Sabarimala verdict: Togadia's Kerala hartal begins

Togadia calls for 'two nights and a day' Kerala hartal from October 17

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has tightened security across the state following escalating protests by a section of Lord Ayyappa devotees and a hartal called by Hindu fringe outfits against the decision to allow women of all age groups to enter Sabarimala temple.

The 'two nights and a day' hartal called by Dr Pravin Togadia, former VHP leader and founder of Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP), began from Wednesday midnight. AHP wants the state government file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the September 28 order that granted women of all ages entry into Sabarimala.

Togadia also wanted the Centre to urgently issue an ordinance to nullify the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. “Such an ordinance was passed by the Centre when the apex court had banned Jallikkattu in Tamil Nadu,” Dr Togadia said.

Togadia, while leading a march of AHP workers and Ayyappa devotees in the capital on Sunday, wanted the state government to cede control of the temples to the faithful. “In 1983, the K P Sankaran Nair Commission had submitted a report recommending the release of all temples from the control of devaswom boards and the government. The Commission wanted an administrative board elected by devotees," he said, adding, that in 1984, the High Court had directed the government to implement the Commission's recommendations. “A draft bill was prepared but it was not followed upon,” he said.

Dr Togadia, known as a right wing rabble-rouser, wanted the Centre to do its bit. “The central government must also act fast now. As the administration of the temples comes as an entry in part 3 in the schedule 7 of the Constitution, the Centre too has the necessary powers to pass the requisite laws,” he said. Dr Togadia also demanded that the Centre enact such a law immediately that would free the temples in the state from the devaswom boards. "We also want the Centre then to extend the law to temples in other states," he said.

And while passing a law to free temples, Dr Togadia wanted the Centre to include two major clauses. One, the advisory board of each temple should be elected by the devotees. These boards will then form an independent 'Devasthanam Board' under the guidance of the High Courts of each states. Two, money collected by the temples in any form should be used for social service: 25 per cent for the education of poor, 25 per cent for the health of the poor, 25 per cent for employment and entrepreneurship scheme for Hindu youth; and 25 per cent for the propagation of Hindu ideals.

NDA backs hartal

'Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi', an outfit of devotees, has also called for a 24-hour hartal starting midnight. The BJP and its NDA partners have backed the hartal called by Sabarimala Action Council to protest the police action against devotees.

The Congress said it would not join the strike but hold protest demonstrations across the state on Thursday.

DGP Lonknath Behera said 700 additional police personnel had already been deployed in Pamba and Nilackal, the base camps of Sabarimala pilgrimage, to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of devotees proceeding to the temple.

"At least 700 armed police personnel, 100 of them women, are already placed in various locations. A team of commandos will also be deployed soon," he said.

Behera also said anyone who blocks vehicles in the name of hartal would be severely dealt with.

Special security arrangements and patrolling have been put in place in various locations including Pamba, Nilackal, Erumeli, Vandiperiyar en route to the Sabarimala temple, located in Pathanamthitta.