Protests by the BJP and Sabarimala Karma Samithi turned violent at several spots
Thiruvananthapuram: Armed with stones and crude bombs, mobs took to the streets in Kerala during the dawn-to-dusk strike on Thursday, clashing with the police, forcing shops to shut and attacking offices of the ruling CPM and its allies in several districts. By the evening, more than 30 police personnel were injured and nearly 750 people were arrested. The strike was called by groups protesting against the entry of two women in the Sabarimala temple, defying its traditional ban on women of reproductive age. The protests and accompanying violence started soon after. Overnight, a man who was injured during the protests, died.
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The strike was called by Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of right-wing groups, and the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad. The opposition BJP supported the strike while the Congress observed a "black day".
Armed with home-made bombs and stones, right-wing activists took to the streets since morning, blocking roads and forcing shops to shut. Protests by the BJP and Sabarimala Karma Samithi turned violent at several spots in Kozhikode, Kannur, Malappuram, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram, pushing the police to use batons and water cannons.
Scores of people were injured in the violence. Three BJP workers sustained knife wounds in Thrissur during a scuffle with workers of the Social Democratic Party of India, the political wing of Popular Front of India, a militant Islamic outfit, reported news agency Press Trust of India, quoting police sources. The BJP men were trying to shut down a restaurant.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hit out at the BJP and its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, accusing them of instigating violence and calling strikes against the constitutional rights of women.
"The women were not airdropped. They went through the normal route. They were even helped by other devotees," he said. The right-wing groups, he said, were trying to turn the state "into a war zone".
In the evening, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam sought a report from the Chief Minister on the incidents of violence and destruction of private and public property. "I appeal to all sections of people to maintain calm & peace," the Governor said in a tweet.
Two people have been arrested for the attack on Chandran Unnithan, who died on Wednesday night. Mr Unnithan was attending the protest march by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti at Pandalam in Pathanamthitta district, which was attacked by CPM workers.
The Chief Minister told media that Chandran Unnithan had died due to cardiac arrest. A medical report, however, confirmed that he died from serious head injuries.
The Supreme Court has refused urgent hearing to a contempt petition by a lawyers' group, which demanded action against the Sabarimala temple authorities who had closed the shrine for purification after two women entered it.
The judges said it would be heard along with the pending review petitions against the Supreme Court verdict of September that opened the temple doors to women of all ages.