Sabarimala temple opens: Protests as Hindu outfit leader, BJP minister taken into custody
Kerala BJP general secretary and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran was taken into “preventive custody” and removed from Nilakkal, a base camp, on Saturday night, hours after Hindu Aikya Vedi state president P Sasikala was detained by the police at Marakootam.
The police action triggered heavy protests across the state, with right-wing activists accusing the police of trying to stop “genuine devotees” but “willing to escort activists” to the Sabarimala temple. On Friday, Pune-based activist Trupti Desai was stopped by protesters at Kochi airport as she along with six other women reached Kerala to pray at the hill shrine.
Sasikala, who was on a pilgrimage to the Lord Ayyappa temple, was taken into preventive custody at 2.30 am Saturday after she allegedly defied directions not to spend the night on the temple complex. Police had decided not to allow devotees enter the temple premises when it was closed for the night.
Right-wing Hindu outfits called a dawn-to-dusk hartal across Kerala to protest against her “preventive detention”.
“Preventing a genuine devotee with ‘irumudikettu’ (bundle containing offerings for the Lord) is a challenge to Sabarimala pilgrims. Police are willing to escort activists to the temple, but they are preventing pilgrims,’’ Sasikala said. The activist was later released on bail and allowed to proceed to the temple.
The strike, however, left thousands of people, including Sabarimala pilgrims, stranded in various towns. In some areas the protest reportedly got violent and stones were lobbed at vehicles.
Following the protests, the state government lifted restrictions and allowed pilgrims to stay at the temple premises during the night. However, Surendran, who reached had Nilakkal base camp, was taken into “preventive custody”. As part of the restrictions, police had decided to prevent entry of devotees at Nilakkal after 7.30 pm.
Police action on Surendran also triggered heavy protests by BJP workers, with party’s state president P S Sreedharan Pillai announcing a state-wide protest on Sunday.