The general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala, K Surendran, on Sunday was remanded to 14-day judicial custody, a day after he was taken into preventive custody for trying to proceed to the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, PTI reported.
The police took Surendran into preventive custody on Saturday from Nilakkal and charged him under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 353, for using criminal force to deter a public servant from doing his or her duty.
Surendran and two other BJP workers were heading towards Pamba in Sabarimala. The police told them they would not be allowed inside the temple as they might organise protests, The News Minute reported.
“You cannot prevent me from going to the Sabarimala temple, as I have already registered for pujas,” Surendran told the police, according to IANS. “You can stop me only if you open fire and you are free to do so.”
The police took the BJP leaders into custody as they insisted on going ahead with their journey. Surendran alleged that the police assaulted him and he was denied food, water and medicines. The police’s action was politically motivated, he alleged.
Surendran, who spent the night at Chittar police station, was produced in the Pathanamthitta judicial first class magistrate on Sunday. The magistrate remanded him to 14-day judicial custody and sent him to the Kottarakkara sub-jail, Mathrubhumi reported. “I am willing to spend an entire lifetime in jail to protect the customs and traditions,” he told reporters while being taken away. “The arrest on non-bailable offences is a political move of the CPM [Communist Party of India (Marxist)].”
The BJP declared Sunday as a day of protest in the state. State BJP President PS Sreedharan Pillai told reporters that Kerala was under “jungle raj”. “Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is arrogant and is behaving in an irrational manner,” IANS quoted police as saying. “The present impasse in the state over the Sabarimala issue is his creation. We will strongly resist.”
Protestors blocked roads and highways in many parts of the state, reported NDTV. Around 150 BJP workers blocked roads in Tiruvalla, about 90 km from Sabarimala. Traffic was also blocked in Kochi, Thrissur, Palakkad and Kasargod districts, and in front of the Kottarakara sub-jail, PTI reported.
Finance Minister Thomas Isaac questioned the BJP’s call for hartal. “Will a party with iota of consideration for the plight of devotees call for a hartal?” he tweeted on Saturday. “BJP has become hartal party of Kerala with record of 38 hartals -regional and state wide- last year.”
The state observed a shutdown on Saturday following the arrest of Hindu Aikya Vedi state president KP Sasikala who attempted to enter the temple. Police claimed that Sasikala wanted to incite protests at the site. But she said she wanted to make the pilgrimage as she was above the age of 50.
The temple opened on Friday evening for the third time after the Supreme Court in September allowed women of all ages to enter the temple. However, so far, no woman between the ages of 10 and 50 has been given entry into the temple due to massive protests. According to the police’s new rules that came into effect from Friday, no pilgrim will be allowed to proceed to the temple after 7 pm as the temple closes for the day at 10 pm.