Members of the Sangh Parivar went on a rampage across Kerala — perpetrating violence, vandalising shops, attacking hordes of mediapersons, common citizens and even policemen — on Thursday, a day after two women created history by entering the Sabarimala temple.
However, the Kerala police initiated ‘Operation Broken Window’ the same day to track down and arrest the Right-wing perpetrators of violence during the 12-hour state-wide hartal (shutdown) call by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, supported by the RSS-BJP, against the entry of women of menstruating age into the temple.
The call for the hartal was given on January 2, after two women — Bindu Ammini (a Dalit woman) and Kanakadurga (a Brahmin woman), both in their early 40s — entered the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine in the wee hours under police protection. After the entry was reported in the media, the head priest of Sabarimala shut the temple for an hour to perform “purification” rituals.
Paving the way for Bindu and Kanakadurga to enter Sabarimala, however, was the historic 620-km ‘Women’s Wall’ — formed by 50 lakh women from across castes and religions standing together from the northern tip of the state in Kasargod district to the southern end of Thiruvananthapuram on Januray 1, 2019 — in defence of gender justice and the progressive values established by the state’s social reform movements (renaissance).
Kerala has been witnessing cycles of widespread violence and continuous protests by Right-wing groups—supported by both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress—after the state’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government tried to implement the Supreme Court verdict of September 28, 2018, allowing the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala.
The LDF government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has remained unwavering in its stance of supporting women’s entry into the shrine.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Vijayan said calling a hartal against women’s entry into Sabarimala amounted to ahartal against the Supreme Court’s verdict.
As for the decision of the head priest to shut the temple for “purification” rituals, Vijayan said it was a direct violation of the Supreme Court order. He said the head priest of Sabarimala must obey the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry to women or step down from his position.
The Chief Minister said the violence unleashed by ‘RSS-BJP goons’ and other Hindutva groups would be dealt with strongly.
Soon after the press conference, the police constituted a special task force to arrest the violent attackers as part of ‘Operation Broken Window’, and at least 266 people had been arrested while at least 334 people had been put in preventive detention by 4.30pm, according to local publication Mathrubhumi. Police said the arrests would continue.
Police said it would inquire into the violence specifically against media persons and take serious action, according to a press release by the Kerala Police Information Centre.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) issued a press statement saying the media would boycott any press conferences by Sangh Parivar groups who had called the hartal. The statement came after journalists had been subjected to massive stone-pelting, verbal abuse, etc — at least 100 journalists had been attacked in the violence that started on January 2, 2019.
In state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, commercial establishments, schools, etc. remained completely shut through the day while state transport buses stayed off the roads across Kerala — after at least 79 buses of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) were damaged during stone-pelting on January 2. Offices of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were also attacked at several places in the state.
However, the hartal call was not followed in many places — there were reports of several shopkeepers opening their establishments in the districts of Kozhikode, Kochi and Kollam, albeit under police security.
In Kozhikode district, at Mithaitheruvu, at least nine shops were vandalised by the RSS-BJP goons, reported Mathrubhumi.
However, according to reports and videos emerging on social media, the Right wing activists were also reined in several places by the common people — for example, at Edappal in Malappuram district, where the Right-wingers arrived on motorcycles, were chased away by the public, according to a video going viral on social media.
Among other places, a huge protest rally was held at Payyannur in Kannur district, led by the CPI(M), against the violence of the RSS-BJP members.