A dawn-to-dusk Kerala shutdown called to denounce the visit of two women to the Sabarimala temple saw major violence on Thursday, a rarity compared to the regular strikes the state witnesses from time to time.
The Sabarimala Karma Samithi (SKS), which had the backing of the BJP and RSS, said it called the protest to oppose the role of the Kerala government which facilitated the entry of the two women inside the temple before dawn on Wednesday.
What began as minor skirmishes at various places between the strike organisers and its opponents aggravated during the day as more than 300 protesters were arrested, with nearly 100 people, including police officials, getting injured in the violence.
The worst affected districts included Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kasargode and Kannur.
A number of CPI-M offices came under attack. In several places in the suburbs of the state capital, it was a free for all as rival factions took on one another. In Nedumangadu near here crude bombs was thrown at CPI-M offices while homes of CPI-M leaders were attacked.
While state-owned and private buses were off the road, private vehicles, mostly two-wheelers, plied. Private cars also operated in Thiruvananthapuram and other major cities in Kerala.
Ten people in Kannur were arrested after they attacked vehicles that went past the BJP office.
Even as the two traders' body in the state announced they would open their shops, in several places shops failed to open.
However, in Kozhikode, traders were determined to open their shops even as the SKS and BJP activists protested.
"This frequent calling of shutdown is not acceptable. We will open in future also," said a group of shopkeepers at Kozhikode.
After some traders opened their shops in Kozhikode, a gang of Sangh Parivar forces forcibly closed them down. In the process, numerous shops suffered damages.
An inter-state bus from Karnataka was stoned in Kozhikode district. Similar incidents were also reported from Kasargode and Palakkad.
University examinations scheduled for Thursday were postponed. All educational institutions in the state were shut.
Meanwhile, the Left government decided promised strong action against the trouble makers.
Vijayan added that there was no protest from ordinary people including women over the entry of the two women at the Sabarimala temple.
"The trouble started after the Sangh Parivar forces went on a rampage attacking police, damaging numerous vehicles. We have decided that at no cost will the authorities be silent and very strong action will be taken," he said.
At Pandalam in Alappuzha district, BJP and RSS activists took out a protest march after one of their supporters who was injured in stone throwing by CPI-M workers on Wednesday died late at night.
A CPI-M worker has been arrested and the wife of the deceased said the family does not believe a fair probe will happen.
Thursday also saw widespread attacks on the media, leaving many journalists, including women, injured and shaken. Vijayan condemned the violence.
"Even media personnel, including women, have not been spared by Sangh Parivar forces who are trying to take law into their hands. This will be seriously dealt with," Vijayan said here.
V. Suresh, President of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, told IANS that since Wednesday journalists had been attacked by Sangh Parivar protesters.
"Across the state around 100 journalists have been attacked. Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Palakkad are the districts where our fellow journalists have been the worst hit," he said.
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra said the police viewed these attacks "very seriously".
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said all this was bound to happen "when senseless people rule the state".
"Chief Minister Vijayan is solely responsible for what is happening here. He has created the platform for the Sangh Parivar forces to go berserk and create mayhem and this is eighth shutdown called to protest the Sabarimala temple issue.
"What happened was Vijayan's determination to breach the tradition and customs of the temple."
State RSS chief P.E.B. Menon said the way out of this present unrest was for the Centre to come out with an ordinance on Sabarimala temple entry.
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