To further intensify their stir against "police high handedness", a daylong state-wide agitation will be held on Monday by Yuvamorcha, the youth wing of the BJP, its chief said. The devotees had gathered at the covered pathway to the temple when they were asked to leave Sannidhanam. "The government can not let anyone create trouble at Sabarimala", the chief minister said at the state conference of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ).
The day also saw Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam visiting Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam to take stock of the various facilities at the hill shrine, where lakhs of devotees from across the country and outside visit each year.
Media showed images of shirtless devotees - following the pilgrimage tradition - chanting mantras as they faced off with police.
"Pilgrims are being treated like dacoits".
Superintendent of Police (special officer) Pratheesh Kumar said people were detained for violating Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code that prohibits assembly of more than four people at a spot. "What was the need to impose Section 144 at Sabarimala?" he told reporters.
He also said that he would inspect how the state has utilised the Rs 100 crore-relief fund from the Centre. However, protestors said they would destroy the cars and attack us.
Earlier, activist Trupti Desai flew back to Mumbai in the 9:25 pm flight on Friday, after her attempt to visit Sabarimala was foiled by right-wing activists. Taxi drivers refused to pick up Desai and her group, fearing possible violence directed at them.
Senior BJP leader and state secretary MT Ramesh said he was not aware of the circular.
While addressing the state conference of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists at Kozhikode, he said the Sangh Parivar activists had gone to Sabarimala disguised as devotees.
"The BJP supports the devotees", the BJP president in Kerala, Mr P.S Sreedharan Pillai, told AFP. On Saturday, the minister had said the manner in which Surendran was arrested was despicable, Manorama Online reported. When they refused, the security forces took 68 of them into custody early Monday morning, the first such incident witnessed at Sabarimala.
While a large number of workers surrounded the Maniyar police camp demanding the release of those in custody another group staged protests outside Vijayan's official residence in the state capital.
Surendran, who was taken into preventive custody as he tried to proceed to the temple, was Sunday produced before a magistrate and remanded to 14-day judicial custody after he was charged with non-bailable offences.
Police say that about 800 women between the ages of 10 and 50 have registered online to visit the shrine during the pilgrimage season, but none so far have requested official protection for the trek, which involves a almost three-mile walk to reach the temple.
After offering prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple here as part of reviewing the preparations for the annual pilgrimage at Nilakkal and Pampa on Sunday, the Congress leaders said Pinarayi was using the police to deny the constitutionally enshrined right to freedom of worship and follow ongoing practices.