Sabarimala protests: 18 Nov clashes at shrine were planned by Kerala BJP, reveals circular; Pinarayi govt was clueless about plan

A "secret" circular issued by general secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala revealed that the protests on Sunday (18 November), which led to the arrest of 72 people at Sabarimala, were part of carefully planned operation by the saffron party to execute its political agenda in the state. Issued by BJP general secretary AN Radhakrishnan, the circular, a copy which was obtained by Firstpost, said that the BJP had kept a group of workers from three Assembly constituencies — Aruvikkara, Vamanapuram and Nedumangad in Thiruvananthapuram district — ready to go to Sabarimala on the third day of the pilgrimage (18 November).

Those arrested included Sangh Parivar workers from three constituencies in Thiruvananthapuram district. The action was coordinated by party spokesman advocate J R Padmakumar. The "secret" operation is in tune with state BJP president’s statement that the Supreme Court verdict was a golden opportunity for the party to implement its agenda in the state.

The circular has listed 28 Sangh districts identified for sending activists to Sabarimala till 20 December, along with the names and phone numbers of the coordinators for each district. The coordinators have been asked to fix the time and place for the gathering of the workers. The circular also asked party state committee and council members and morcha, district and zonal office bearers to ensure mobilisation of maximum workers from each district.

Senior BJP leader and state secretary MT Ramesh said he was not aware of the circular. "If at all there is such a circular, it is not issued with the knowledge of the state leadership. The plan did not come up in the party's state forums for discussion," he added.

Devotees entering Sabarimala temple when it opened amid tight security last week. PTI

Devotees entering Sabarimala temple when it opened amid tight security last week. PTI

However, the state advocate-general submitted a copy of the circular before the high court on Monday after he was summoned to explain the restrictions imposed on the devotees by the police. The senior law officer said that the restrictions were necessitated after deliberate attempts by certain groups to create trouble in the hill shrine.

The high court had come down heavily on the police for its failure to ensure smooth darshan for the devotees. The court said that police could not place restrictions on the devotees in the name of the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the temple.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan justified the police action in Sabarimala, saying those who were arrested by the police were not devotees but Sangh Parivar activists, who were trying to create trouble. While addressing the state conference of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists at Kozhikode, he said the Sangh Parivar activists had gone to Sabarimala disguised as devotees.

"They have been camping at Sannidhanam with a motive to create trouble as part of the BJP's political agenda. Their attempt is to make Sabarimala a war zone. We are not against the devotees, but at the same we will not allow anyone to create trouble in the name of the devotees," he added.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the BJP and the Sangh Parivar were not guided by true faith. "They have no regard for the customs and rituals at Sabarimala. Their attempt is to provoke Hindus and gain few votes," he said.

He said that the actions of the BJP were in tune with the party chief’s appeal to the workers to make maximum political mileage from the Supreme Court verdict. He had described the verdict as a golden opportunity for the party to implement its agenda in the state. The party is trying to consolidate the Hindus by whipping up communal passions, he added.

The Sangh Parivar had mounted a resistance against young women trying to enter the temple during the monthly pooja in October and the Chithira Atha Visehsm pooja in November by camping at the hill top. They changed the tack this time as large number of their activists were arrested in connection with the troubles and the police had beefed up security to ensure that no trouble makers trekked to the hill top this time.

The BJP had readied volunteers to prevent women in the age group of 10 to 50 years from entering the temple. However, they turned against the police as no women from the restricted age group reached Sabarimala to visit the temple in the first three days of the pilgrimage.

They found the restrictions imposed by the police on the devotees, especially the overnight stay at Sannidhanam, an ideal opportunity to keep the flames of protest going. The protest came as a surprise to the police since it had scanned every devotee to ensure that no activist had reached the hill top.

Hindu Aikya Vedi leader KP Sasikala and BJP general secretary K Surendran were refused permission to go to Sannidhanam on 16 and 17 November and arrested as per this move. Police sources believe that the activists who staged the protest on Sunday may have entered the temple disguised as devotees. The police has not been subjecting those coming to Sabarimala with irumudikettu (holy offering to Lord Ayyappa), as it would have created provocation.

The Devaswom minister said that a junior BJP leader who was camping at the hill top may have led the protests. The police could not identify the leader, V Rajesh as he was less-known in police circles. The minister said that Rajesh may have been hiding in the forest to escape the police scanner.

The police was not expecting any trouble on Sunday as there was only a small number of devotees at the Sannidhanam when the temple was about to be closed after the day’s puja and all of them were happy with the opportunity, they got to do the darshan comfortably.

Upsetting the police calculations, a group emerged at the nadapanthal and started chanting Ayyappa slogans in protest against the police restrictions minutes before the closure of the sanctorum. The police tried to avert trouble by appealing to them to leave Sannidhanam. They had agreed to go back after the closure of the sanctorum.

When they refused to leave, the police tried to take the leaders into custody. However, the protesters insisted everybody be arrested. Accordingly, around 100 protesters were removed to the police camp at Maniyar, around 30 kilometres away from the temple. The police has slapped non-bailable offences against 70-or-so protesters.

Superintendent of police and Sannidhanam special officer Pratheesh Kumar said the protesters were detained for violating Section 144 that prohibits assembly of more than four people at a spot. “We had asked them to disperse after the Harivarasanam but most of them refused,” he added.

The BJP and Sangh Parivar workers swung into action immediately after the arrests and took the protests to several parts of the state. While a large number of workers surrounded the Maniyar police camp demanding the release of those in custody another group staged protests outside Vijayan’s official residence in the state capital.

The BJP workers also tried to block chief minister when he went to Kozhikode for attending a function and staged a prayer protest outside the venue. They also waved black flags against Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran. The protestors also pelted stones at Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses in a few places.

The party had supported a state-wide shut down strike and organised road blockade following the arrest of Sasikala and Surendran. Both the protests had caused considerable difficulty to the devotees, leading to a drop in the number of pilgrim arrivals at Sabarimala.

BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai said the arrest of the devotees as an example of the police excess at Sabarimala and demanded a judicial inquiry into them. He said that the hill shrine was under the "police raj" and the police was denying devotees the right to exercise their religious beliefs.

"The police is forcing pilgrims to go back. It is a dangerous situation. The whole world is watching the naked rights violation in Sabarimala. We will meet Governor P Sathasivam and request him to ensure a peaceful pilgrimage," he said.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said both the BJP and the Left Democratic Front government were trying to make Sabarimala a war zone. He came down heavily on the chief minister asking if Kerala was under the rule of Adolf Hitler. He alleged the government was trying to "brand" Ayyappa devotees as Sangh Parivar activists and thus helping RSS recruit people to its fold.

Full text of the BJP circular

BJP Circular on Sabarimala by Firstpost on Scribd


Updated Date: Nov 20, 2018 11:52 AM

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