Violent protests erupted across Kerala after two women in their forties entered Sabarimala temple, with a BJP worker, who was injured in violence at Pandalam, in Pathanamthitta district, succumbing to injuries late on Wednesday.
The victim, Chandran Unnithan, was participating in a march organised by the Sangh Parivar-backed Sabarimala Action Council, which alleged that CPI(M) workers attacked the protest rally, leaving Unnithan seriously injured.
The Council, an umbrella outfit of Hindu organisations opposed to implementing the Supreme Court order that allows women of all ages to enter the hill shrine, has called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala on Thursday. The BJP extended support to the hartal, the fourth state-wide strike over the issue since the SC order.
Joining the protests, the state Congress announced that it will observe Thursday as a “black day”.
Protesting the young women’s entry, three devotees abandoned their pilgrimage at the base station Erumeli.
Subsequently, enraged BJP workers and faithfuls hit the streets across the state. Protesting BJP workers showed black flags to state ministers Kadakampally Surendran, K K Shailaja and A K Balan. In the state capital, BJP workers clashed with the police and CPI(M) workers in several bouts for nearly six hours, leaving many people injured. CPI(M) offices in many parts of Thiruvananthapuram district were vandalised.
By noon, the violence spread to other parts of the state, with BJP workers forcing shops to down shutters in many towns and blocking traffic. Several state-owned buses were damaged. In Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kochi, mediapersons were also attacked.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed that the two women — Bindu, 40, and Kanakadurga, 42 — had entered Sabarimala. “It is true that women (of menstruating age) entered the temple. The government had earlier stated that it would give protection to women coming to visit the temple. The police are bound to give protection. This time, they did not face any problem in trekking to the temple,” he said, referring to protests the duo had faced in their earlier attempt on December 24.
While the Sabarimala thantri (supreme priest) closed the temple for about an hour to ‘purify’ it, Travancore Devaswom Board president A Padmakumar said, “We are against the action of the thantri. Before shutting the temple, he should have consulted the Board, which runs the shrine. Instead, he just called me and said the shrine would be closed for purification and hung up.”
Calling the development a treachery towards devotees, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said, “This was meant to destroy the temple. The government will have to answer to the faithfuls.”
Opposition leader in state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress said what is being implemented at Sabarimala is not the Supreme Court order but “obstinacy” of the Chief Minister — to violate traditions and rituals at the temple. The incident, he said, has left a deep wound in the minds of Sabarimala devotees.
Violence, temple closure condemned
Kochi: A collective of leading writers, intellectuals and academics in Kerala called for legal proceedings against the chief priest of Sabarimala temple for closing the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine and conducting ‘purification rituals’ hours after two young women entered the temple. The collective also requested the people to rise against the actions of right-wing forces and oppose the call for a hartal on Thursday. “After the entry of the two women, communal forces have unleashed violence across the state. We hope the state’s secular and democratic section of the public would protest strongly… against communal forces,” they said in a statement. Among the 30 leading writers and intellectuals were M G S Narayanan, K Ajitha, Sunil P Ilayidom, Rafeek Ahmed, R B Sreekumar, and Sachidanandan. —ENS