An umbrella organisation of Hindu outfits opposing the entry of women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple has called a state-wide shutdown on Thursday. The Sabarimala Karma Samiti (SKS) issued the call hours after two women under the age of 50 managed to enter the shrine, sparking protests across the state.

The Supreme Court had in September ordered the lifting of the ban on women or girls of menstruating age from entering the temple, which has refused to abide by the ruling. Thousands of devotees have since blocked attempts of menstruating women and girls to visit the shrine, citing the celibate nature of the temple’s presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa.

Two shutdowns have been called in Kerala since the court‘s September 28 verdict that allowed women of all ages to worship at the shrine.

A teacher, Bindu Ammini, and activist Kanakadurga, both in their 40s, prayed at the temple on Wednesday with the police help. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed the two had indeed prayed there.

“Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will go down in the history as a traitor. He hurt religious sentiments of crores of devotees. He used a cheap trick to flout the age-old custom and insulted devotees,” SKS leader K P Sasikala said. Sasikala added all Hindu outfits will continue their agitation until Vijayan resigns.

Entry of the two women into the temple sparked stir across the state as protesters blocked roads at many places and clashed with police. Police had to resort to baton charge in places like Kasargode, Palakkad, and Kollam to control angry protestors. A group of women protesters jumped a barricade and came close to CM’s office in Thiruvananthapuram before they were stopped. Many government offices, buses, and vehicles were stoned.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is trying to make inroads into Kerala ahead of the national polls this year, pledged support to the strike. But Kerala Vyapari Vikasana Ekopana Samiti, a traders’ organisation, said they were fed up with the repeated shutdowns and added that shops and business establishments will remain open.

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M) justified the entry of the two women saying the government allowed them as it was its constitutional obligation. “It was not an unprecedented decision. It was bound to happen,” said CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

Opposition Congress leader, Ramesh Chennithala, called the entry of the two women into the shrine Vijayan’s conspiracy. He warned Vijayan will pay a heavy price for hurting religious sentiments of lakhs of devotees. “It seems he was carried away by the women wall,’’ he said, referring to the state-backed protest of thousands of women in support of the entry of women on Tuesday. The women formed a 620 km human chain in support of gender equality and temple access. “He [Vijayan] enacted a midnight dirty drama,” said Chennithala.

BJP’s Kerala president, P S Sreedharan Pillai, called Tuesday “a black day in the state’s history”. “The chief minister will have to pay a heavy price for it.”

First Published: Jan 02, 2019 23:44 IST

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