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Sabarimala controversy: Pinarayi Vijayan responds to Amit Shah's Gulag comment; claims BJP, RSS using pilgrims as 'scapegoats'

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan lashed out at the BJP and right-wing outfits, accusing them of exploiting the Sabarimala issue for their "political gains" and trying to 'capture' and take control of the hill-top shrine. 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".

On Tuesday, BJP president Amit Shah accused the Kerala government of treating pilgrims as 'Gulag inmates'. In the continued stand-off over the entry of menstrual age women to Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala after the Supreme Court lifted the ban, Shah had slammed the CPI(M)-led government's handling of the situation as "disappointing" and accused it of making pilgrims spend nights next to "pig droppings".

Vijayan tweeted a response to Shah's accusations, saying that Shah's tweets on the issue were "unfounded and misleading". He added, "The pilgrimage is going smoothly. Pilgrims too have expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made. The people affected by the arrangements are the Sangh Parivar elements, who are bent on formenting trouble."

Vijayan also defended the arrest of 69 people from the temple complex on Sunday night and slammed the Congress for opposing implementation of the Supreme Court order. He alleged the RSS and Congress "have become one" on the Sabarimala issue.

The chief minister asserted that Sabarimala would not be allowed to be transformed into a "centre of violence" and his government "will not compromise" with those perpetrating violence in the temple complex. He alleged Sangh Parivar was "exploiting Sabarimala in the name of faith" and trying to take control of the temple. "All protection would be given to the pilgrims visiting the shrine for darshan," Vijayan said.

Targeting the main opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front, he said the Congress' national leadership wanted the Supreme Court verdict to be implemented, but the state unit had a different take.

"Ramesh Chennithala (leader of the opposition in the state assembly) has changed his stance multiple times which ultimately helped the Sangh Parivar politics," Vijayan said.

Defending the police action on Sunday night arresting 69 devotees from 'Sannidhanam' (the main temple complex), the chief minister said "conscious efforts" were made by some people to stay back there even after the customary closing song "Harivarasanam" and despite prohibitory orders.

File image of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

File image of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

"Most of them have not come to the temple through the normal route but preferred the forest path evading checking. Conscious efforts were made by some people to stay back at Sannidhanam even after 'Harivarasanam'," the chief minister said.

"Their specific plan is to gain full control of Sabarimala," Vijayan charged and named six Sangh Parivar office bearers whom he alleged posed as devotees to create problems at Sabarimala on Sunday night.

The chief minister also referred to a BJP circular through which, he said, it had planned to deploy its cadre in an organised manner at Sabarimala to ensure that no young women would enter the shrine on the strength of the 28 September court verdict.

"As per the circular of the BJP, they would be sending the "karsevaks" with a hidden agenda to capture and take control of Sabarimala," Vijayan alleged.

He also pointed to statements reportedly made by BJP state chief PS Sreedharan Pillai, including that the Sabarimala issue was an "opportunity for the Sangh parivar" and the saffron party and their agitation was "not against women's entry" but against the Communist party.

"Pillai has made it clear earlier itself that Sabarimala issue was a good opportunity for the Sangh parivar," Vijayan alleged.

Alleging that the Sangh Parivar has a "doctorate in peddling fake news", Vijayan said it has unleashed "fake campaign" against the state maligning its image.

Shah had made the accusation against the Kerala government in a series of tweets on Tuesday. He said, "If several reports of flushing resting places for devotees and them having to spend nights next to pig droppings and dustbin are true, then Pinarayi Vijayan must realize that he can't treat Ayyappa devotees like inmates of Gulag. We won't let LDF crush people's faith with impunity." Gulag was a system of forced labour camps established during Joseph Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union.

Shah's comments underlined his party's support to devotees protesting against the state government's move to implement the apex court order that allowed the entry of women of all groups to the temple.

Shah said the way the way Vijayan's government is handling the sensitive issue of Sabarimala is disappointing as the "Kerala police is treating young girls, mothers and aged inhumanly, forcing them to take the arduous pilgrimage, without even basic facilities like food, water, shelter and clean toilets".

"If Pinarayi Vijayan thinks he can rise against people's movement to preserve Sabarimala by arresting K Surendran, BJP's Thrissur district president and six others, then he is mistaken," Shah said.

With inputs from PTI


Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 13:15 PM

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