The police have arrested 68 people. Photo: PTI
The police have arrested 68 people. Photo: PTI

Kerala govt in a spot over handling of Sabarimala protesters

The police booked about 200 people, including local BJP leaders, who caused a stir late last night near the temple after being asked to vacate the premises

Ernakulam: Kerala’s communist government landed in a sticky wicket on Monday after taking into custody about 200 people the previous night after a showdown with devotees at Sabarimala, a move that drew criticism from the opposition and the Kerala high court.

Police booked the people, including local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and known troublemakers near the temple sanctorum, after they refused to obey a prohibitory order.

The arrests sparked immediate protests, mostly organized by BJP, in several parts of the state, including in front of chief minister’s residence.

The police detained 68 people later.

Union minister K.J. Alphons visited the temple on Monday and accused the state government of turning the Sabarimala complex into a “war zone". Blaming the government for the lack of adequate infrastructure for devotees, he said it is acting like a dictator when the devotees assert their rights. “The devotees are not militants, they are pilgrims. What was the need to declare Section 144 at Sabarimala?" he said.

The Kerala high court also questioned the government action, and summoned its top law officer. “Why do you need 15,000 policemen in Sabarimala?" the court asked the government. “How can the police do such high-handedness in the name of the Supreme Court verdict?" it added while hearing a plea questioning last month’s baton charge by police and its subsequent action on devotees.

Three women were attacked by a mob moments after they announced plans to visit the temple at a press meet in Ernakulam on Monday. The mob, including several women, blocked their exit from the Press Club, where they made the announcement.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple on behalf of the government, moved a petition in the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking more time to implement the ruling allowing all women into the temple.

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