The Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday launched a six-day “Save Sabarimala Rath Yatra” from Kerala’s Kasargod district to “protect the traditions and rituals” of the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, PTI reported. The march will culminate at Erumeli near Sabarimala on November 13, when the Supreme Court is set to hear the review petitions against its order allowing women of all ages entry to the shrine.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa flagged off the yatra from Madhur Siddhi Vinayaka temple in Kasargod. The march is being led jointly by BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai and Bharat Dharma Jana Sena President Tushar Vellapally.

Yeddyurappa demanded that state’s Left Democratic Front government intervene immediately to end tensions at the hill shrine. The Kerala government should “apply its mind” and show seriousness to end the impasse at Sabarimala, he said.

“We are not against the SC [Supreme Court] verdict,” he said. “But sentiments of the people should be respected by one and all.” The BJP leader held the ruling LDF and Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front responsible for the current impasse.

BJP state general secretary AN Radhakrishnan said the yatra is a mark of protest against the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government which is “suppressing Ayyappa devotees with an iron fist”, The New Indian Express reported. He said the march will send a message against the use of police force on Ayyappa devotees and attempts to curtail the independence of the Devaswom Board.

Radhakrishnan accused the Left Front government of creating a “terror atmosphere” at Sabarimala by deploying thousands of police personnel. He also alleged that the ruling Communist Party India (Marxist) workers dressed as Ayyappa devotees had sparked trouble at Sabarimala, The Times of India reported.

Meanwhile, the Congress is also planning to launch yatras from Kasaragod, Alapuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, Thodupuzha and Palakkad to inform people about the “politicisation” of the Sabarimala issue by the ruling party and Hindutva groups, PTI reported. The yatras are likely to culminate on November 15 in Pathanamthitta.

“The Congress is launching five yatras in Kerala not only on the issue of Sabarimala but other central and state issues,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Legislative Assembly Ramesh Chennithala, according to India Today. “On the Sabarimala issue, we are with the devotees and their sentiments.”

The temple opened on Monday for two days of special rituals. It was the second time it had opened since the Supreme Court’s order allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. When the temple opened from October 17 to October 22, for the first time after the top court’s order, it became the site of massive protests as people prevented women aged between 10 and 50 from entering the premises. At least 15 women of menstruating age tried to enter the temple over those five days, but not one succeeded.