Tensions rise at Sabarimala as BJP launches protest

Thiruvananthapuram: Amid the prevailing tension over Sabarimala, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers on Sunday launched a protest, blocking traffic on the highways in Kerala. The saffron party activists are protesting against party general secretary K Surendran being taken into preventive custody and removed from Nilakkal as he tried to leave for the hill shrine.

He has been produced before a magistrate and remanded to a 14-day judicial custody after he was charged with non-bailable offences. Cases under IPC 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharging his duty) and 34 IPC (acts done by several persons for furtherance of common intention) were charged against them by police.

Thousands of pilgrims offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa shrine early on Saturday, the first day of Malayalam month “Vrischikom”, amid tight security cover. While Surendran and his supporters tried to move forward, they were removed and taken in a jeep by the heavy police force deployed there. He was reportedly not allowed to proceed to the shrine for it would have triggered law and order issues.

After Surendran was taken to custody, BJP activists staged a protest, chanting Ayyappa mantras, in front of the Chittar police station in Pathanamthitta district where the BJP leader was detained.

In Thiruvananthapuram, BJP workers took out a march to the Secretariat and blocked traffic protesting the police action against Surendran.
Police used water cannons to stop them.

Reacting to Surendran detention, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said the police action against Surendran has created an ‘extremely dangerous’ situation. He said he has informed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the “seriousness” of the situation.

Earlier, a 12-hour dawn-to-dusk hartal called by Hindu outfits against the preventive detention of a right-wing woman leader caught devotees unawares and disrupted life in Kerala.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the shrine, said it would move the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking more time to implement the apex court order allowing women of all age groups to pray at the temple.

The temple had opened on Friday evening for the two-month-long annual pilgrimage season as a stand-off continued over the entry of menstrual age women into the shrine.

All regular pujas began this morning under the new Melshanti (chief priest) Vasudevan Namboodiri’s supervision.

Pilgrims, including children, queued up in large numbers since the temple opened at 3 am. Police are maintaining strict vigil in and around the temple complex and are using drones to monitor the movement of pilgrims at Nilackal, the base camp.

NT Bureau