The Kerala Police on Friday refuted allegations that an Ayyappa devotee whose body was found in a forest in Pathanamthitta district was killed in police action against those who protested the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple.
Shivdas, a 60-year-old resident of Pandalam, was found dead in a forest area in Pathanamthitta district’s Laha on Thursday, ANI reported. The Bharatiya Janata Party called for a 12-hour strike in Pathanamthitta district after the man’s body was found. The BJP alleged that Shivadas died due to police brutality during the protests, reported The Indian Express.
The police, in a Facebook post, said that claims of the devotee dying in the police operation were fake. Police said they had received a complaint on October 18 from the man’s relatives that he was missing. The relatives later told police that he had called them on October 19.
The Kerala Police said they acted against protestors at Nilakkal, an entry point to the hill shrine, on October 16 and October 17. “The person’s body was found in Laha, which is 16 km away from Nilakkal,” police said. “His moped was found near the place of his death. If he ran away fearing police action, how could his moped be found there? Those who circulate fake news are trying to create riots in the society. The police will take legal actions against those who spread fake news through social media,” the post said.
The Supreme Court in September passed an order allowing women of all ages entry into the temple. When the temple opened for rituals for five days in October, protestors gathered in Nilakkal and Pamba to stop women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the shrine. Almost a dozen women tried to enter the temple during this period but were stopped by protestors.
The police arrested over 3,557 people and registered 531 cases in connection with the violence during the five days. At least 400 people who took part in the protests are yet to be arrested and another 350 are said to be absconding.
Several religious outfits have been protesting against the court’s order. State units of the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party have also opposed the Supreme Court order. The state government had said it would implement the order, but was unable to do so.
The temple is set to open for a day on November 5 for rituals. Around 700 police officers will be deployed at Sabarimala.