BJP workers in Kerala blocked highways on Sunday to protest the arrest of party general secretary K Surendran, who was taken into 14-day judicial custody on Saturday while on his way to the Lord Ayappa shrine.
The protestors, including women, squatted on roads, blocking traffic at various places, including in state capital Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Thrissur, Palakkad and in front of Kottarakara sub-jail, where Surendran has been lodged, and also the northernmost Kasaragod district.
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In all the places, the protesters were seen clapping and chanting "Swamiyae Ayyappa".
Addressing workers at Thiruvananthapuram, BJP leader M S Kumar said police had so far not succeeded in bringing even a single young woman to the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala after the Supreme Court on September 28 allowed women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.
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Surendran and two others with him had been taken into preventive custody on Saturday night and brought to the Chittar police station, about 50 km from Sabarimala, after they forcibly tried to leave for the hill shrine at Sabarimala.
Police had cited law and order issues and tense situation at the temple complex to deter him from going to Sabarimala.
However, when they insisted, Surendran and the others, all with the "Irrumudikettu" (bundle of offerings for Lord Ayyappa)were taken into preventive custody. They were then produced before the Thiruvlla magistrate, who remanded them to 14-day judicial custody.
Surendran was later taken to the Kottarakara sub-jail.
The BJP protest comes a day after the hartal called by the Hindu Aikya Vedi against the preventive custody of their leader K P Sasikala. She was later granted bail.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Sunday accused the CPI(M)-led state government of creating a 'terror-like atmosphere' in the name of security of the hill shrine.
The Congress levelled the allegation as a three-member party delegation comprising former state ministers Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Adoor Prakash and V S Sivakumar left for Sabarimala to study the situation there.
”The Sabarimala Sannidhanam has virtually turned into a fortress, where the entry of devotees of Lord Ayyappa are being restricted," Mr Radhakrishnan, who is also a legislator, told reporters here.
Prakash, representing the Konni Assembly constituency, claimed that heavy police deployment at Sabarimala was disrupting the normal flow of devotees.
"The government, using the police force, is creating a terror-like atmosphere in the name of ensuring security of the Lord Ayyappa shrine," he alleged.
Amid tight security, thousands of pilgrims payed their obeisance at the Lord Ayyappa shrine on Saturday, which was also the first day of Malayalam month 'Vrischikom'. The temple opened on Friday evening for the two-month annual pilgrimage season even as the stand-off over entry of women of menstruating age into the temple continued.
The temple complex and nearby areas had witnessed protests by devotees when it was opened for monthly pujas for eight days in October and early this month against the LDF government's attempt to implement the top court verdict allowing women of all age groups to pray at the shrine.
Social activist Trupti Desai, who arrived at Kochi airport Friday en route Sabarimala, was forced to return to Maharashtra after she faced an over 13-hour protest.