Amid protests at several places following two women's early morning visit to the Sabarimala temple, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva outfits called for a shutdown across Kerala on Thursday. Cloaked in black veils and shrouded in the early morning darkness, Bindu and Kanaka Durga, both in their early 40s, made history on Wednesday after they stepped into the Lord Ayyappa shrine, breaking a centuries-old tradition of not allowing entry of women from the menstrual age group of 10-50.
Soon after the news of two women sneaking into the Sabarimala temple spread, Kerala witnessed a string of protests with agitated right-wing activists blocking highways and forcing the closure of shops and markets. Media personnel reporting from outside the state secretariat were also allegedly attacked by the BJP and Yuva Morcha activists. Police used stun grenades, tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse the protesters.
Announcing the dawn-to-dusk shutdown on behalf of the Sabarimala Karma Samiti, its leader KP Sasikala said the government has betrayed devotees. The Samiti is spearheading protests against the Supreme Court's September 28 verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine in Kerala. Their demands include the resignation of Pinarayi Vijayan as the chief minister of the state. This is the seventh shutdown called by right-wing groups in just three months over the Sabarimala issue.
In a veiled attack at the Kerala government, Sasikala further accused them of acting like a "coward" and took the women to the shrine during the early hours. The Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad has also called for a hartal on Thursday.
On January 22, the Supreme Court will hear a batch of review petitions, challenging its September 28 verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the hilltop shrine in Kerala. The Nair Service Society, an outfit of Kerala's forward Nair community, which has filed the review plea, has expressed hope that the top court would take a favourable decision in the matter. In case, the Supreme Court rejects the plea seeking review of its earlier verdict, the outfit will approach the Centre for an ordinance in order to continue its legal battle to protect the faith of Ayyappa devotees.