BJP leader K Surendran, who was taken into custody last week and 71 others who were arrested at Nilakkal for moving towards Sabarimala temple, were granted bail by a Thiruvalla court in Kerala, ANI reported.
While 69 of them were arrested on Sunday night from the temple premises, Surendran and two others were arrested on Saturday night. The court granted bail to the accused upon their furnishing two securities each, and ordered them not to enter the Ranni taluk. This means that none of them will be able to return to Sabarimala, reported IANS.
Surendran was taken into preventive custody on 16 November from Nilakkal base camp, as he tried to leave for the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala. He was told by a police team led by Superintendent of Police Yatish Chandra not to proceed to the shrine as it would create law and order problems. However, the BJP leader claimed that he had come as a "Ayyappa bhakth" (devotee) and should be allowed to pray at the temple.
The Sabarimala temple reopened on 15 November for a 62-day long Mandala Pooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage season. The police said over 70 pilgrims were arrested since the night of 18 November from the temple after they failed to comply to prohibitory orders, which also spurred protests in Sabarimala and across Kerala.
While angry Hindu activists took to streets, raised slogans and held prayer sessions in front of police stations across the state, Union minister KJ Alphons criticised the state government for the 'crackdown' on the devotees.
As news spread about the arrests, in Thiruvanathapuram protesters assembled near Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's residence and shouted slogans.
The situation grew tense late Sunday when over 200 pilgrims did not vacate the temple premise after 10 pm, as ordered by the state administration and stayed put, singing Lord Ayyappa hymns. As they continued the sit-in despite repeated requests from the police, action was initiated to forcefully evict them from the premises. This led to 72 arrests post-midnight.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Pinarayi Vijayan slammed the Sangh Parivar-led forces and the Congress in Kerala for turning Sabarimala into a "battlefield". These comments were in response to Amit Shah's criticism of the government in its handling of the Sabarimala issue. In his remarks, Vijayan alleged that the Sangh Parivar's agenda was to create trouble by sending "kar sevaks" to take control of the temple and making the pilgrims "scapegoats". Earlier the same day, BJP president Amit Shah accused the Kerala government of treating pilgrims as 'Gulag inmates'.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 18:42 PM