Protests erupted in Kerala, police fired tear gas, Hartal tomorrow

With the enter of two women into Sabarimala shrine, with the active support of police, severe protests erupted all over Kerala state. Violent clashes were also reported between scores of people in front of the state Assembly in Thiruvanthapuram. Sporadic violence spread in several other towns across the state.

Tense environment went on hours together in the state capital as rival groups resorted to show of strength. Police with batons also charged at protesters, who were trying to enforce a shutdown of shops in the area. Several policemen were injured as protesters threw stones. An umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups have called for a state-wide shutdown on Thursday, amid protests at several places after entry of two women into the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

As the news of the women entering the temple spread, protests erupted all over the state with activists blocking highways and forcing the closure of shops and markets. Media personnel, reporting from outside the state secretariat, were allegedly attacked by BJP and Yuva Morcha activists. Announcing the dawn-to-dusk shutdown on behalf of the Sabarimala Karma Samiti Samiti, its leader K P Sasikala said the government has betrayed devotees.

The Samiti, which is spearheading protests against the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine, urged people to cooperate with them in their protest. Sasikala said the protests would continue till Pinarayi Vijayan resigns as chief minister. Scripting history, two women who are in their 40s entered the Ayyappa temple early on Wednesday and offered prayers. Sasikala said the government acted like a “coward” and took the women to the shrine during the early hours.

Meanwhile, both opposition Congress and the BJP lashed out at the CPI(M)-led LDF government and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the entry of the women into the shrine “hurt” the sentiments of devotees and it shows the headstrong attitude of the chief minister to take women of the traditionally “barred” age group to the temple.

“Who took them to the temple just after the women’s wall? They were absconding for many days after their first attempt to trek the hill on December 24. It’s clear that the women were under police protection. Police acted on behalf of chief minister’s direction. This was a result of the obstinate attitude of the chief minister,” Chennithala told reporters. He also said that the closure of the temple for the purification ceremony was “100 per cent right”, adding the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) will start agitation across the state.

State BJP chief P S Sreedharan Pillai warned that the Kerala government will face the “wrath” of Lord Ayyappa. He also said the state government “betrayed the sentiments of devotees”. “The Communist leaders, their future generations, the Kerala government, all are not going to escape from Lord Ayyappa’s wrath for all their wrong-doings at Sabarimala,” he added.

BJP leader M T Ramesh said his party will support the “Nama Japam” (chanting of Ayyappa prayers) protest to be undertaken by the devotees across the state in the next two days. “CPI(M) agenda is clear now. They want women to enter the temple. For the first time in the history the temple has been closed due to the breaking of tradition. The chief minister is responsible for this,” he added.

Sabarimala Karma Samiti, which spearheaded the “Nama Japam” agitation against the state government’s decision to implement the apex court order allowing women of all ages into Sabarimala, sought the chief minister’s resignation.

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