Hours after two women under the age of 50 managed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple in the early hours of Wednesday, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi and Ayyappa Karma Samithi have called for a daylong hartal in the state. The statewide bandh will be observed from 6 am to 6 pm on Thursday, January 3, Sabarimala Karma Samithi member Rahul Easwar confirmed.
The announcement for the hartal comes hours after two women in their forties entered the Sabarimala temple and offered their prayers. Lawyer Bindu Ammini and government employee Kanakadurga entered the temple at 4 am on Wednesday. A few hours later, the temple was shut for a ‘purification ritual at 10.30 am. Protests were seen across the state following this. This is the first time that women under the age of 50 have entered the shrine, after the September 2018 verdict of the Supreme Court allowing entry to women of all ages into Sabarimala.
However, whether the hartal will be a success remains to be see. The traders associations in the state have refused to back the hartal -- in December, traders and businesspersons in Kerala had vowed to not observe any hartals and shutdowns in the state in 2019. In a meeting held in Kozhikode, the Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (VVES), a Kerala-wide union of traders and merchants, decided not to observe hasty or unnecessary hartals called by political parties. At a press conference, they also announced that the union will observe 2019 as a hartal-opposed year.
Media persons were attacked in several parts of the state; in Thiruvananthapuram, BJP cadre attacked media persons who were covering the issue.
Several members of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha in Kerala staged protests against the two women outside the state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. Five members were detained by the police, according to news agency ANI.
Since October, Sabarimala Karma Samithi and the Ayyappa Karma Samithi have been holding protests in the state against the entry of women into Sabarimala. Several other groups, including the BJP, have been calling for protests on the issue on multiple occassions. The Sabarimala Karma Samithi on December 26 held a state-wide 'Ayyappa Jyothi' event, backed by the BJP, saw devotees light lamps and stand on public roads and highways for 30 minutes to express their opposition to women’s entry to the Sabarimala temple. This was also in response to the Kerala government’s Women’s Wall event, which was held on Tuesday.