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Thiruvananthapuram

10 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands on Friday.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands today.
 
Four people were killed in south Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents yesterday even as the authorities mounted a massive search and rescue operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
One fisherman, who was among those rescued today, died in hospital here today, taking the toll in Kerala to five, official sources said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning of a very severe cyclone for Lakshadweep Islands this evening and said the system was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.
 
In a Red message issued at 1730 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the system, now over the Lakshadweep  area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea, continued to move west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours and intensified further into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm".
 
It lay centred at 1430 hours IST today near latitude 9.1º N and longitude 73.0º E, about 90 km north of Minicoy and 220 km south-southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned that, under the influence of the system, heavy to very heavy rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with isolated extremely heavy falls. There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin also said that rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
According to it, gale winds, with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradual decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off the Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees; major damage to thatched houses, huts and kutcha houses; some damage to pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops.
 
Storm surge of about one metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off the Kerala and Karnataka coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were involved in the rescue efforts at sea while teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the affected areas in the two states and units of the Indian Army were on standby to come to the aid of the civil adminstration, if necessary.
 
Official sources here said more than 220 people had been rescued from the sea by the Navy, ICG and IAF. Many of them were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, they said. 
 
Some of the fishermen were rescued by a Japanese cargo ship in the area. As many as 37 people were rescued by Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) of the Indian Navy which flew between Thiruvananthapuram and the sea.
 
The ICG said it had deployed nine ships and two Dornier aircraft in the area and rescued as many as 52 fishermen so far.
 
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The International Safety Net (ISN) had been activated to advise Merchant Traffic to render assistance to stranded fishermen, it said.
 
Among others, Indian Naval Ships Sagardhwani, Jamuna and Nireekshak were in the affected areas in the Arabian Sea. INS Sharda and Shardul are also sailing out soon to augment the search effort. Both ships were in final stages of embarking HADR items for assistance at Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Indian Navy sources said.
 
In Poonthura, a coastal village near here, angry groups of fishermen and their families staged protests, alleging that the government had not acted in time and not done enough as far as the rescue efforts were concerned. 
 
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, both senior leaders of the Congress, visited the area today to listen to the woes of the villagers.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons that the state government had received an alert about the cyclone only on Thursday afternoon. He said the rescue efforts were also hampered by the bad weather conditions.
 
Mr. Vijayan said all possible efforts were being made to locate and rescue the missing fishermen. He said the state government had urged the Ministry of Defence to deploy more aircraft for the search and rescue operations.
 
In Lakshadweep, the authorities had issued orders for the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands.
 
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Women's Wall: Kerala Assembly in turmoil, MLAs come to blows

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Kerala MLAs came to blows on Thursday inside the Assembly after the opposition called the proposed Women's Wall event on New Year's Day meant to take forward gender equality, "nothing but a communal wall that will be dismantled".
 
The Assembly session, which concluded on Thursday, has been facing turmoil right from the beginning of the 13-day session, coinciding with the ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage amid prohibitory orders. 
 
The opposition Congress-led UDF has been up in arms against the Pinarayi Vijayan government for turning Sabarimala into a police fortress, causing innumerable hardships to the pilgrims.
 
On Thursday, as the question hour ended, Deputy Leader of Opposition and senior Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) member M. K. Muneer sought to move an adjournment motion to discuss the Women's Wall programme of the state government.
 
Vijayan responded saying that the event was being held to take forward the ideology of gender equality and uphold the dignity of women.
 
"If you (the opposition) are against this, please say that. We assure the House, no government money is being spent for this programme. The state government is just taking part to see that the ideology of great reformer Sree Narayana Guru is taken forward," he told the Assembly. 
 
Vijayan asked the opposition: "How can you all say that this is a communal event?" His speech was greeted by the treasury benches by thumping the desk. 
 
Then, Muneer got up to speak. He said: "Like in West Germany, if the Berlin wall was dismantled, the Women's Wall, which is a communal wall would be dismantled."
 
That was all that he could say, and the entire treasury bench was up on their feet, sloganeering.
 
They trooped to the Speaker's podium, forcing P. Sreeramakrishnan to adjourn the house.
 
When the house met again, Muneer said: "Why is that when I say the word communal wall, you go berserk, when others use the same word, there is no issue. I stick by what I said that this is nothing but a 'communal wall'. 
 
"You (Vijayan) say that this wall is part of the renaissance movement, but what right do you have to speak about renaissance. 
 
"It's just not the Hindus who took part in the erstwhile Renaissance Movement, Christians and Muslims also took part and we wish to ask you what wall are you now going to build without the Christians and Muslims," said Muneer.
 
Following which the sloganeering from across the benches increased, forcing the Speaker to rush through the listed business of the day.
 
