Kerala government to withdraw cases, except those of a ‘serious criminal nature’, against Sabarimala, anti-CAA protesters

Published : February 24, 2021 21:42 IST

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Photo: S. Mahinsha

In a significant political move before the Assembly election due in a few months, with the Congress and the BJP once again trying to take mileage from the Sabarimala issue, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has decided to withdraw the cases against protesters who took part in the agitations against the entry of women at the Sabarimala temple and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Kerala had witnessed violent protests and political clashes especially between the BJP and CPI(M) cadres following the September 28, 2018, Supreme Court judgment ordering the removal of gender discrimination against entry of women of all ages at Sabarimala. But in the three months that followed, no woman could enter the shrine in the wake of widespread protests and violence perpetrated by the BJP and allied organisations and despite the police trying to offer protection to a few women who sought entry into the temple. Widespread protests and arrests also followed the entry of two women into the temple on January 2, 2019, with the help of discreet police protection.

Similarly, there were extensive anti-CAA protests in Kerala, with the LDF and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) joining hands, against the Central government’s decision to implement the CAA and the National Population Register (NPR), and against Governor P. Arif Mohammed Khan, who had come out openly supporting the Centre’s move to enact the CAA.

A meeting of the State Cabinet on February 24 decided to withdraw all cases that were “not of a serious criminal nature” filed in connection with the agitations and political clashes on the two issues.

The Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, who had demanded the withdrawal of cases against Sabarimala “devotees” last week, described the government decision as “belated wisdom”. The Muslim League, which was an active participant in the anti-CAA protests described it as a “left-handed compliment” for the stand taken by the UDF. However, the BJP criticised the Cabinet decision, saying that the Sabarimala and anti-CAA protests were not of the same nature and that the government should come forward to withdraw “all cases” registered in connection with the Sabarimala agitation and file a fresh affidavit before the Supreme Court favouring the protection of the age-old traditions of the Sabarimala temple.

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