Kerala tense over Sabarimala, 1,800 arrested; cops take out flag march

Violence continued in many parts of Kerala on Saturday over the entry of two women in their 40s into the Sabarimala temple even as the police have arrested more than 1800 people.

A worker of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) was stabbed in Iritti in Kannur on Friday night while party MLA AN Shamseer’s house was attacked and he alleged that the Sangh Parivar was out to vitiate the atmosphere in the state. Bombs were thrown at Bharatiya Janata Party MP V Muralidharan’s house in Thalassery.

In Kannur, which is notorious for clashes between RSS and Left workers that claimed more than 300 lives in three decades, a RSS office was set on fire early on Saturday. 18 persons were taken into preventive custody while more police deployed in restive area as intelligence warned of more trouble.

A bomb blast was reported from Perambra in Kozhikode district, while a CPI (M) worker’s house was attacked.

The sporadic incidents of violence since Friday night and early Saturday have left authorities worried. Prohibitory orders were clamped in many areas as tension mounted. Police took out a flag march in Thalassery, a sensitive area from where chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan hails.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday announced that the proposed visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the state on Sunday has been “postponed”.

Widespread violence had broken out since Thursday when a strike was called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella group of Hindu groups, and supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to protest the entry of two women – Bindu Ammini, 42, and Kanakadurga, 44 – into the temple on Wednesday.

The dawn-to-dusk shutdown brought the state to a standstill. Protesters hurled crude bombs and stones as they rampaged through the streets of Kerala, fighting pitched battles with police and political rivals, leaving scores of people injured including three BJP workers in a knife attack, officials said.

They attacked over 20 offices of the ruling CPI(M) and its other Left allies, and clashed with police, leaving at least 31 personnel injured. At least ten journalists were also attacked and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists decided to boycott the press meets called by the BJP. Journalists also staged a protest march.

At least 50 houses of workers of rival parties, primarily BJP and CPI(M), were also attacked on Thursday night. In Adoor, 40 houses were attacked.

Late on Thursday night, a 46-year-old Sri Lankan woman entered the Sabarimala temple to pray.

Sasikala was the third woman to worship at Sabarimala defying a tradition barring the entry of female devotees between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine, more than three months after the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict lifting the ban.

Sasikala entered the temple ten minutes before it was about to close at 11pm on Thursday and was accompanied by her husband. She claimed her uterus was removed after an operation so she does not come under the category of menstruating women.

Police confirmed Sasikala visited the temple and said she initially denied the report as part of a strategy to ensure her safe return. Closed-circuit television cameras also showed their presence at the temple.

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