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Kerala minister against using children as ‘shield’ in Sabarimala stir 

Thiruvananthapuram, December 5

Cautioning against using children as ‘shield’ during agitations, including the recent Sabarimala stir, Kerala Social Justice Minister KK Shylaja on Wednesday said the state government would have to take action against such practices.

The minister told the state Assembly that causing difficulties to children by engaging them in protests was against the Juvenile Justice Act and amounted to violation of the Protection of Child Rights Act.

“Children were being used as shields in several agitations, including in the recent Sabarimala stir. The government cannot permit the use of children as shields and we have to take action against such practices,” she said.

The minister, however, noted that a large number of children were coming to Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple with their parents as part of the pilgrimage.

“There is nothing wrong in bringing children as part of faith in the hill shrine,” she said. 

Shylaja was replying to a question by Murali Perunnelly (CPI-M) regarding the increasing trend of using children in agitations.

A number of children had been made part of ‘namajapa’ (chanting mantras) protests staged by devotees and right wing groups in Sabarimala against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all groups into the hilltop temple.

The hill shrine had been witnessing protests by devotees and right-wing groups against the government’s decision to implement the September 28 apex court verdict, permitting women of all age groups to pray at the temple.

To another question, the minister said steps are on to set up a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court of international standards in Ernakulam to ensure speedy trial in crime cases against children. 

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