More than 100 people, including 38 policemen, were injured on Thursday as a shutdown to protest against the Kerala government for helping two women enter the Sabarimala temple turned violent at several places in the state.
In Thrissur, four workers of the BJP were stabbed while enforcing the shutdown call by Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups, spearheading protests against the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict, and Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP).
The Bharatiya Janata Party is supporting the shutdown while the Congress-led UDF is observing a “black day” on Thursday. (Live updates)
Police in Pandalam, Kozhikode, Kasargode and Ottapalam baton charged at protesters as several party offices and houses were attacked throughout the state. In Kozhikode, police used tear gas to disperse protesters who tried to enforce the 12-hour shutdown.
New agency AFP reported journalists were assaulted in Palakkad during a march organised by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led party.
The shutdown forced the state to a standstill as shops and other small businesses were closed in many places. Most bus services were halted and taxis were refusing to take passengers as some drivers, who said they feared they could be attacked.
Various universities, including Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi, Calicut and Kannur have deferred their examinations scheduled for Thursday.
It was the first time that women aged between 10 and 50 had set foot in the gold-plated temple nestled in a tiger reserve since the Supreme Court in September last year ordered the lifting of the ban on women of menstruating age entering the hilltop shrine.
The temple has refused to abide by the ruling and subsequent attempts by women to visit it had been blocked by thousands of angry devotees.
Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga dressed in all black were escorted by police into the temple through a side gate early on Wednesday, catching the devotees off guard. The temple priests closed the shrine dedicated to the celibate Lord Ayyappa for purification rituals and protests against the women entering the temple erupted quickly.
A 55-year-old activist of the Samithi died after he was injured during a stone pelting incident in Pathanamthitta on Wednesday. Others have also been injured.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan defended helping the two women in gaining entry to the Sabarimala temple as he accused the Sangh Parivar of trying to incite trouble in the state.
Also watch: Two women below the age of 50 enter Sabarimala Temple
Vijayan said during a press conference it was his government’s constitutional obligation to help the two women and warned that troublemakers will be dealt with sternly.
“The Sangh Parivar is trying to sabotage the Supreme Court verdict. The real devotees are not against the verdict,” the chief minister said.
“Kanakadurga and Bindu were given protection after they sought security to visit the shrine. They were not airdropped. They visited shrine like normal devotees. None of the devotees protested,” he told reporters.
The BJP and held the chief minister responsible for the violence.