Sabarimala protests: Right wing groups call Kerala bandh after Hindu woman leader's arrest; BJP supports hartal

Rightwing Hindu outfits have called for a dawn to dusk hartal in Kerala Saturday in protest against arrest of a senior Sangh Parivar leader who was on the pilgrimage to Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple. Bharatiya Janata Party and Ayyappa Dharma Sena have also come out in support of the move.

VHP state president SJR Kumar alleged that Hindu Aikyavedi state President KP Sasikala was arrested by police near Marakkoottam near Sabarimala at 2.30 am Saturday.

"She was arrested as she was on the way to the hill shrine carrying irumudikkettu (bundle carrying sacred offerings) to offer prayers. Some other activists have been taken into preventive custody," Kumar told PTI.

A group of policewomen deployed to maintain peace at the Sabarimala temple seen at the shrine. While they were not present at the temple as devotees, they became the first women younger than 50-years of age to have ever entered the shrine. Image/TK Devasia

A group of policewomen deployed to maintain peace at the Sabarimala temple seen at the shrine. Image/TK Devasia

He accused the Kerala government of trying to destroy the Sabarimala temple. The VHP leader said essential services and vehicles of Ayyappa devotees will not be affected by the hartal.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been made at the shrine, which opened for the third time Friday for the two-month-long pilgrimage season commencing Saturday after the Supreme Court allowed women of menstrual age to offer prayers.

The temple opened Friday amid a tense standoff involving social activist Trupti Desai in Kochi and a move by its administrator to seek time from the Supreme Court to implement its verdict.

The 41-day mandalam festival will conclude on 27 December after Mandala pooja, when the shrine will close after the 'Athazhapuja' in the evening. It would reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on 30 December.

The Makaravilakku festival would be celebrated on 14 January after which the shrine will close on 20 January, marking the culmination of the pilgrim season, when laksh of devotees are expected to throng the shrine.

The temple complex and nearby areas had witnessed widespread protests after the state government decided to implement the 28 September apex court verdict.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear petitions seeking review of its September 28 order in January, but has refused to stay it.

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Updated Date: Nov 17, 2018 10:03:45 IST

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