Ahead of the coming Assembly elections in Kerala, the Left Democratic Front government today decided to withdraw cases registered in connection with Sabarimala agitation and anti-CAA protests that rocked the state over the last few years.
While Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) welcomed the decision, the BJP-NDA demanded an apology from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for registering cases against Lord Ayyappa devotees and also said treating Sabarimala agitation and anti-CAA protest cases equally was not acceptable.
The significant decision was taken in a cabinet meeting chaired by Mr Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram.
"The cabinet has decided to withdraw all cases that are not of a serious criminal nature registered in the state in connection with the Sabarimala women entry issue and protests against amended Citizenship Act," a brief statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office said.
Around 2,000 cases were registered over the Sabarimala agitation alone across various districts in the state during 2018-19 when devotees and others took to streets, protesting implementation of the Supreme Court verdict allowing women in the traditionally banned age group of 10-50 to enter the hill shrine.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government's decision assumes political significance as it was taken at a time when crucial assembly polls are round the corner.
The UDF, targeting the LDF over the Sabarimala issue, has recently announced it would withdraw the cases if it came to power in the assembly polls, expected to be held in April-May.
The LDF government's move, especially the decision to withdraw cases related to Sabarimla issue, is generally viewed as an attempt by it to woo the devotees and Hindu community members while aiming for a second straight term in the elections.
The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were held between late 2019 and early last year.
Besides the Congress and BJP,the Nair Service Society (NSS), a prominent caste-based organisation in the state which was in the forefront of the 'namajapa yathra' as part of Sabarimala agitation, had earlier demanded withdrawal of cases against the protesters.
State Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said today that the decision was taken based on the request of those involved in the protests.
CPI(M) acting state secretary A Vijayaraghavan said the Left front does not have any negative attitude towards democratic agitations, adding the cases were withdrawn in accordance with the opinion of the public.
Welcoming the decision, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the move was a 'wisdom that dawned late'.
KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran claimed the Marxist government's decision lacks sincerity and the sudden move was based on the recognition that they would suffer a major setback in the elections.
However, Union Minister and senior BJP leader V Muraleedharan accused both UDF and LDF of trying to woo Ayyappa devotees.
He also asked where were they when devotees were fighting to protect "customs, traditions and culture".
"Pinarayi Vijayan's Govt file cases on Ayyappa devotees, harass them, commit atrocities on them & now make (sic) an announcement to withdraw Sabarimala cases" he tweeted.
He demanded that Pinarayi Vijayan apologise to the people for the "sins committed" by his administration.
BJP state President K Surendran said all cases related to Sabarimala agitation should be withdrawn as devotees had not carried out any criminal attacks.
Treating equally the cases related to Sabarimala agitation and protests against amended CAA was not acceptable, the leader added.
NSS also welcomed the decision related to Sabarimala cases but its general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said the Left government had not taken a "sincere" approach on the women's entry issue.
When asked if the current decision was in view of assembly polls, he replied in the affirmative.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)