Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Police said late Thursday night that a 55-year-old man, who died after setting himself afire near the venue of the BJP’s protest here, had committed suicide due to personal reasons and does not have any relation to the ongoing agitation over Sabarimala issue.
Calling a statewide strike on Friday over the death, the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that the man immolated himself protesting the “adamant” stand of the state government, led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, over the issue of continuing prohibitory orders and restrictions at the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
“The deceased, in his dying declaration given to the Magistrate, said he resorted to the act due to depression and ran frantic towards the protest venue after setting himself afire,” the police said in a release.
Police said the man, who used to work as a plumbing and electrician assistant, does not have any political connections. “This matter is not connected with any ongoing protest over Sabarimala,” the police said.
Meanwhile, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran on Thursday night lashed out at the BJP’s call for strike and said the saffron party was trying to provoke the police.
“Tomorrow’s strike is the result of desperation faced by the BJP due to failure of its plan to create ‘balidanis‘ (martyrs) by provoking the police at Sabarimala and other places.” Venugopalan Nair, a resident of Muttada near here, suffered 90-per-cent burns and succumbed at the Government Medical College Hospital in the evening, police said.
Nair poured kerosene and set himself on fire near the venue of the BJP protest in front of the state secretariat early in the day. Nair tried to run towards the makeshift tent where BJP leader C K Padmanabhan is on an indefinite fast demanding lifting of prohibitory orders in force in and around Sabarimala hill shrine, police said.
Party activists and police personnel doused the fire using drinking water and rushed him to the hospital where he died without responding to treatment. The party has been protesting against the state government over its decision to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the temple and also demanding lifting of the ban orders and restrictions.
The BJP announced a dawn-to-dusk strike across the state on Friday as a mark of respect to Nair. A BJP release claimed that Nair took the extreme step due to the “adamant” stand of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government on the Sabarimala issue.
The state government has said it was constitutionally bound to implement the 28 September Supreme Court. The BJP is opposing any move to allow women in the 10-50 age group to trek the holy hill for ‘darshan’ at the Ayyappa temple.
When the temple was opened for monthly and special pujas in October and November, there were massive protests by devotees, following which severe restrictions, including prohibitory orders, were imposed by the state government.
However, so far, no women in the previously-banned age group had been able to enter the temple. Since the two-month long pilgrimage season began on 16 November, this is the second statewide strike called by the BJP on the Sabarimala issue.
Earlier, it had observed a strike to protest the detention of K P Sasikala, president of the Hindu Aikya Vedi. Meanwhile, officials said examinations scheduled to be held by various universities on Friday have been postponed.