The Kerala Police took eight people into preventive custody from the Sabrimala temple complex on Tuesday night on a tip-off that they were planning to create trouble, PTI reported. They were taken to the Pamba police station, which is four km downhill, after they offered prayers at the shrine.
“Two of the detainees have criminal cases registered against them at local police stations,” said an unidentified police official. “They were taken into custody based on intelligence report.” According to Mathrubhumi, the eight are members of the Bharatiya Janata Party who had arrived at the hill shrine following the party’s instructions to its district units.
BJP parliamentarians V Muraleedharan and Nalin Kateel staged a protest in front of the Sannidhanam police station, Manorama Online reported. They withdrew their protest after the police assured them that the eight would be released soon.
At a press conference in state capital Thiruvananthapuram, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan accused the BJP and right-wing groups of exploiting the situation for political gains” and attempting to capture the hill shrine, PTI reported. Earlier in the day, BJP President Amit Shah had said Vijayan’s handling of the Sabarimala protests was disappointing and that the chief minister cannot treat devotees like “inmates of Gulag”.
Vijayan said he would not allow Sabarimala to be turned into a “centre of violence” and added that his government “will not compromise” with those perpetrating violence. The chief minister also accused the state Congress leadership of helping the Sangh Parivar’s politics.
Earlier in the day, several workers of the Congress-led United Democratic Front were detained for some time for protesting in Nilakkal, a place where Ayyappa devotees halt during their pilgrimage to the shrine. The Congress workers were demanding the withdrawal of prohibitory orders. The leaders of the alliance, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Ramesh Chennithala and Indian Union Muslim League leaders MK Muneer and NK Premachandran, participated in the protests. They gave up their plan to visit the shrine a few hours later, saying they did not want to disturb the pilgrims, PTI reported.
The police said a case had been filed against 100 “identifiable” people, including the alliance leaders, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 147 (rioting).
Meanwhile, a number of devotees in Erumeli, about 50 km from the shrine, started protesting following rumours that a young couple from Andhra Pradesh on a Sabarimala-bound bus were on their way to the temple, PTI reported. They calmed down after the couple told them they were not going to the temple and were on their way to Chengannur in Alappuzha district.