A protest march staged by the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday over Sabarimala row turned violent when protestors hurled stones at the police in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, PTI reported. Police resorted to firing water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protestors.

The BJP has now called for a hartal in the capital from 6 am to 6 pm on Tuesday to protest against the “violence unleashed” by police against its workers, reported Manorama Online.

On Monday, a group of 400 BJP protestors, including Yuva Morcha members, staged a march to the Kerala Secretariat to protest against the state government’s handling of the entry of women of menstruating age into the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala, reported The News Minute.

The protest also called for government intervention to end the hunger strike of BJP leader AN Radhakrishnan’s outside the Secretariat. The hungers strike was launched on December 3 demanding that prohibitory orders in areas around the temple be withdrawn and the alleged mistreatment of BJP leaders in Kerala. The police shifted Radhakrishnan to a hospital on Monday.

The protestors allegedly engaged in a verbal spat with police and hurled stones at police deployed at the Secretariat. The protestors led by General Secretary Shobha Surendran and Thiruvananthapuram District President S Suresh laid siege on the road and raised slogans, PTI reported. BJP workers took out marches in Kottayam, Kochi and Kozhikode, but were stopped by police.

Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam, who visited Radhakrishnan on Monday, said the state government should withdraw prohibitory orders imposed in Sabarimala and the “false cases” foisted against BJP workers over the protests.

“Why should Section 144 be imposed in Sabarimala?” asked Kannanthanam. “It is stated that devotees are chanting “nama japam” [chanting of Ayyappa mantras]. Is it a criminal activity?”

The United Democratic Front led by the Congress also took out a march demanding that the government intervene and end the indefinite protests by its three legislators - VS Sivakumar, Parackal Abdulla and M Jayaraj over the prohibitory orders imposed Sabarimala.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Assembly was adjourned on Monday after Opposition members staged a protest demanding the withdrawal of prohibitory orders in Sabarimala.

Prohibitory orders in Sabarimala

The Kerala Police had imposed restrictions at the Sabarimala temple and nearby areas after repeated incidents of violence at the temple. Several organisations have appealed in court against the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which prohibits four or more people from gathering in one place. The Kerala High Court, while hearing the petitions, had said pilgrims could not be stopped from moving in groups or chanting and singing songs near the temple but said it would not interfere with the restrictions for now.

The temple opened on November 16 for the third time since the Supreme Court in September allowed women of all ages to enter the shrine. But so far, no woman between the ages of 10 and 50 has been able to enter the temple due to massive protests. Before the top court’s September 28 ruling, women of menstruating age were not permitted to enter the temple.