With protests over the Sabarimala issue mounting, police Thursday used water cannons and tear gas shells to disperse Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activists, who tried to barge into the official residence of Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran here.
Chanting the 'Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa' mantra, the right-wing activists marched to the minister's house, protesting the CPI(M)-led LDF government's stand over the issue and tried to break the barricades put up by police.
As the situation went out of control, police first used water cannon and then burst tear gas shells to disperse the unruly crowd.
Later, the agitators squatted on the road and held a protest meeting against the Left government's decision to implement the Supreme Court order, permitting women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala.
The sit-in dharna by activists of the 'Save Sabarimala Forum' and 'Adivasi Samrakshana Samithi', demanding steps to protect the tradition and rituals of the hill shrine continued for the fourth day at Nilackal in Pathanamthitta district.
Devotees belonging to different Hindu outfits marched to the protest venue at Nilackal, the base camp of Ayyappa devotees visiting Sabarimala during the festival season, and expressed their solidarity with the agitators.
Similarly, a group of devotees continued their protest in front of the Secretariat here, demanding that the LDF government file a review plea against the apex court order.
BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai, who addressed the 'long-march' launched by the NDA with the slogan of 'Save Sabarimala' at Noornad in Alappuzha district, claimed the march got massive support from the general public.
The 'long march' started Wednesday from Pandalam, where Lord Ayyappa is believed to have spent his childhood, would end at the state capital with a massive demonstration on October 15. Meanwhile, Surendran attacked the BJP and said the saffron party and the Sangh outfits had "hijacked" the agitation of Lord Ayyappa devotees.
He also said the ongoing agitation by the right-wing outfits was for "political gain" and asked them to withdraw from the stir.
The minister also said the march resembled the 'Ram Rath Yatra' taken out by the Sangh over Ayodhya issue in 1990. Seeking to turn the tables on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the Sabarimala issue, he claimed that hardcore Sangh leaders had moved the Supreme Court 12 years ago, seeking entry of women of all ages into the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa.
He alleged that the Sangh Parivar was trying to gain political advantage by misleading people. The ruling CPI(M)-headed Left Democratic Front (LDF) held a meeting here to chalk out the strategy to counter the alleged false propaganda against the government unleashed by the BJP and Congress on the Sabarimala issue.
The LDF also alleged that the ongoing stir over the Lord Ayyappa shrine was to "destabilise" the left government.
Addressing a press meet here after a LDF meeting, its convener A Vijayaraghavan said the nature of the stir, which included blocking ministers' convoys, "insulting" chief minister and attacking Travancore Devaswom Board offices, indicated that the effort was to dislodge the government.
Alleging that the stir was to create trouble at a time when the LDF government was being praised for its relief work after the massive floods in the state in August, he said the opposition parties were using the Supreme Court verdict (on Sabarimala) as a tool to attack the government.
With a view to countering the "false propaganda" unleashed by the Opposition over the issue, LDF would convene public meetings in all 14 districts this month to explain the stand of the government, he said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will address the meetings here on October 16, at Pathanmthitta on October 23 and at Kollam on October 24, the LDF convenor said.
The government cannot reject the apex court order and it is bound to implement the same, Vijayaraghavan asserted. Meanwhile, a Kerala-based Muslim women's rights group is gearing up to approach the apex court, demanding entry of women in all mosques across the country. NISA, a progressive women's forum, will not just seek permission for women to offer prayers in the mosques, but also fight for appointing them as 'imams' (clerics).
Forum president V P Zuhra told PTI that there were no records stating that the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad had opposed women entering mosques and offering prayers.
Soon after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10-50 in Sabarimala, the opposition Congress and BJP and various Hindu organisations have launched protests, demanding that the state government file a review petition against the top court order.
But the Left government has maintained that it would not go in for a review of the ruling of the top court.
Activist Rahul Easwar said in Kozhikode that Ayyappa devotees under different organisations would observe a seven-day fast and prayer meet at Sabarimala from 17th of this month, the period when the temple is opened for monthly pooja.
In a related development, police registered a case against a 60-year-old woman for allegedly making casteist remarks against Vijayan during an agitation at Aranmula recently.
A video purportedly showing the woman making "unsavoury" comments against the CM was widely circulated on social media, following which a police complaint was lodged by a person.
(With inputs from agencies.)