The hartal, which began at 6 am, has been called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups, spearheading protests against the Supreme Court’s 28 September verdict, and Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP).
The BJP is supporting the shutdown while the Congress-led UDF is observing a “black day” on Thursday.
In Kozhikode, protesters blocked vehicles and burnt tyres in the morning. Incidents of stone pelting were also reported from Koyilandy and Kundamangalam in the district, Malayala Manorama reported. A library was set on fire in Palakkad.
Although Kerala State Road Transport Corporation MD Tomin Thachankar had said on Wednesday its buses would ply despite the hartal, KSRTC withdrew services on Thursday.
Chief secretary Tom Jose had on Wednesday asked the Kerala police to provide security to buses and shops that decide to function during the hartal.
DGP Loknath Behara has warned of strict action against those indulging in violence during the hartal.
Two women create history
Two women, Kanakadurga (44) and Bindu (42), created history by stepping into the temple and offering prayers, three months after the Supreme Court’s historic judgement lifting the ban on entry of girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine.
Soon after the news of their entry was confirmed, the temple’s chief priest shut its doors for an hour to conduct purification rituals.
Protests across state, one dead in clashes
As news of the incident spread, protests erupted at several places on Wednesday, with Hindu right-wing activists blocking highways and forcing closure of shops and markets.
BJP and CPI(M) workers clashed in front of the Secretariat for over five hours Wednesday as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.
A 55-year-old man, who was seriously injured in stone throwing at Pandalam, died late Wednesday night.
Protests and road blockades were reported from Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Alapppuzha, vehicles were vandalised in Thrissur and BJP-RSS-Sabarimala Karma Samithi workers forced owners to shut shop in Kottakara, Manorama reported.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s effigy was burnt at Malappuram and four activists of the BJP’s Mahila morcha were arrested when they attempted to force their way into chief minister’s office in the Secretariat complex.
Trade bodies boycott hartal, exams postoned
Merchants’ organisations the All-Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samitia and the Wayanad Chamber of Commerce said they would not cooperate with the hartal and keep shops and business establishments open.
Various universities, including Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi, Calicut and Kannur have postponed their examinations scheduled for Thursday.
NSS to continue legal battle
The Nair Service Society has condemned the women’s entry into Sabarimala and said it would continue its legal battle to protect the faith of Ayyappa devotees.
NSS, which has filed a review plea in the Supreme Court challenging its verdict, said it would approach the Centre for an ordinance if the apex court rejects its plea.