Late-Night Clashes At Sabarimala; Worse Than Emergency, Says Minister

By SM.19 Nov, 2018





SABARIMALA: 70 people were arrested at the Sabarimala temple late last night triggering massive protests in multiple parts of Kerala, including the Chief Minister"s home.

Trouble started at around 11 pm after the temple was closed for the night. Protesters, in devotees" attire, many carrying offerings called " "irumudi kettu" on their head, gathered near the sanctum sanctorum and raised Ayyappa chants in protest. The protesters were detained after hundreds of them agitated against the police restrictions and demanded the withdrawal of police forces. The protesters also demanded lifting the ban on overnight stay in the temple premises. 200 people were charged for rioting and "obstructing police from discharging their duty".

Late Sunday night, a large number of workers from right-wing organisations protested outside Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan"s home in Thiruvananthapuram. BJP workers protested in Kochi, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Aranmula,Kollam, Alappuzha, Ranni, Thodupuzha, Kaladi and Idukki.

Due to the earlier incidents of violence, the police had imposed strict restrictions for devotees at Sannidhanam or the inner courtyard of the shrine, including not allowing them to stay back at night.

"How can we witness Nei Abishegam (ghee pouring ritual) if they ask us to leave at night," P Dhiresh, a devotee said.

The protests broke out ahead of the Sabarimala temple body filing a petition in the Supreme Court today seeking more time to implement the court"s September 28 order allowing women of menstruating age to enter the hill shrine.

The BJP will intensify the agitations with its youth wing expected to hold a state-wide protests against "police high-handedness". On Sunday, BJP workers had blocked several roads and highways in Kerala protesting the arrest of a senior party leader, K Surendran, who was arrested for trying to reach the temple despite the police stopping him.

"A situation worse than emergency is happening here. The devotees are not allowed to go up. Section 144 is imposed for no reason. Devotees are not terrorists. Why do they need 15,000 policemen here?" said Union Minister KJ Alphons who will visit the temple today.

Meanwhile, KP Sasikala, a right-wing leader who was at the forefront of the protests and arrested last week, is on her way to the temple. She was released on Saturday.

A police officer said, "We have the larger responsibility of ensuring the safety of the thousands of pilgrims and we don"t want the shrine turned into hotbed of revolt."

The Sabarimala temple had opened on Friday for the third time in a month for the two-month long pilgrim season.

With huge protests marking the 5-day opening of the temple last month, the state government, which promised to uphold the Supreme Court order, has deployed over 15,000 police personnel.