A dawn-to-dusk strike was called in Kerala on Thursday in protest against the entry of two women of menstruating age to the Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala the day before.
The protests turned violent and left one person dead and scores injured, Malayala Manorama reported. The strike was organised by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, a platform created by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The police were forced to resort to baton-charging in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Kasargodez.
7.10 pm: Police personnel and protestors clash in Nedumangad, Manorama Online reports.
6.58 pm: A Kerala High Court-appointed commission says the state’s decision to grant special police protection to women in menstrual age to enter the temple would adversely affect the rights and safety of other devotees, PTI reports. The panel’s report says the security arrangements led to long queues outside the temple.
6.53 pm: Kerala Governor Palanisamy Sathasivam asks Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to submit a report on the law and order situation following the incidents of violence and destruction of private and public property, ANI reports. Sathasivam appeals for peace.
6.28 pm: Protestors hurl bomb at the Nedumangad police station, Mathrubhumi reports.
6.20 pm: The Supreme Court has refused to urgently hear a contempt petition moved by two women against the chief priest of the hill shrine and its authorities for closing the temple for “purification rituals” after two females of menstruating age group entered it on Wednesday.
6.15 pm: United Democratic Front convenor Benny Behanan says Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s decision to allow women of menstruating age to enter the temple has “undermined the sentiments” of the Ayyappa devotees. “The law-and-order situation in the state would not have collapsed had the chief minister shown maturity in handling the Sabarimala issue,” Behanan says.
6.10 pm: Kerala Police has arrested at least 266 persons and taken 334 in precautionary detention in connection with the attacks during the strike called by various organisations, ANI reports.
5.48 pm: A postmortem report indicates Sabarimala Karma Samiti worker Chandran Unnithan, who died on Wednesday, succumbed to injuries to his head, Manorama Online reports.
5.46 pm: The police use tear gas and lathi charge Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers who clashed in Palakkad, Manorama Online reports.
5.45 pm: Youth Congress Workers protest outside the inspector general’s office against the entry of the two women who entered the shrine, ANI reports.
4.40 pm: The All India Democratic Women’s Association has objected to the “purification rituals” carried out by priests after the two women of menstruating age visited the temple, reports PTI. The organisation said the rituals were demeaning as they project women as impure and unclean. “It is also a clear violation of the Supreme Court verdict,” the AIDWA added.
4.16 pm: Sixty workers of Tamil Nadu-based Hindutva outfit Hindu Makkal Katchi have been arrested for trying to disrupt the movement of trains at a railway station in Coimbatore, reports PTI.
3.10 pm: Two Youth Congress workers have been injured after being hit by a police vehicle escorting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. They were trying to wave black flags at him.
3.06 pm: The Kottayam and Kozhikode district units of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists have decided to boycott press meetings of Sangh Parivar leaders in protest against the continuing attacks on mediapersons.
Several journalists stopped covering the BJP-RSS protest march after attacks on media personnel in Thiruvananthapuram.
1.46 pm: BJP leader V Muraleedharan claims the two women who entered the temple were “Maoists”. “Yesterday, two women entered the Sabarimala temple,” he says. “They were not devotees. They were Maoists, Naxals.”
1.40 pm: Three BJP activists were stabbed at Vadanapally in Thrissur, according to Online Manorama. Several vehicles and shops were vandalised, with protestors attacking police personnel and journalists.
Stones have been thrown at buses in Kasargod, Palakkad, Kozhikode and other places.
12.45 pm: Vijayan says 38 policemen were among the 100 people injured in clashes on Thursday, the Hindustan Times reports. “Many party offices and houses were attacked throughout the state,” he adds. The chief minister also says that the Sabarimala Karma Samiti worker who died on Wednesday succumbed to a heart attack.
12.40 pm: “We’re observing ‘black day’ in Kerala today,” Congress MP Suresh says according to ANI. “The state government is challenging the sentiments of the devotees of Sabarimala.” He too claims that the women who visited the shrine on Wednesday were Maoists.
12.31 pm: Protestors vandalise five shops opposing the hartal in Kozhikode’s SM Street, Mathrubhumi reports. The police use batons to disperse the mob, and arrest many protestors. One person has been injured.
12.11 pm: Vijayan says it is “exemplary” that traders have chosen not to participate in the hartal, The Hindu reports. He says police protection will be provided to all the traders who want to keep their shops open.
