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Sabarimala temple updates: Hartal turns violent as Sangh Parivar, BJP workers reck 32 KSRTC buses, threaten motorists

Sabarimala temple updates: Right-wing groups as well as BJP workers posing as Sabarimala pilgrims threw stones at passers-by, police pickets, and private cars at Pathanamthitta, Mancheri in Malappuram district, Palakkad, and Sasthamkottai in Kerala's Kollam district. Government vehicles, public transport buses were also thrashed, including 32 KSRTC buses.

FP Staff October 18, 2018 14:17:22 IST
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Sabarimala temple updates: Hartal turns violent as Sangh Parivar, BJP workers reck 32 KSRTC buses, threaten motorists

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LIVE NEWS and UPDATES

Oct 18, 2018 - 14:35 (IST)

Activist Rahul Easwar calls for peaceful protests to continue

Activist Rahul Easwar, who was detained by Kerala Police on Wednesday, released a statement after he was arrested. Claiming that the 20 people arrested with him were framed, and called for peaceful protests to continue.

Translation: Twenty of us have been arrested and are now being taken to Kottarakara sub-jail on judicial remand. The government is purposely doing this. We have been framed and the plan is to put us behind bars to ensure the protest ends. It is around 3 am in the morning and till now we have not been given any food to eat. This could well be my last message for a long time to come. I only want to say that we should continue our peaceful protest. There should NOT be any violence at any cost. We should only follow the Gandhian methods. No one should resort to abuse or physical violence at any cost. That will only diminish the importance of Lord Ayyappa and bring a blot on our fight for justice. Let us hope that after the Supreme Court reopens this case 22nd, we will get justice.

Oct 18, 2018 - 14:13 (IST)

Hartal takes violent turn, 32 KSRTC buses thrashed

A senior official told The Hindu that right-wing groups as well as BJP workers posing as Sabarimala pilgrims threw stones at passers-by, police pickets, and private cars at Pathanamthitta, Mancheri in Malappuram district, Palakkad, and Sasthamkottai in Kerala's Kollam district. Government vehicles, public transport buses were also thrashed, including 32 KSRTC buses.

Two other KSRTC buses were destroyed by the hartal supporters at Chamravattom and Mini Pampa. A KSRTC bus driver suffered injuries in the attack.

BJP workers also targeted one Tamil Nadu bus at Pathanamthitta.

Additionally, two policemen were injured at Tanur after being pelted with stoned. A police force has been deployed in the area following the incident.

Oct 18, 2018 - 13:47 (IST)

Sec 144 imposed for two days, further decision yet to be taken: District Collector

Section 144 (prohibits assembly of more than 4 people in an area) has been imposed in Pampa, Nilakkal, Sannidhanam and Elavungal.

Oct 18, 2018 - 13:44 (IST)

Kerala DGP orders cyber cell to book those posting about violence on social media

The Kerala DGP has ordered cyber cell to register cases against people who are spreading hatred posts about violence ensuing in Nilakkal and Pamba on social media, ANI reported.

Oct 18, 2018 - 13:41 (IST)

RSS leader asked cadres to go to shrine disguised as pilgrims, claims Kerala minister

At a press conference at Sabarimala, Kerala temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran presented an audio message of a senior RSS leader asking the cadres to go to the temple's monthly pooja disguised as pilgrims. The audio clip urged RSS cadres not to go in groups in light of Section 144, and carry irumudi that the devotees take during the pilgrimage.

The leader also gave a mobile number for further instructions. The minister claimed that this was a call to create trouble at the hill shrine.

Oct 18, 2018 - 13:25 (IST)

 Peaceful protest goes awry after police personnel lathi-charge protestors

Where protestors were sitting on the side of the pathway leading to the Sabarimala temple and chanting Ayyappa prayers, police forces can be seen intervening in the protest and shutting it down. The protest, which was meant to be peaceful in nature, turned to chaos after police began to lathi-charge protestors and ushering them towards police vehicles.

Some of the protestors can be seen pleading the cops not to thrash them, but the cops continued on. One aged woman protestor was seen lying on the floor after the lathi charge.

Eyewitness accounts also say neither were the protestors obstructing anyone from going to temple nor they were creating any trouble.

