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Protests over women’s entry

Sangh parivar outfit calls for state-wide shutdown after 2 women complete their pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple

By Our Special Correspondent in Bangalore

  • Published 3.01.19, 2:11 AM
  • Updated 3.01.19, 2:11 AM
Women celebrate in Kochi the entry of Bindu and Kanakadurga into the Sabarimala temple.
Women celebrate in Kochi the entry of Bindu and Kanakadurga into the Sabarimala temple. (PTI)

Violent protests broke out in several districts in Kerala, including Thiruvananthapuram, hours after the state government confirmed that two women of childbearing age had successfully completed their pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple.

Several policemen were injured when Sangh parivar protesters resorted to widespread violence wherever they demonstrated.

Four members of the BJP Mahila Morcha sneaked into the secretariat building, where the chief minister’s office is located, before police arrested them for trespass.

A state government source said “hundreds” of protesters had been arrested across the state but there was no clarity on the number.

Bindu, 42, and Kanakadurga, 44, prayed at the temple at 3.45am under police protection before leaving for an undisclosed location.

Soon after the Left-led government confirmed their visit, BJP and RSS workers targeted banners and hoardings of Tuesday’s Women’s Wall and forced shopkeepers to down shutters near the secretariat.

The parivar protesters didn’t even spare journalists who were covering the BJP demonstration outside the secretariat. Camerapersons were easy targets for the protesters who allegedly damaged equipment and chased the journalists away when they filmed them pulling down CPM banners.

When a large number of Left supporters arrived at the scene, it led to further tension as both groups pelted each other with stones. Police called for reinforcements at 3.30pm. With both groups refusing to clear the area, the police used water cannons and tear gas shells and baton-charged the mob.

More protests are likely tomorrow as the Sabarimala Karma Samiti, a Sangh parivar outfit, has called a state-wide shutdown. The Congress-led United Democratic Front will observe a “Black Day” tomorrow.

The Vyapari Vyavasaya Ekopana Samiti, an umbrella organisation of trader bodies, has decided to keep their shops open. The organisation had earlier pledged to make 2019 a shutdown-free year.

Protesters stoned state buses in Palakkad in central Kerala and put up roadblocks, affecting normal life as several buses linking the district to neighbouring Tamil Nadu got delayed.

Similar protests were witnessed in Kasargod in the north, where the BJP enjoys considerable clout. Protesters stopped buses commuting between Kasargod and Mangalore in coastal Karnataka. Parivar activists stoned the CPM local committee office in Kozhencherry in Pathanamthitta.

At the temple, however, the situation was normal as devotees thronged the shrine.