11.55 am: The Supreme Court rejects an urgent hearing on a contempt petition moved by a lawyers’ group against Sabarimala temple authorities for closing the shrine on Wednesday for purification, reports PTI. A bench says the contempt petition will be heard along with review petitions, which will come up for hearing on January 22.
11.50 am: Vijayan says Thursday’s shutdown is the fifth state-wide strike organised by the Sangh Parivar. “Hartal should be the last resort of the political parties,” he says. “But [the] BJP is calling for hartal at the drop of a hat.”
The chief minister says 31 police and media were injured in the violence that erupted on Wednesday, while 79 state-run buses were damaged. Several women were attacked and offices of CPI(M) and CPI were attacked across the state.
11.47 am: Vijayan says the violence on Wednesday started hours after the two women offered prayers at the temple. “This showed that it was not an organic protest,” he says. “It was a pre-planned one. Sangh Parivar leader had asked cadres to create violence.”
11.44 am: “It is the prerogative of the Devaswom Board to decide whether to open or close the temple,” says Vijayan during a press conference. “So the thantri’s [chief priest] action violated the Devaswom Board manual too. The board should look into it.”
11.43 am: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan says the temple’s chief priest should relinquish the post as he failed to obey the Supreme Court’s ruling. Vijayan says the chief priest has violated the court’s order by closing the temple for purification.
11.22 am: “What the government did is a constitutional obligation. The Sangh parivar is trying to fan trouble in the state,” says Vijayan, Hindustan Times reports. He says the state will deal with those causing violence sternly, and that “real Ayyappa devotees” are not against the Supreme Court verdict.
11.20 am: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has accused the RSS and BJP of turning Kerala into a war zone as protests continue, News18 reports.
10.42 am: Four MPs – NK Premachandran, KC Venugopal, Suresh Kodikunnil, and PK Kunhalikutty – have given an adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha to raise the matter of women “violating” the traditions of the temple. It is not yet clear which party the legislators belong to.
10.38 am: BJP MP Udit Raj, however, has come out in support of the women who entered the shrine. “In my personal capacity...I am very happy that they have succeeded,” he told News18 on Wednesday. Raj is the first BJP MP to publicly back the entry of women of menstruating age into Sabarimala.
10.35 pm: Rajya Sabha BJP MP from Kerala V Muraleedharan claims the women who visited Sabarimala on Wednesday were not devotees but Maoists, ANI reports. “This is a planned conspiracy by Maoists in league with the Kerala government and the Communist Party of India [Marxist],” he adds.
10.25 am: The police have detained two people in connection with violence and stone-pelting at Pandalam on Wednesday, the Hindustan Times reports.
10.16 am: At least six people injured as BJP and Democratic Youth Foundation of India activists clash in Pallikal and Kottathala, Mathrubhumi reports.
10 am: Stones have been pelted at Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation buses in Kottathala area of Kollam district in Kerala, Mathrubhumi reports. However, the police have agreed to provide security to the buses if the service is restarted.
8.58 am: BJP’s Kerala chief PS Sreedharan Pillai says the “Stalinist administration” in the state has trampled believers, reports Hindustan Times. “A bunch of atheists stifling age old customs,” he says.
8.46 am: A member of Sabarimala Karma Samithi, who was injured in clashes on Wednesday, dies in hospital, reports NDTV. Chandran Unnithan, 55, suffered injuries during clashes between workers of CPI(M) and the BJP in Pandalam town.
8.39 am: Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation suspends services across Kerala after protestors hurl stones, reports The Indian Express. Authorities say over 60 buses have been attacked so far.
8.26 am: Unidentified people attack a Kerala Tourism Development Corporation hotel in Chennai on Wednesday, reports PTI. The attack is suspected to to be a fallout of the women entering the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday.
8.17 am: Police arrest five people in Kannur in connection with violence and two people in Aluva for blocking traffic, reports The Indian Express.
Protestors hurl stones at state-run buses in Kozhikode district’s Perambra.
8.04 am: The All-Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti, a traders’ association, says it will not support the strike and that shops will remain open, reports Mathrubhumi.
7.57 am: Kerala Director General of Police Lokanath Behera directs district police chiefs to take action against those who attack or block people during the course of the strike.
7.45 am: The United Democratic Front, which includes the Congress, is observing a “black day” in the state on Thursday, ANI reports. The Bharatiya Janata Party has called for a two-day protest in the state, while the Hindu Aikya Vedi has also called for a hartal on Thursday.
7.35 am: A dawn-to-dusk strike organised by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, a platform created by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, begins in Kerala.