Sabarimala Row: BJP, Congress Step up Protests in Kerala

While the BJP is on a six-day 'rath yatra' against the Supreme Court's order allowing women of menstruating age entry into the temple, the Congress also launched protests from five locations.

New Delhi: BJP Kerala unit chief P.S. Sreedharan Pillai was Thursday booked for his speech in connection with Sabarimala protests on a day when the BJP launched a march to ‘protect’ the Lord Ayyappa temple’s traditions and rituals.

Stepping up protests against the Supreme Court order allowing women of menstruating age entry into Sabarimala, the BJP rolled out a six-day “Save Sabarimala Rath Yatra” from Kerala’s Kasargod district to “protect the traditions and rituals” of the temple.

According to Scroll.in, the rally is set to culminate at Erumeli near Sabarimala on November 13, when the apex court will hear the review petitions against its September 28 verdict. The temple is set to open again for the main season of pilgrimage from November 16.

B.S. Yeddyurappa, former Karnataka chief minister, flagged off the march which is being led by BJP state president Pillai and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena president Tushar Vellapally.

BJP Kerala unit chief P.S. Sreedharan Pillai. Credit: ANI

“Our party is not against the Supreme Court’s order but people’s sentiments also must be respected. When 90% of women devotees are against the order, it is our duty to oppose it,” Yeddyurappa was quoted by NDTV as saying.

Congress rally

The Congress, meanwhile, also launched a rally after a gap of just six hours. Led by state working president K. Sudhakaran from Perla, the party had planned a padyatra and other protests from five locations – Kasaragod, Alapuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, Thodupuzha and Palakkad – against the “politicisation” of the issue. The rallies are likely to culminate on November 15 in Pathanamthitta.

Ramesh Chennithala, leader of the opposition in the Kerala legislative assembly, reportedly said: “The Congress is launching five yatras in Kerala not only on the issue of Sabarimala but other central and state issues.”

Hitting out at the BJP’s protest, the Congress termed it “political opportunism.” Further slamming the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), state Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran said, “RSS’s first response after the Supreme Court verdict was to welcome the order. Soon after seeing the sentiments of a section of devotees, they changed their stand. This is nothing but political opportunism and that’s what the BJP and RSS are doing in the state.”

File photo of protests at Sabarimala. Credit: PTI

Case against BJP’s Pillai

The case against Pillai was registered on a complaint by journalist Shybin alleging that the BJP leader had instigated activists to protest against the entry of women of menstruating age into the hill shrine recently, police said.

Reacting to it, Pillai, accused the CPI(M) and Congress of ‘witch hunting’ and trying to ‘tarnish’ his image.

Police said Pillai has been booked under section 505 (1) (B) of IPC (intent to incite or which is likely to incite persons to commit any offence), a non-cognizable offence, in connection with his November 4 address to BJP Yuva Morcha workers in Kozhikode.

Also read: Appropriation of Ayyappa Cult: The History and Hinduisation of Sabarimala Temple

The Wire previously reported that TV channels on Monday aired a video clip in which Sreedharan Pillai is seen saying that the Sabarimala temple head priest consulted him before threatening the closure of the shrine if women in the 10-50 age group entered it.

“Sabarimala is a golden opportunity. It is an issue. Settling the Sabarimala issue in a straight line is not possible. We put forward an agenda and everyone else surrendered to it, leaving only us and our enemies, the government and its parties,” he can be heard saying.

Addressing the workers at Mathur in Kasaragod, Pillai Thursday hit out at the CPI(M), alleging that it was trying to destroy the Sabarimala temple since the past 60 years.

Sabarimala issue

Kerala has been on a boil since the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala with right-wing and Hindutva outfits on a warpath over the state government’s decision to go ahead and implement the order.

Also read: The Politics of Sabarimala in the Aftermath of the SC Verdict

The hill shrine had recently witnessed protests by devotees against the attempt by some young women, including journalists, to enter the temple.

The day also saw the Kerala high court coming down on the recent agitation at Sabarimala. Justice Sunil Thomas termed the violence as “unjustifiable” and agreed with the state’s contention that the protests and violence at the hill shrine and its key entry points were against the apex court’s directives.

“Agitations are unjustifiable,” the court said while dismissing a bail application filed by Govind Madhusoodan of Tripunithura, who was arrested in connection with clashes with the police at Nilackal near Pamba when the temple doors were opened for monthly puja last month.

(With PTI inputs)