A 46-year-old man who set himself on fire in front of a protest venue in Thiruvananthapuram around 2 am on Thursday succumbed to his injuries.
The man, identified as Venugopalan Nair, allegedly chanted the mantra “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” before he poured petrol on himself, set himself ablaze and ran to a tent where a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader was staging an indefinite fast in connection with the Sabarimala temple row, PTI reported. Nair claimed to be a BJP worker, but other party workers at the venue claimed they did not know him, Jijin G Chacko, sub-inspector at Cantonment police station, told Scroll.in. According to PTI, Nair is an Ayyappa devotee.
Kerala BJP leader CK Padmanabhan has been on a fast in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram demanding that the prohibitory orders be lifted from Sabarimala and nearby areas.
The BJP has called for a statewide shutdown on Friday alleging that the chief minister was responsible for Nair’s death, ANI reported.
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 prohibitory orders have been extended till December 16.
The temple had 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.
Chacko added that the police suspected Nair committed suicide due to “family issues”, and not in connection with the Sabarimala temple controversy.