The Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala has called for a state-wide hartal on Friday following the death of 42-year-old Venugopalan Nair, who set himself on fire at the BJP protest venue in Thiruvananthapuram. The party has said that all Sabarimala devotees will be exempted from the dawn-to-dusk hartal and that it would be a peaceful hartal. The hartal will be in place from 6 am to 6 pm.
Following the announcement of the hartal, the Kerala University, Mahatma Gandhi University and Science and Technology university have decided to postpone all the exams that was to by held on Friday. New dates for the exams will be announced soon.
In schools, all exams for students from classes 1 - 10 have been postponed to the 21. All higher secondary exams too have been postponed. New dates for these exams will be announced soon.
Venugopalan, an auto driver hailing from Muttada in the state capital, set himself on fire during the early hours of Thursday in front of the Secretariat building in Thiruvananthapuram, where members of the BJP were protesting against the restrictions imposed in Sabarimala. He rushed to the makeshift tent that has been constructed there to house BJP State General Secretary CK Padmanabhan, who is currently leading the protest.
The police and BJP workers rushed him to the Government Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, where he died around 3.30 pm on Thursday. The police said that the motive of committing the crime was unclear.
Earlier in the day, the BJP State General Secretary MT Ramesh denied all reports that Venugopalan was part of the BJP.
Incidentally, the BJP had called for a hartal in Thiruvananthapuram only a few days ago, on Tuesday. The hartal was called after the high-handed response of the Kerala police during a protest by the party and its youth wing Yuva Morcha, outside the Secretariat on Monday.
Around 400 to 500 BJP workers had taken out a demonstration to the Secretariat in the state capital on Monday to protest the Kerala governmentâ€™s handling of the Sabarimala temple womenâ€™s entry issue. They had also gathered in support of BJP leader AN Radhakrishnan, who was on a hunger strike outside the Secretariat, protesting the governmentâ€™s treatment towards BJP General Secretary K Surendran and demanding to revoke the imposition of prohibitory order under section 144 in and around Sabarimala.