BJP chief slams mass arrests of Ayyappa devotees in Kerala

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told the provincial Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala to stop the crackdown on Hindu devotees of Lord Ayyappa or face the consequences.

Addressing a rally in Kannur in northern Kerala, BJP president Amit Shah said an atheist government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is torturing Ayyappa devotees and trying to destroy centuries-old rituals, traditions and culture in the name of implementing a Supreme Court order by allowing women of menstrual age to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the hilltop Sabarimala temple.

Since Oct 24, some 3,345 people including Ayyappa devotees, BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members have been arrested by Kerala Police for indulging in violence while resisting entry of women of menstrual age to the temple earlier this month.

Instead of focusing on relief to flood-affected people of the state, the LDF government is using brute force to crush the will of the Ayyappa devotees. BJP is with the devotees and the party is not anti-women as its rivals allege. The devotees should continue their fight to protect the temple from forces that are hellbent on destroying it, Shah said.

The BJP chief’s warning comes as the leftist government is planning more arrests of Ayyappa devotees ahead of the temple’s reopening early next month.

On Friday, the Kerala High Court told the Kerala Police not to play to the gallery and warned of action if innocents are arrested.

The BJP state unit called the mass arrests a “Hindu hunt” while the Nair Service Society representing the Nair community likened it to the days of Emergency of 1975 when the Congress-led federal government arrested and jailed most opposition leaders citing prevailing “internal disturbance.”

Hindu groups, including priests, are angry over the LDF government’s failure to hold talks with them on the temple issue before its gates were opened to pilgrims for the first time after the historic Supreme Court ruling this month. Snubbing them, the government has  now called a meeting of Devaswom (temple) ministers of the southern states on October 31.

The LDF government also declined to move a review petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of millions of Ayyappa devotees. The day the temple gates was reopened for pilgrims this month, the chief minister Vijayan went on a 10-day Gulf tour.  Devotees and groups like BJP and RSS are angry over the state government’s arrogance, insensitivity and anti-Hindu stance. They believe comrade Vijayan’s pathological hatred for RSS and BJP and stubborn stand have deepened the crisis over temple issue.

The Sabarimala Action Committee is planning to intensify protests when the temple reopens next month.

According to the committee, even if police arrest 10,000 people, thousands of other devotees will continue the fight for protecting the sanctity of Sabarimala temple.

 Ashram attacked

The ‘ashram’ (monastery) of Swami Sandeepananda Giri, who supports the Supreme Court ruling and has condemned devotees’ protests, was attacked in the wee hours of Saturday some vandals who set ablaze two cars and a two-wheeler.

Without naming RSS or BJP, Vijayan said those who do not approve of Swami’s views vandalised the ashram.

The Swami openly said BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai, a priest and Pandalam royal family, who are the custodians of the temple, were behind the attack.

BJP state general secretary K Surendran wrote in a social media post that the attack was staged by some elements to falsely implicate BJP and RSS leaders and tarnish their image.

In his note, Surendran wondered why the CCTV camera installed at the ashram was switched off and the uninsured car parked there was not torched. The so-called attack on the day Amit Shah visited Kannur cannot be an coincidence. It was a drama  Vijayan was well aware of, he said.