BJP’s Kerala general secretary K Surendran was detained in Nilakkal base camp when he tried to make his way to the Sabarimala temple today. The government termed the action a “precautionary measure” as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been backing the protests against the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to the hilltop shrine.
Stopped by police and told that he cannot go towards the Pamba base camp and to the temple at night, an angry Surendran, who was accompanied by some party workers, said, “You cannot prevent me from going to the Sabarimala temple, as I have already registered for pujas. You can stop me only if you open fire and you are free to do so”, reported IANS.
As Surendran, who told the police he had come as a “Ayyappa Bhaktha” (devotee) and should be allowed to pray at the temple, tried to go forward, he was taken into custody. According to the new police rules that came into effect from Friday, no pilgrim is allowed to proceed to the temple after 7 p.m. as the temple closes for the day at 10 p.m.
Superintendent of police Yatish Chandra said Surendran was taken to police station in Ranni in Pathnamthitta district.
Following the arrest, BJP workers protested outside the state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram , blocking traffic, and water canons were used to disperse them. The party has announced it would hold protests tomorrow too.
BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said the police action against Surendran has created an “extremely dangerous” situation, according to PTI.
He said he has informed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the “seriousness” of the situation.
BJP workers will observe a “protest day” in the state tomorrow and block traffic on the highways, he said.
The latest protests come after the 12-hour shut down called by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti and BJP to protest the arrest of Hindu Aikya Vedi leader K P Sasikala early Saturday crippled normal life in Kerala, the second bandh in a month.
Sasikala, 62, had come for darshan at the hill top, but was stopped by police on her way to the temple. She was taken into preventive custody at around 2 am for defying prohibitory orders. Police had decided not to allow devotees enter temple premises when it was closed for the night and they said she was arrested after she went ahead flouting their warning.
Tension gripped many areas as after many right-wing outfits started a campaign saying Sasikala was arrested while carrying ‘Irumudi Kettu’, a sacrosanct offering taken by devotees to the Sabarimala shrine. Later a local court granted her bail and she said she will go back to the temple again. “I was detained for more than 12 hours on way to the temple. It seems the government is out to destroy the temple,” she said after her release.
Meanwhile, Mary Sweety (45), from Thiruvananthapuram, who was making her second attempt to visit the hilltop shrine, was asked to return after protesters stopped her at the Chenganur railway station itself. Sweety was one of the woman who had attempted to climb to the temple in October when it opened for the first time after the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict but was foiled by protesters.
On the other hand, Ayyappa devotees complained that the heavy police restrictions are making their pilgrimage difficult as the shrine gates opened at 5 am. No one was allowed to stay at the hilltop temple top following a heavy rush.
On the large presence of police personnel,Pathnamthitta collector P B Nooh said, “there are many khaki clad policemen around. That is for the safety and security of devotees.” Police also used drones to monitor devotees at the Nillakal base camp.
The temple opened on Friday for 62-day long Mandala Pooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage season.
First Published: Nov 17, 2018 20:28 IST