A demonstration by Gokulam Gopalan, candidate, and 200 of his supporters alleging rigging led to a tension-filled election of office-bearers of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam here on Saturday.

The protesters were arrested and taken to the Chathannur police station, 30 km from here. Released soon after, Mr. Gopalan went on a fast in front of the station. The released activists, all of the Sree Narayana Dharma Vedi chaired by him, blocked National Highway 47 passing through Chathannur.

An hour before the polling started at 10 a.m. at Sree Narayana College here, the police had diverted vehicular traffic from the highway stretch in front of the campus.

Despite the tension, the Yogam general body meeting went ahead inside. Vellappally Natesan, general secretary, presented the annual report, the accounts and the budget.

Mr. Gopalan, who took on Mr. Natesan for the post of general secretary, and the Vedi activists staged the demonstration as candidates from his panel were not allowed entry into the voting area.

The returning officer refused them entry on the ground that they were not enrolled on the voters' list. The panel's list of 80 polling agents was also rejected on that ground. The bylaws allow permanent members of the Yogam to contest even if not enrolled, but not to vote.

The activists alleged that Yogam office-bearers had got the names of candidates in Mr. Gopalan's panel deleted from the rolls.

The police said the arrests were made as a preventive measure under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

A strong posse of the police, many in riot gear, and water cannons were deployed on the campus and outside. Metal detectors were placed at the entrances. The delegates not on the rolls were allowed only to attend the general body meeting.

Inspector-General of Police (South Zone) A. Hemachandran and Superintendent of Police, Kollam, Harshita Attaluri supervised the security arrangements.

Unconfirmed reports were in circulation since morning that Mr. Gopalan and his supporters had boycotted the elections alleging hijacking of the elections.

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