Sabarimala audio clip row: Kerala Min, BJP chief lock horns

Kadakampally Surendran and P S Sreedharan Pillai

Thiruvananthapuram: A row broke out in Kerala over an audio clip which urged Lord Ayyappa devotees to reach Sabarimala disguised as devotees and create trouble with a Minister targeting the BJP over it and the latter denying any link.

State Devasowm (religious trusts) Minister Kadakampally Surendran played the audio clip at a press meet and alleged it was the attempt by Sangh forces and BJP to mobilise people at the Lord Ayyappa temple to create trouble over the raging issue of entry of women of all age groups.

However, state BJP chief P S Sreedharan Pillai flatly rejected the charge and said he would quit politics if the voice in the audio was proved to be that of any of his party leader or activist. The hillock shrine and the nearby areas Wednesday witnessed a series of protests against the CPI(M)-led LDF government’s decision to implement the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa temple.

Following the violence at Nilackal, the base camp of the temple, authorities have promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC in four places including the Sannidhanam (the main temple complex). In the audio tape, an activist was heard purportedly asking his followers to come to Sabarimala by wearing the sacred bead chain and customary “irumudikettu” (sacred bundle containing ghee-filled coconuts they offer to the deity) to defy prohibitory orders.

Surendran asked Pillai to explain what was the intention behind such a message and said it was an attempt to create trouble at Sannidhanam. “Fascist forces were behind the violence that erupted at Nilackal on Wednesday. The LDF government has no ulterior motive in implementing the apex court order,” he said.

Surendran alleged that BJP was adopting double standards on the Sabarimala issue. “The Centre is with you…why don’t you bring an ordinance to overcome the Supreme Court verdict if you are sincere in opposing it,” he added. Hitting back at the minister, Pillai challenged him to prove that the voice in the audio tape was that of any BJP leader or activist.

“I am ready to quit politics if it is proved that the voice in the audio clip is that of mine or any other BJP activist,” he added. Seeking to turn the tables on the minister, Pillai said “he clearly knows that whose voice is this.”

Without naming anyone, the BJP leader alleged the voice was that of a local leader of the outfit led by a Gujarat-based leader who has been attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent speeches, an apparent referrence to ‘Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad’ headed by Pravin Togadia.

“That persons is a new friend of the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala. But, I do not want to name either the outfit or the leader and make them great,” he added.

Several people, including mediapersons, were injured and vehicles damaged when the protest by devotees turned violent resulting in police using baton-charge at Nilackal, the base camp of Sabarimala, Wednesday. Trouble broke out as the agitators continued to block vehicles of pilgrims and pelted stones, disregarding repeated requests by police to desist from such act.