- Protests broke out soon after 2 women entered Sabarimala temple yesterday
- The women took the usual route and devotees themselves helped: Kerala CM
- He also said these protests are planned, strategic attempts at violence
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today that the two women who entered the Sabarimala temple yesterday defying a decades-old ban on women of menstrual age faced no opposition from devotees. The women's entry has led to massive protests across Kerala and a shutdown call by right-wing groups.
"They never came on a helicopter to have darshan. The devotees themselves helped, the women took the usual route," the Chief Minister said, addressing a press conference amid growing turmoil over the women visiting Sabarimala on Wednesday.
He said there were no protests when the women went inside and finished their "darshan" of the deity Lord Ayyappa. "What we saw after the two women went inside and returned, are planned and strategic attempts at violence," said Pinarayi Vijayan, pointing a finger at the "sangh parivar" - the name given to rightwing groups affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"The government has no option but to deal with this with an iron hand."
The Chief Minister referred to the Supreme Court order ending the Sabarimala shrine's decades-old ban on women of menstrual age, or between 10 and 50 years.
"The government is constitutionally duty-bound to follow that order. The government upheld the judgement. Today's strike challenges the court judgement," Mr Vijayan said.
The BJP and the Congress back the protests and have accused the ruling Left of offending Hindu sentiment by facilitating the women's entry.
Protesters blocked highways and forced shops and markets to shut down on Wednesday in various parts the state. Journalists reporting from outside the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram were allegedly attacked by BJP activists and its youth wing activists.
Today's shutdown, called by Sabarimala Karma Samithi, is supported by the BJP. The Congress-led UDF is observing a "black day".
Bindu and Kanaka Durga, both in their early 40s, entered the hilltop shrine around 3.45 am on Wednesday, becoming the first to do so since the Supreme Court order on September 28. The women have been kept by the state government at an undisclosed place.
After their visit, the temple was shut down briefly for "purification". Mr Vijayan hit out at the Sabarimala Tanthri or chief priest, saying the closing of the temple door was a violation of the Supreme Court order. "If he disagrees with the Supreme Court order, he should have resigned and left his post. But if he hasn't done that, he is constitutionally bound to implement the order," he said.
The shrine and many devotees have refused to accept the Supreme Court order, saying it is inimical to their belief that women below 50 should not be allowed near the deity Lord Ayyappa, a celibate god.