Sabarimala standoff: BJP leader remanded; protests

Sabarimala standoff: BJP leader remanded; protests

BJP's Kerala state general secretary K Surendran being taken into preventive detention near Sabarimala by the state police when he came to visit Sabarimala, Saturday. Nov 17, 2018. (PTI Photo)

BJP on Sunday took to the streets protesting the arrest of its general secretary K Surendran, who has been remanded to 14 days in jail, though the Mandala Pooja-Magaravilakku annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala continued to be peaceful.

Surendran, who arrived at the Nilackel base camp on Saturday evening carrying the traditional ‘irumudiketu (bag containing offerings to Lord Ayyappa), was detained after he refused to pay heed to police’s advice to back off from there since his presence at Sabarimala would lead to “law and order” problems.

As Surendran stood his ground that he will not leave Sabarimala without offering prayers before Lord Ayyappa, police arrested him late on Saturday and brought to Pathanamthitta, 45 km from Nilackel, and produced before district magistrate who denied him bail. The BJP leader was sent to 14 days judicial custody.

Though Surendran’s detention led to tense moments in Nilackel, the base camp where devotees have to park their private vehicles and take KSRTC buses to Pamba before trekking the 4-km traditional path, it did not affect the movement of pilgrims.

Thousands of devotees from across South India continued to throng Sabarimala to offer prayers at Sabarimala in the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam. The temple that opened its doors to pilgrims on Friday evening will be open till December 27 and will reopen on December 30 after a brief hiatus. From December 30 to January 20, the temple will be open for the grand Magaravilakku which will take place on January 14.

Police said they would continue with the preventive detention of politicians who try to enter Sabarimala as prohibitory orders were in force in and around Sabarimala. Sabarimala has been turned into a virtual fortress due to fear of protests against the entry of menstruating women into the temple in line with a Supreme Court order.  

As Surendran was taken to Kottarakara sub-jail, the BJP took to streets protesting against the “high-handedness” of the CPM Government in Kerala. The state BJP unit has said it will bring Surendran’s arrest to the attention of the Union Home Ministry. The party cadre blocked roads across Kerala on Sunday morning.

Before he was taken to jail, Surendran said he will deal with the police action against him both legally and politically.

‘The police arrested me and manhandled me. What was the need to force me into a vehicle at 3 am? Why is the CPM taking revenge on me? I am ready to spend my entire life in jail for Lord Ayyappa,” he told reporters.

Saffron organisations had called for a statewide hartal (bandh) on Saturday after the police arrested another Sangh Parivar leader K P Sasikala.