Kerala cracks down on Sabarimala protesters

Thiruvananthapuram: A day after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chaired a high-level meeting with senior police officials here, authorities on Thursday launched a crackdown on protesters who prevented women in the 10-50 age group from entering the Sabarimala temple.

Police have arrested over 1,400 people across the state, registering 258 cases against 2,000 people for defying an order of the Supreme Court that had allowed women of all ages to visit the temple.

The police arrested people from Pathanamthitta – the district where the temple is located, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Ernakulam and elsewhere.

The arrests came after Vijayan chaired a high-level meeting yesterday. The arrests had become a certainty after the police first released pictures of over 200 people who they thought were responsible for attacking the police, media and pilgrims.

The Supreme Court had on September 28 overturned a centuries-old practice that barred women of menstrual age (10-50 years) from entering the hill temple, where a celibate deity Lord Ayyappa is worshipped.

On October 17, the temple opened at 5 p.m for the monthly pujas which ended on October 22. Protesters ensured that no female in the 10-50 age could make it to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Kerala BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said that he would soon approach the High Court against the police action against the devotees.

“What’s happening now is false cases are being registered against the devotees who stood to protect the traditions of the temple. This is done purposely by the CPI-M to finish off this famed temple,” said Pillai.

Senior BJP leader and spokesperson A.N. Radhakrishnan said that they won’t be cowed down by the cases foisted on the devotees, and will take out a march to the Pathanamthitta police station on Friday.