The sloganeering and trooping of both benches' MLAs almost led to a clash, with P. K. Basheer of the IUML and V. Joy of the CPI-M coming to blows.
 
State Agriculture Minister V. S. Sunilkumar forcefully took away Joy, while Basheer was also taken away by others.
 
With the session coming to a close, Congress' Ramesh Chennithala said: "Vijayan knows that he has been caught on the wrong foot on the 'communal wall'. This is a communal wall and we will oppose it." 
 
The three protesting UDF members moved out of the foyer to take the protest outside the Assembly, as it was closed.
 
IANS
 

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As protests shift to state capital, pilgrims flock Sabarimala

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For the first time since the Sabarimala temple opened on November 16, there has been a sharp increase in the number of pilgrims.
 
One reason attributed for this is that the protests of the Sangh parivar against the Supreme Court ruling allowing women of all ages to enter the temple and the arrest of its senior leader K. Surendran has shifted to the state Secretariat.
 
The Congress-led UDF is going hammer and tongs against the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the Kerala Assembly.
 
According to official figures, on Monday a record 79,098 pilgrims arrived at the temple while till 1 p.m. on Tuesday 40,000 pilgrims had made it to the hilltop shrine.
 
Yet, the pilgrim flow is much less than what the temple town normally sees during the festival season.
 
In the previous season, the average number of pilgrims visiting the shrine was around one lakh during the two-month pilgrimage season.
 
The Kerala government has promised to implement the apex court's verdict that struck down a hitherto tradition of not allowing girls and women within 10-50 years from visiting the temple.
 
On Tuesday, a three-member High Court-appointed observer committee consisting of two retired judges and a serving Director General of Police arrived at the temple town to inspect the facilities and the arrangements for the pilgrims.
 
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'Women wall' in Kerala will polarize communities: Congress

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The Congress on Sunday condemned the 'women wall' protest from Kasargode to the Kerala capital announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for January 1, saying it it will only whip up communal passions.
 
Addressing the media, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said it was rather strange that Vijayan was doing what no Communist Chief Minister in the state had thought of.
 
"This 'women wall' will only help to polarize communities and compartmentalize people in the name of caste. What is even more strange is that this was decided at a meeting of representatives with dozens of Hindu social organisations where the Chief Secretary was also present. Vijayan should see that this is not a state-sponsored programme," he said.
 
Saturday's meeting was an attempt to garner support following recent protests by Hindu groups in Kerala over the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala temple post a Supreme Court verdict.
 
Vijayan sent out invites to over 150 social groups, of which around 70 took part and it was decided to use the #hashtag that the purpose of the 'women wall' would be 'not to turn Kerala into a lunatic asylum'.
 
"Vijayan should release minutes of the meeting... Reports have surfaced that while Vijayan said all have pledged support for the state government on the stand taken by them on the Sabarimala issue, some leaders who took part later said they disagreed," added Chennithala.
 
The apex court on November 13 refused to stay the September verdict, three days before the two month long Sabarimala pilgrimage season began on November 16.
 
The Left Democratic Front government led by the CPI-M has been trying to implement the apex court's verdict even as the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and several Hindu groups are up in arms against it.
 
"The talk of renaissance is not by bringing ladies to Sabarimala as there is no ban on ladies. Instead, there is restriction, which is part of tradition and the rituals associated with the Sabarimala temple. 
 
"The BJP and RSS are trying to create a terror situation in the temple town," added Chennithala.
 
Meanwhile, the Nair Service Society, which represents the Hindu Nair community and which did not attend Saturday's meeting, on Sunday said that the Vijayan government was trying to make political capital out of the Sabarimala issue.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala: JD-S leader K Krishnankutty sworn in as Minister

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Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader K. Krishnankutty was sworn in as the new Minister for Water Resources in the Kerala government on Tuesday.
 
Governor P. Sathasivam administered the oath of office and secrecy. 
 
The present state President of JD-S, Krishnankutty, 74, replaced Mathew T. Thomas who resigned on Tuesday in accordance with a decision by the national leadership of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).
 
While the Congress-led opposition boycotted the swearing in protesting against the Kerala government's tough stand on the Sabarimala issue, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his cabinet colleagues and legislators from the ruling front were present on the occasion.
 
Thomas was present at the event and so was the lone BJP legislator, O. Rajagopal.
 
Krishnankutty started his political career in the Congress and later joined the Janata Party. He is a four-time legislator and has become a Minister for the first time.
 
The JD-S is the third largest ally of the CPI-M-led government and has three legislators.
 
IANS

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NDMA conducts training programme for CBRN emergencies at Trivandrum airport

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A basic training programme aimed at enhancing the preparedness of Airport Emergency Handlers (AEHs) to respond to CBRN emergencies began at the Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. 
 
