Sabarimala priest’s grandson and activist Rahul Easwar arrested over shrine protests
Hundreds of people have been arrested for defying the Supreme Court verdict that overturned the centuries-old practice of barring women in the 10-50 age group from the shrine since it is dedicated to the celibate deity, Lord Ayyappa.
Sabarimala Temple supreme priest’s grandson, Rahul Easwar, was arrested on Sunday as the Kerala government continued its crackdown on protests against the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict allowing women in the menstruating age to enter the hilltop shrine in the state’s Pathanamthitta district.
Hundreds of people have been arrested for defying the verdict that overturned the centuries-old practice of barring women in the 10-50 age group from the shrine since it is dedicated to the celibate deity, Lord Ayyappa.
Easwar had last week been quoted as saying his Ayyappa Dharma Sena had a “contingency plan” for forcing the temple’s closure in view of the verdict. He had, at a press meet in Kochi, allegedly said the plan involved spilling blood in case the women in the 10-50 age group managed to enter the temple to force the shrine’s closure for at least three days for purification rites.
Easwar was booked under the Indian Penal Code’s sections 153 (provoking with the intent to cause riot) and 117 (abetting commission of an offence) even as he blamed the media for misquoting him. He was earlier arrested from the temple’s base camp – Pambha – for staging a dharna when the shrine’s doors were opened to implement the court verdict.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s state president P S Sreedharan Pillai condemned the arrest. “The state government’s action even shames the (state of) Emergency days (when civil liberties were curbed in the 1970s). Innocent people are getting arrested from their houses at odd hours.”
Police said at least 3,400 people have been arrested as part of the crackdown since October 26 while 517 cases have been registered across the state. At least 122 protesters have been sent in remand. The rest have been released on bail.
Kerala police chief Loknath Behra directed his force against arresting those protesting by taking part in singing hymns and prayers after the Kerala high court pulled up the government over the mass arrests.
The state’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) or the CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan defended the arrests, calling them normal police action when the rule of law is breached.
The opposition Congress and the BJP have blamed the government’s affidavit in the apex court for the verdict.
The BJP, which is trying to make inroads into Kerala, has announced a ‘Rath Yatra’ to Pathanamthitta from November 8 to 13 and said it will observe October 30 as ‘save Sabarimala day’ to protest against the arrests.
Amit Shah, the BJP chief who was in Kerala on Saturday, condemned the mass arrests and warned the state government his party would not remain a mute spectator if it continued the crackdown. He said the government of non-believers cannot suppress the devotees, with whom “the BJP would stand like a rock”.
In Delhi, the CPI (M) accused Shah’s of challenging the SC order and inciting his party men to defy the verdict. “In doing so, he has exposed the real hand behind the violent protests against the women’s entry in Sabarimala,” the CPI (M) Politburo said in a statement.
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