Oct 18, 2018 - 13:04 (IST)

Kerala BJP chief says attacks on female journalists 'unfortunate'

Speaking to media, Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai said that the 300 police personnel responsible for attacks on women journalists had not yet completed their training.

Oct 18, 2018 - 12:35 (IST)

Public transport suspended, leaves many stranded at bus stands, railway stations

Public transport in Kerala kept off the roads in most districts of the state. People who came to Kerala without knowing about the hartal are now stranded in bus stands and railway stations in several places across the state.

The Ayyappa devotees who came from neighbouring states for the monthly prayers, also remained stranded in Pathanamthitta.

Oct 18, 2018 - 12:20 (IST)

Pinarayi Vijayan blames RSS for Sabarimala row

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by way of a Facebook post, blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the outbreak of violence at the temple.

"Sabarimala itself is the opposite of obstacles to a believer's journey, the RSS is spreading terror and trying to discourage them. These movements motivated by upper caste are intended to break the basic character of Sabarimala," he said in the post.

Oct 18, 2018 - 12:00 (IST)

41 BJYM volunteers arrested for staging sit-in at Nilakkal, taken to Pampa police station

Forty-one Bharaitya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers, who staged a sit-in at Nilakkal, have been arrested and removed for violating prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 imposed by the Pathanamthitta district administration.

The BJP youth wing workers made no attempt to resist the arrests. They courted arrest and boarded the police vehicle chanting Ayyappa slogans. They were later taken to the Pampa police station.

Sabarimala temple updates: A senior official told The Hindu that right-wing groups as well as BJP workers posing as Sabarimala pilgrims threw stones at passers-by, police pickets, and private cars at Pathanamthitta, Mancheri in Malappuram district, Palakkad, and Sasthamkottai in Kerala's Kollam district. Government vehicles, public transport buses were also thrashed, including 32 KSRTC buses.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by way of a Facebook post, blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the outbreak of violence at the temple.

"Sabarimala itself is the opposite of obstacles to a believer's journey, the RSS is spreading terror and trying to discourage them. These movements motivated by upper caste are intended to break the basic character of Sabarimala," he said in the post.

The 41 selected Bharathiya Janata Yuyva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers, who staged a sit-in at Nilakkal, in violation of CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly) imposed in many parts of the state, were arrested.

The BJP youth wing workers made no attempt to resist the arrests. They courted arrest and boarded the police vehicle chanting Ayyappa slogans. They were later taken to the Pampa police station.

Kerala BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai said 41-selected Bharathiya Janata Yuyva Morcha (BJYM) volunteers will stage a sit-in at Nilackal, in violation of CrPC Section 144 (unlawful assembly) imposed in many parts of the state earlier on Thursday. He said that the party had selected 41 people to ensure that outsiders did not infiltrate into the protest and create trouble.

He said that the party will also conduct prayer meetings at Nilakkal in protest against of the Supreme Court order by the government until the temple is closed after the monthly pooja on 22 October.

Journalist Suhasini Raj from the New York Times, on her way to the Sabarimala temple, returned midway after being stopped by protesters. Police sources were quoted as saying, "when she reached Marakoottam, she decided to come back after seeing the crowd. Police was ready to take her."

Sabarimala thantri (chief priest) Kantararu Mohanaru has made an appeal to women between the ages of 10 and 50 not to make any attempt to visit the temple during the ongoing monthly pooja. Talking to a Malayalam news channel, he said that the ritual will be marred if the women from the banned group entered the temple.

Sabarimala temple updates Hartal turns violent as Sangh Parivar BJP workers reck 32 KSRTC buses threaten motorists

Police lathi-charge on protestors after they opposed the entry of girls and women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple. PTI

Journalist Suhasini Raj has abandoned her journey and is returning from Marakkoottam to Pampa. Asianet quoted Suhasini as saying that "she did not want to create trouble" and is thus abandoning her trek to the shrine. Raj was stopped at Marakoottam, 1 kilometre from the Ayyappa shrine. She is now returning to the base camp at Pampa. Marakoottam is almost 3/4th the way up but as the protestors created a human wall making it difficult for her to proceed, she had to return. A huge force of police, including commandos, is escorting Raj as she heads back to the Pampa base camp. 

