Triggering a political firestorm in Kerala over the Sabarimala protests, an audio tape has emerged of BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai telling a gathering of the party’s youth wing that the violent agitation at the shrine against the entry of women of all age was “almost planned” by the BJP.
Pillai is also heard claiming that he had advised the temple’s thantri (head priest), Kandaru Rajeevaru, that “locking” the shrine’s nada, or doors to sanctum sanctorum, would “not amount to contempt of court”. At the peak of the agitation last month, the tantri had warned that he would shut the nada if women between the ages of 10 and 50 entered the premises despite a Supreme Court order allowing them to do so.
Pillai defended the remarks made during a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in Kozhikode Sunday, saying that “there is nothing wrong in giving advice”. But Kerala Chief Minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan lashed out at the BJP, saying that the “odious politics and perfidious ways of BJP stand exposed”. CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan demanded a “high-level probe” into the remarks.
In the audio clip, Pillai heard saying: “Every one followed the agenda we had put forward. One after another, every one exited the scene after surrendering before us… the agitation in the Malayalam month was almost planned by the BJP.”
Referring to the tantri’s call, when two women activists reached close to the temple last month, Pillai is heard saying: “When the tantri called me, he asked, ‘Will not locking it (nada) be contempt of court?’ But I told him it is not contempt of court, and that if the court decides to take contempt of court action, then it would be against us first… ‘Thirumeni (tantri), you are not alone, there would be thousands of people’, I told him. He (thantri) told me that he believed my words.”
Reacting to Pillai’s remarks, Vijayan posted on Twitter: “Evidence has surfaced that BJP leaders in the state connived to create trouble in Sabarimala. It must be noted that their state president himself was involved in the ruse. This is highly condemnable.”
CPM state chief Balakrishnan said: “A high-level probe should be held into Pillai’s revelation. It shows that the BJP tried to undermine the Constitution of the country. A case should be registered against Pillai for hatching the conspiracy behind the violent incidents at Sabarimala. The family of the temple’s priest should not fall into the political game of any party.”
Asked about his purported remarks, Pillai said: “It was a public address and there is nothing controversial in the statements. I am a lawyer and many persons, including the temple priest, have called me seeking legal advice. There is nothing wrong in giving advice. However, I don’t want to give any further explanation.”
On Monday, the temple opened at 5 pm for two days just weeks after it witnessed violent protests by Hindu organisations against the Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all age to enter the shrine. Last month, agitators disguised as pilgrims had stopped several young women from entering the temple despite heavy security. Subsequently, the police arrested at least 3,700 people in various cases related to the protests.
This time, the temple will close at 10 pm Tuesday after a two-day ritual known as “Chithira atta thirunal”. It will open again for the two-month-long annual festival on November 17, four days after the Supreme Court is slated to hear a clutch of review petitions against the verdict.