Thiruvananthapuram: The gates of the Sabarimala Temple opened for the second day on Thursday and what unfolded was a repeat of the previous day with angry protesters again opposing the entry of women of menstrual age into the hill shrine.
The day witnessed incidents of sporadic violence in wake of the ‘hartal’ called by Hindu right groups in Kerala over Wednesday’s police action against those opposing entry of women aged 10 to 50 into the hill-top shrine.
By all indications, no girl or woman in the “banned” age group has visited the shrine of the ‘Naishtik Brahmachari’, the eternally celibate deity, since the time the doors to the temple opened on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the 12-hour bandh called by Sabarimala Samarakashna Samithi, an outfit of devotees, hit normal life in some parts of the state. Shops, businesses and educational institutes were also closed at several places.
According to unconfirmed media reports, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president A Padakumar said the board was ready for a compromise. He asked protesters whether they would call off agitation if the TDB filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s verdict allowing women of all age to enter the temple.
Pilgrims were stranded at several locations since government vehicles have kept off roads in wake of the 12-hour bandh called by Hindu outfits.
Incidents of stone-pelting on Kerala Road Transport Corporation buses were reported from some places, with Pathanamthitta, the district where troubled places, including Sabarimala, Pamba and Nilackal are located, observed a complete shutdown.
Orders prohibiting the assembly of more than four people were promulgated in the temple complex, Pamba and Nilackal but genuine devotees were exempted from its purview.
The BJP and its allies lent their support to the shutdown.
Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad, led by Parvin Togadia, also separately called for a hartal demanding that the CPI(M)- led LDF government promulgate an ordinance to get around the apex court verdict.
The Congress did not back the strike calls but held demonstrations against police action in several places, especially Nilakkal, the gateway to Sabarimala, where several protesters were injured.
Woman Journalist Forced to go Back
On Thursday morning, Suhasini Raj, who works as the India reporter for The New York Times, along with her colleague, a foreign national, managed to go past the Pamba gateway but was stopped midway by angry devotees who erected a human wall before her. They were escorted to safety under police escort.
“I had reached half way and then the protests grew stronger. I was hit by a stone and then we decided to return. The police had provided us all the security,” said Raj, who had earlier pointed out that she came to do her job to speak to devotees.
Kerala CM Blames RSS for Sabarimala Violence
The Kerala government on Thursday charged that the RSS was trying to “destroy” the Lord Ayyappa shrine by “unleashing terror”.
The BJP, however, countered the allegation, saying the CPI(M)-led LDF government was trying to tarnish the Ayyappa Temple and was responsible for creating tension at the holy shrine.
Blocking devotees from proceeding to the Ayyappa Temple and forcing them to return by creating terror were part of the RSS-Sangh Parivar’s move to “destroy” Sabarimala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan charged in a Facebook post.
The Chief Minister claimed that right wing forces had always been disturbed due to the unique nature of Sabarimala temple where devotees, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, offer worship.
The saffron groups’ attempt was to destroy this basic quality of the hill shrine and the present developments could be seen as part of that move.”RSS is trying to destroy the Lord Ayyappa shrine by unleashing terror,”the Chief Minister alleged.
“The final objective of the Sangh Parivar forces is to establish the upper caste dominance by destroying the acceptance enjoyed by all sections of the society at the shrine,” he said.
Making it clear that the government would not allow the temple to be turned into a “riot zone”, he said any attempt to check people from trekking the holy hills would be dealt with.
6 BJP Youth Activists Held at Nilakkal For Violating Sec 144
Six BJP youth wing activists were arrested at Nilakkal for staging a protest in violation of section 144 of the CrPC, which has been clamped in the area.
Police removed the slogan-shouting Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha members who launched a sit-in protest at Nilakkal, the gateway to Sabarimala, soon after the BJP state President P S Sreedharan Pillai announced in Thiruvananthapuram BJYM activists would violate section 144.
While being forcibly bundled into a police vehicle, state BJYM president Prakash Babu said not a single woman in the age group of 10 and 50 would be allowed to climb the hills which houses the temple.
Police said strong action would be taken against those disrupting the law and order.
Police had on Wednesday also promulgated section 144 of CrPc in four places, including Pamba and Sannidhanam, to check any kind of protest and violence.