The Kerala Police on Friday said it has arrested 2,061 people in connection with last week’s violence that broke out against the Supreme Court judgment permitting the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, ANI reported. The police said it has registered 452 cases so far.
Before the judgment, women between the menstruating ages of 10 and 50 were barred from entering the temple as the deity’s devotees believe he is an eternal celibate.
On October 17, the temple opened to the public for the first time since the court’s order. Protestors gathered near the shrine prevented women aged between 10 and 50 from entering its premises. The shrine closed on October 22 after the monthly rituals were completed, but not a single woman of menstruating age was able to enter it. Earlier this week, the police had earlier arrested 1,400 people in connection with the protests.
“We have identified several others and more arrests will be made,” said Director General of Police Loknath Behera. “We will do what must lawfully be done. We are taking suggestions from a police committee on how to provide protection to women. We will discuss it with government as well. Discussions are going on, but we haven’t yet come to a conclusion.”
The charges against the suspects are attacking police officers, violating the Supreme Court order, violating prohibitory orders and vandalising government property, The Hindu reported. A number of cases pertained to incidents of violence and destruction of public property on October 18, when several Hindutva organisations had called for a general strike. Mob violence was reported from Pathanamthitta, Palakkad, Malappuram and Kollam, the newspaper added.
Kerala’s influential Nair Service Society called the police action against Ayyappa devotees “unethical and anti-democratic”. “The government is taking action against devotees by creating an emergency kind of situation in the state,” the outfit’s general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said in a statement, PTI reported.
Nair Service Society has filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a review of its order. It called for a peaceful protest across the state on October 31.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Kerala government is committed to implementing the Supreme Court order but some forces with vested interests were trying to instigate the devotees in order to divide the society. He said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress had earlier supported women’s entry into the temple, but later backtracked.
“They went to the extent of claiming that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over matter of rituals,” he told The Indian Express in an interview. “It is obvious that both BJP and RSS want political capital out of it, and are instigating devotees. Their only intention is to polarise the society for a few votes.”