In the wake of the arrest of Hindu Aikya Vedi President KP Sasikala early Saturday morning, a hartal has begun across Kerala in protest of the arrest, according to reports.
Sasikala was on her way to Sabarimala when she was held by police on Friday and arrested around 1.30 am on Saturday in Marakkuttam. Reports say that she was held for several hours when she refused to backtrack, and said she would only return after completing the early morning darshan on Saturday. Achara Samrakshana Samithi state convenor Prithvipal and BJP leader P Sudhir was also taken into custody from Pamba.
Though she had told the police that she wanted to visit the temple as she was a devotee and was above 50 years of age, police suspect that she wants to be near the temple only to organise protests. When the temple had opened twice after the Supreme Court's ruling, KP Sasikala had been near the temple organising protests and even checking documents of women who wanted to enter the temple. Police do not want a repeat of such a situation where Hindu outfit leaders like KP Sasikala would block other women.
Sasikala was later taken to the Ranni police station, and activists from the Sabarimala Karma Samithi are staging a protest in front of the station house.
According to reports, the state-wide hartal was called after several leaders of Hindu organisations were arrested. The dawn-to-dusk hartal was reportedly called by the Hindu Aikya Vedi and Sabarimala Karma Samithi on Saturday. The BJP has said it would support the hartal call.
Buses between Kerala and Coimbatore will not run during the hartal. Milk, newspapers, hospitals and medical shops are among the essential services that have been exempted, according to reports. Many exams that were scheduled for Saturday have been reportedly cancelled and postponed, including Kannur University's, tenth-level equivalency exams, and sugama exams by the Kerala Hindi Prachar Sabha.
On Friday, Bhumata Bridgade's Trupti Desai and six other women, who had planned to visit to Sabarimala temple on Saturday, were stranded at Cochin International Airport after devotees and right-wing Hindu groups protested outside the airport. Following a 15-hour wait inside the airport, Trupti decided to give in and departed for Mumbai by a 9.30 pm flight, though she vowed to return during the two-month period that the temple will be open to attempt to climb again.