimala as the chief priest of the Lord Ayyappa temple announced that women from the royal and tantri families will take part in the prayers.“There is a very strong police presence in and around Sabarimala,” Behra told the media as a police force of over 1,000 personnel took position in Nilackal and Pamba – the foothills of the famed Lord Ayyappa temple.

“None would be stopped nor would anyone be allowed to take law into their hands. Sabarimala is safe and anyone can come and pray,” the police chief added.