Protester Dies After Clashes Over Sabarimala, Shutdown In Kerala Today

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Prosters blocked highways in many parts of Kerala after two women entered the Sabarimala temple. (AFP)

Thiruvananthapuram:

A man who was injured in the clashes in Kerala after the entry of two women into Sabarimala temple on Wednesday died late last night. An umbrella organisation of various right-wing groups has called for a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in the state today.

Violent protests broke out across Kerala following the entry of the two women below 50. Protesters blocked highways and forced closure of shops and markets in various parts the state. Journalists reporting from outside the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram were allegedly attacked by BJP workers and its youth wing activists.

Chandran Unnithan, 55, was injured in clashes between CPI(M) and BJP workers in Pandalam. He was a member of Sabarimala Karma Samithi. He was injured on the head in stone-throwing allegedly from the CPI(M) office and died in hospital. Police are investigating the man's death.

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Kerala's top police officer Loknath Behara has warned of strict action against those indulging in violence during the shutdown. Various universities have postponed their exams scheduled for today.

Bindu and Kanaka Durga, both in their early 40s, entered the hilltop shrine around 3.45 am on Wednesday, becoming the first to do so since the Supreme Court ordered the end of a decades-old ban on women of menstrual age entering the shrine. In a video accessed by NDTV, the women are seen hurrying into the shrine, dressed in all-black and escorted by the police. A group of protesters also appears to be at the spot.

As news of the women's entry travelled, the shrine was controversially shut down for an hour and a half for "purification". Kerala minister EP Jayarajan called it contempt of court, saying: "untouchability is against the law."

Announcing the 12-hour shutdown on behalf of the Sabarimala Karma Samiti Samiti, its leader KP Sasikala said the government has "betrayed" devotees. The organisation, which is spearheading protests against the Supreme Court's September verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine, asked people to cooperate with them in their protest.

(With inputs from PTI)

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