"We don't want anyone to get hurt here. So we are returning back to Pampa", Suhasini Raj told Asianet News .

Amid violent protests, the doors of Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened on Wednesday for the first time since the Supreme Court lifted the centuries-old ban on entry of women of menstrual age but by available indications, none from this age group made it to the famed hilltop shrine.

Women journalists were heckled, their vehicles smashed and young female Ayyappa devotees turned back as hordes of activists of Hindu fringe groups besieged the road leading to the temple, abode to Lord Ayyappa, its eternally celibate deity, officials said. Chaos and mayhem on the road leading from Nilakkal, the gateway to the shrine, 20 km away, to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees start the arduous 6-km trek to Sabarimala reigned supreme, as activists of fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.

The Pathanamthitta district authorities promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC banning assembly of four or more people in strife-torn Pamba and Nilakkal following the violence and a strike called by right-wing outfits on Thursday.

Activist Rahul Easwar, a front-ranking leader of the protesters and votary of the continuance of the tradition barring girls and women between 10 and 50 years from entering the temple, a custom which the Supreme Court overturned on September 28, was arrested at Pamba. Incensed over Kerala's Left Front government's decision not to file a review plea against the Supreme Court verdict, protesters pelted police with stones and the latter hit right back with vengeance wielding batons with telling effect, leaving many fallen and writhing in pain on the road. Several protesters were seen being bundled into police vehicles, while siren blaring ambulances carried some to hospitals.

Simmering tension prevailing in Nilakkal since morning erupted into raucous rowdyism as scores of activists of fringe groups heckled women journalists of at least four national TV channels and vandalised their vehicles. Protesters wearing black and saffron turbans chased their cars, violently pounding and kicking the vehicles in a bid to stop them from proceeding to Pamba from Nilakkal on way to Sabarimala. At least 10 people from the media, including reporters and photojournalists, were injured and equipment of several of them damaged, senior minister EP Jayarajan said. Denouncing the attacks on media, he said cases were being registered against the suspects under sections relating to non-bailable offenses.

Unfazed by the unfolding violence, Madhavi, a gutsy woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to trek the Sabarimala hills to reach the Lord Ayyappa temple but was forced to return to Pamba, menaced by agitated male devotees. Liby, a woman from Kerala's Alappuzha, also in the 10-50 year age group, was prevented from proceeding to Sabarimala at Pathanamthitta bus terminal. She was escorted to safety by police.

Both the Congress, the main opposition party in Kerala, and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict. State Congress working president K Sudhakaran led his party workers in a protest at Nilakkal to express solidarity with Ayyappa devotees. An embattled Left Front government reacted sharply to the protests, with the state's religious trusts minister Kadakampally Surendran calling them "politically motivated". Surendran, who reviewed the situation and preparations for the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku-festival beginning November 17 at Sannidhanam (Sabarimala temple complex), said the government would tackle the agitation politically. "The BJP-RSS are trying to create tension and destroy the peaceful atmosphere in Kerala for political gain. We know the agenda of the RSS and BJP very well," he said and insisted the government did not want any confrontation with believers. The BJP rejected the allegation, saying the government was responsible for the "collapse" of law and order.

Even as streets in Nilakkal and Pamba erupted in tumult, thousands of bare-chested Ayyappa devotees waited patiently in the vast concourse outside Sabarimala for its gates to open at the appointed hour — 5 pm. Carrying "Irumudikettu" (the sacred bundle containing ghee-filled coconuts they offer to the deity), they calmly walked past security personnel to take their place in the long queue where they would wait for hours on end for a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa. Though older women and very young girls could be seen in the crowd, none of the menstrual age was spotted. "No girl or woman in the age group of 10 and 50 has so far visited Sannidhanam (the temple complex) so far," a senior official of the Travancore Devaswom Board, the body which manages the shrine, told PTI wishing not to be named.

The shrine will remain open for the 5-day monthly pooja during the Malayalam month of Thulam before being closed on 22 October. 'Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad' led by Pravin Togadia and the 'Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi', an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal starting midnight.

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