Amid heavy security, thousands of devotees offered prayers at the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple early Saturday, the first day of Malayalam month ‘Vrischikom,’. Normal life was disrupted after Hindu outfits called a 12-hour dawn-to-dusk hartal against the preventive detention of a right-wing woman leader.
Hindu Aikyavedi state President K P Sasikala, a 50-year-old who was on the pilgrimage trek, was taken into preventive custody late evening at 2:30 am near Marakootam after she allegedly defied orders, police said.
Police had decided to not let devotees enter the temple premises when it was closed for the night. Sasikala, who was following the ritualistic tradition carrying the ‘irumudikettu’ on her head, was stopped by the police as the temple would be closed by the time she would get there. She was detained at Ranni police station, according to reports. BJP extended its support for the shutdown.
By evening, Sasikala was released on bail and was issued a showcause notice by the court. She was further allowed to undertake the pilgrimage and headed to the shrine for darshan but was instructed to return as soon as her darshan was over. Subsequently, BJP general secretary K Surendran and Thrissur district president A Nagesh were also taken into preventive custody by the police from Nilakkal base camp citing security concerns if they were allowed to pass.
While the shutdown affected normal routine in various places including the state capital, a young couple from Kozhikode who was traveling in a car were attacked by protesters for defying the hartal. According to local news channel Asianet, the couple was travelling from Saniyo’s house in Paleri to Julius’s house in Ambalakkulangara. A gang of ten stopped the car at Ambalakkulangara and allegedly attacked them, taking the car keys and dragging the couple out. Julius was wounded in the attack and sustained a nosebleed. Saniyo was also allegedly beaten on her chest and below her stomach.
Meanwhile, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala shrine, announced its decision to move Supreme court on Monday seeking time to implement the verdict of allowing women of all age-groups to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple. “We will move the Supreme court on Monday through Advocate Chandra Uday Singh” TDB President A Padmakumar was quoted as saying by PTI.
BJP Keralam, in a tweet, said that the LDF government had failed in providing basic necessities to pilgrims who were undertaking the trek to offer prayers at the shrine, thus proving to be unable to protect devotees right to pray. They also condemned the preventive custody of K P Sasikala. RSS leader J Nandakumar alleged that the state police had enforced a ‘brutal crackdown’ on the Hindus in Kerala.
In retaliation to BJP’s tweets, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac took to Twitter regarding Sasikala’s arrest. He said, “Sorry, you break law, you will be booked, hartal or no hartal.” He also described BJP as the ‘hartal party of Kerala’ as they had recorded 38 hartals- regional and statewide- in the past year.
Day 2 of Sabarimala pilgrimage season-BJP hartal. Will a party with iota of consideration for the plight of devotees call for a hartal? BJP has become hartal party of Kerala with record of 38 hartals -regional and state wide- last year.
— Thomas Isaac (@drthomasisaac) November 17, 2018
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday evening in a Facebook post had sought co-operation from people to maintain peace for the two-month long pilgrimage season.
KSRTC buses continued plying in Sabarimala despite the shutdown. Police protection was ensured in the buses to help pilgrims reach the temple. Thousands continued to pour at the shrine to offer the prayers on the first day of the Malayalam month of ‘Vrischikom’ as people including children queued up at the temple since it opened on Friday, PTI reported.
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