Pinarayi Vijayan says BJP planned Sabarimala protests; party dismisses claim and aims to intensify agitation

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday alleged that the state BJP unit had planned the violence at Sabarimala in an attempt to "capture" the hill shrine and had issued a circular with the workings of its plan. At a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram, he said that a "Kerala BJP general secretary" had signed the circular that "designated people in every area to create violence".

"When the temple opened last month, there were agitations, but we did not interfere as everyone has the right to worship. However, we all have seen how the protesters dealt with women and media. The Sangh Parivar was behind it, and they even tried to tell journalists what to report."

Vijayan's statement corroborates a report in Firstpost on Monday that a "secret" circular issued by Kerala BJP general secretary AN Radhakrishnan revealed that the protests at Sabarimala on Sunday, which led to the arrest of 72 people at the hill shrine, were part of a carefully planned operation by the saffron party to execute its political agenda in the state.

He said the Sangh Parivar "was creating trouble in Sabarimala". "The police have been dealing with the matter very peacefully. Despite facing violence, they have maintained restraint," he said, adding that the police intervened only when protesters started attacking devotees and women journalists, and that Sangh workers were trying to bypass restrictions by reaching Sabarimala through forest routes.

 Pinarayi Vijayan says BJP planned Sabarimala protests; party dismisses claim and aims to intensify agitation

File image of Kerala Police blocking protesting devotees at Sabarimala. PTI

Later on Tuesday, Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai justified the circular, saying it was routine to issues such orders to workers to participate in party activities. At a press conference at Kochi, Pillai said: "There is nothing mysterious in the plan as it is consistent with the party's decision to support Sabarimala devotees in their struggle against the attack on their religious rights and the temple's customs.

Pillai also accused the chief minister of playing up the circular "to divert people's attention from the government's agenda in Sabarimala".

Radhakrishnan, who is believed to have issued the order for the circular, was present at the press conference. He said the BJP had asked its leaders to keep the circular secret.

What did the circular say?

The circular, a copy of which Firstpost obtained, 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). They were among those who were arrested.

The operation was coordinated by BJP spokesperson, advocate JR Padmakumar, according to the circular. It listed 28 Sangh districts identified to send party activists to Sabarimala till 20 December, along with the names and phone numbers of the coordinators for each district. The coordinators were asked to fix the time and place for the workers to gather. 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.

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

Kerala Police regulating movement of 'devotees'

The police have introduced restrictions on devotees arriving at Sabarimala temple through the Pullumedu-Kananapatha route, in view of the BJP circular asking leaders to organise workers from each Sangh district every day of the pilgrimage. Officers have banned the entry of workers from Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam district, who were assigned to go to Sabarimala on Tuesday. Devotees from other districts were allowed to proceed after their photos were taken.

The Kerala Police are regulating the movement and activities of "devotees" with criminal records coming to Sabarimala. Security personnel stationed at temple entry points have started issuing notices to such people, asking them to not spend more than six hours at the hill shrine. They have also been asked to not participate in any protests, or indulge in illegal activities.

The intelligence network has made a list of people with criminal records available to security personnel, in light of the sudden protests at Sannidhanam on 18 and 19 November.

On Tuesday, Hindu Aikya Vedi president PK Sasikala was allowed to proceed to the shrine after she signed the circular. She also complied with the conditions in the circular.

BJP to intensify protests

During a meeting of Kerala BJP general secretaries in Kochi on Tuesday, the party decided to intensify the agitation at Sabarimala. Pillai said the BJP will resume the agitation at Nilakkal, demand withdrawal of the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, the "end of police raj" at the temple and restoration of the curtained rights of devotees to worship at the Ayyappa temple.

The BJP has also extended support to the protests being staged at Saannidhanam by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi. It will organise a drive to mobilise 1 crore signatures between 25 and 30 November.

Furthermore, Union Minister of State for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan will visit Sabarimala on Wednesday. Pillai said that these visits by central leaders are aimed at taking the alleged human rights violations at Sabarimala to the national level. As part of this decision, MPs V Muralidharan and Nalini Patel visited Sabarimala on Tuesday. Union Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons visited the protest location on Monday.

With inputs from TK Devasia

Updated Date: Nov 20, 2018 17:36:09 IST