Sabarimala dispute: more than 2000 detained in continuing mass arrests across Kerala

Police chase away protestors who tried to stop women of menstruating age from going to the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

Police chase away protestors who tried to stop women of menstruating age from going to the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Kerala police on Friday went ahead with mass arrests in response to incidents of violent protests that marked the opening of the Sabarimala temple for monthly puja on October 17.

The State-wide round-ups and detentions overwhelmingly targeted BJP and RSS activists in 14 Revenue Districts. So far, the police have arrested 2,061 persons and registered 452 cases. In many cases, the police arrested protesters from their homes, leading to acrimonious tussles between them and the police. There were also nighttime arrests.

The main charges against the suspects are attacking police officers, violating the Supreme Court order allowing the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala, attacking women pilgrims and women journalists, vandalising government property and breaking prohibitory orders.

A bulk of the cases involved instances of violence and destruction of public property on October 18. Hindutva organisations had called a general strike on that day with the support of the BJP. Strike-related mob violence was reported mainly from Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Palakkad and Malappuram. Hartal supporters damaged more than 32 KSRTC buses in different parts of the State that day, according to a government estimate.

The BJP and RSS cried foul and termed the police action politically motivated. The BJP staged a protest march on Friday in front of the office of the District police chief in Pathanamthitta. Hundreds participated in the protest, which occurred without any untoward incident.

Govt using strong-arm tactics to stifle opposition: BJP

“The Pinarayi Vijayan government is using strong-arm tactics to stifle opposition. Several pliable police officers were complicit in the conspiracy to deter BJP-RSS activists,” Sreedharan Pillai, state BJP president, told media.

Amid the developments, a senior official said the police had used an artificial intelligence-powered software to sift through at least 800 hours of surveillance camera footage to isolate troublemakers. They then cross-referenced their faces with various government databases to confirm their identities and addresses to effect the arrests. On October 24, the State police formed special teams in 14 Revenue Districts to locate, identify and arrest the suspects.

State police chief Loknath Behera told television journalists that he had formed a special committee to cobble together a plan to escort women pilgrims to the sanctum without being deterred en-route by unruly elements.

Another officer said the police might even consider a segregated path for women pilgrims to and from the sanctum.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 3:19:04 AM |

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