Midnight protests at Sabarimala temple, devotees camp outside Kerala CM’s house

Protests erupted on Monday across Kerala after over 70 devotees were arrested late on Sunday night for flouting prohibitory orders outside the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district of the state.

Protesters organised hymn chanting during sit-ins before police stations and outside chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s official residence, the Cliff House, in Thiruvananthapuram.

Organisations associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh will also observe a protest day on Monday. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will meet governor P Sathasivam requesting to ensure a peaceful pilgrimage.

The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP, will hold a daylong state-wide agitation on Monday to further intensify their stir against “police high handedness”.

“We have organised state-wide protest against this emergency like situation in the state,” Morcha’s state president Prakash Babu told news agency PTI.

The Ayyappa devotees were arrested after they suddenly gathered to chant hymns outside the temple. They were taken into custody after nearly a hour-long stand-off and brought down to the base camp.

The devotees, who surprised the police by gathering despite the heavy security deployment, refused to disperse from the area. There was a heated argument between superintendent of police Yatish Chandra and the devotees, which led to a minor scuffle.

The protesters held on when police tried to arrest four of the organisers, saying they can’t be arrested for chanting the ‘Swami saranam’. Police backed down, apprehending a stampede-like situation, but the hymn-chanting devotees finally agreed to court arrest.

Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Sasikala KP was detained at Nilakkal, the base camp, as she moved towards temple after she was allowed to have a darshan of the presiding deity For Ayyappa by a court. Sasikala was detained on Friday night after she had defied prohibitory orders.

Sasikala was allowed to proceed to Pambha after she gave an assurance that she will return after offering prayers at the hilltop. She was forced to give an undertaking that she will not camp at the top. Senior police officer Chandra said she was allowed only after the undertaking.

The temple opened for the annual pilgrimage season on Friday as a fierce standoff continued between the state government and protesters over the entry of menstruating women to the temple, allowed by the Supreme Court in September.

First Published: Nov 19, 2018 08:14 IST

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