- BJP workers protested arrest of party leader K Surendran
- Kerala observed shutdown yesterday over a right-wing leader's arrest
- Sabarimala temple opened on Friday for two-month long pilgrim season
Kerala's hilltop shrine Sabarimala became the site of huge protests for the third day today. While the BJP went on the warpath, announcing statewide protests following the arrest of a leader, Congress leaders are on way to the hill shrine, saying they want to check the security arrangements. A woman, who was forced to stop her journey midway last month, is meanwhile, making another attempt.
Since morning, BJP supporters have blocked roads and highways in many parts of the state, protesting the arrest of a senior party leader, K Surendran. Around 150 of them are camping out at the city centre in Thiruvalla, a town 90 km from Sabarimala.
Mr Surendran was detained last evening at the Nilakkal base camp when he was seen heading for the hill-top shrine of Lord Ayyappa. When he and his supporters refused to turn back, he was arrested as a "preventive measure" by the police. He has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days.
Third day of Sabarimala Season: BJP leader Surendran flouts police arrangements for the security of the devotees and is arrested, like Ms Sasikala. Court remands him for 14 days. By the grace of the Lord , there is no hartal. BPJ will blockade the highways. What devotion!— Thomas Isaac (@drthomasisaac) November 18, 2018
Three leaders Congress leaders -- including former ministers Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and VS Sivakumar -- meanwhile, are expected to reach Pamba later today. The Congress claims they will be in the area to check the facilities provided for Lord Ayyappa devotees.
The BJP has targetted the state government, claiming no proper arrangements have been made for the Sabarimala pilgrms. In a tweet, the party's IT cell head Amit Malviya claimed the devotees had "no place to rest enroute, people have had to sleep next to pig droppings and dustbins, young children and aged suffer as taps run dry, no food, no toilets".
Kerala had observed a 12-hour shutdown yesterday against the arrest of a right-wing leader. KP Sasikala, the state president of Hindu Aikya Vedi, was for trying to create law and order problems, police said.
The Sabarimala temple had opened on Friday for the third time in a month for the two-month long pilgrim season.
With huge protests marking the 5-day opening of the temple last month, the state government, which promised to uphold the Supreme Court order, has deployed over 15,000 police personnel.
This includes a 20-member commando force and a special bomb squad with 234 personnel. In a first, pilgrims heading to the shrine in private vehicles will need passes detailing their identity and age.
For two consecutive months since a Supreme Court order opened the temple doors for women of all ages, no woman have been able to reach the temple. Protesters, allegedly backed by the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have threatened, heckled and turned away every woman who attempted the journey.
The protests intensified after the temple's head priest threatened that he would shut the temple if any young woman managed to make her way inside. Earlier this month, a video surfaced that showed state BJP leader Sreedharan Pillai claiming that the thantri, or head priest, had consulted him before making the announcement. The chief priest has denied any such conversation.