The five-day training programme is being conducted by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
 
CBRN emergencies pertain to threats emanating from the handling of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear material.
 
The training programme is being conducted in collaboration with the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences (INMAS) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), an official press release said.
 
Handling CBRN emergencies need specialised skills and efforts. In fact, even a small CBRN related event can cause panic among people at the airports. This training programme will improve the CBRN safety at airports by enabling the AEHs to handle any CBRN emergency, an official release said.
 
The programme consists of lectures as well as field training, including live demonstrations of detection and decontamination including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Besides equipping the AEHs to handle CBRN emergencies, the training programme will also enable them to provide medical first aid and initial psycho-social support.
 
Experts from stakeholder departments such as Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), INMAS, NDMA, NDRF, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) will train the participants.
 
A total of 50 participants representing various agencies responsible for operation and maintenance of the airport will be trained on various aspects of CBRN emergencies. Another 150 working level staff will be sensitized on the subject in a half-day module. A mock exercise will also be carried out during the training programme.
 
This is the eleventh in a series of such programmes being conducted at airports across the country to enable AEHs to respond suitably until the arrival of specialised response teams. Ten batches have already been trained - one each in Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Varanasi, Patna, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Raipur and Bengaluru.
 
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Kerala Water Minister Mathew Thomas quits in keeping with JD-S decision

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Kerala Minister for Water Resources Mathew T. Thomas resigned on Monday in accordance with a decision by the national leadership of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).
 
The party has decided to replace Thomas with veteran K. Krishnankutty.
 
With Thomas submitting his resignation to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan earlier in the day, he became the fourth minister to quit the Vijayan cabinet since it assumed office in 2016.
 
Thomas addressed the media outside Vijayan's residence and said there was no pre-condition to his quitting.
 
"There is no question of me moving towards the 'right'. The natural place of the Socialist is always with the Left and there is no question of me moving anywhere else," said Thomas as he was prodded about his next move.
 
The JD-S is the third largest ally of the CPI-M-led government and has three legislators Thomas, former State Minister C.K. Nanu and K. Krishnankutty.
 
JD-S national President and former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda called his three legislators to Bengaluru last week, but Thomas did not turn up and the meeting with the others took place on Friday, when the decision was taken.
 
The present impasse in the JD-S began when the Vijayan government completed its two-and-a-half years in office.
 
Even though Thomas denied that there was an agreement that he would step down after completing half the term of five years, the other faction in the party led by Krishnankutty has always claimed there was one.
 
Thomas also denied he was in the running for the post of the party president in the state unit, as Krishnankutty would be soon sworn in.
 
In the past, CPI-M's E. P. Jayarajan quit over nepotism allegations, NCP leader A. K. Saseendran quit over sleaze allegations and Thomas Chandy, who replaced him, quit over land grab allegations.
 
Earlier in 2018, both Jayarajan and Saseendran returned to the Cabinet after the court cleared them.
 
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Kerala: JD (S) minister Thomas to be replaced by Krishnankutty

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The national leadership of the Janata Dal (S) on Friday decided to replace Mathew T. Thomas, State Minister for Water Resources, with party veteran K. Krishnankutty, said a leader of the party in Bengaluru.
 
Speaking to the media in Bengaluru, party general secretary Danish Ali said he has informed the Left Democratic Front convener A. Vijayaraghavan that an official statement would be issued soon.
 
"Thomas has accepted the decision of the national leadership," said Ali.
 
The JD (S) is the third largest ally of the CPI-M-led government and has three legislators -- Thomas, former State Minister C.K. Nanu and K. Krishnankutty.
 
However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media in the state capital that he too has heard the news of this on the TV.
 
But Thomas said that he was pained by the decision of the national leadership.
 
"I always functioned in the most proper way even though I faced personal attacks. Yet I will always be with the party," said Thomas.
 
JD (S) National President and former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda had called his three legislators to Bengaluru yesterday, but Thomas did not turn up and the meeting with the others took place on Friday when the decision was taken.
 
The present impasse in the JD (S) began when the Pinarayi Vijayan government completed two-and-a-half years in office.
 
Nanu had earlier told the media in Bengaluru that the national leadership had told them there was an agreement that Thomas would relinquish the ministership in Krishnankutty's favour once the government completed the half-way mark of its five-year term.
 
Speaking to the media in Bengaluru, minister-designate Krishnankutty said all the things have been sorted out and that he will always take the help of Thomas.
 
"There are no major issues in the party and things are fine. I will seek his help when I become a minister ," said Krishnankutty.
 
IANS
 

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Centre delaying aid to flood-hit Kerala, says CM

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Centre has acted in the matter of rebuilding the state after it was hit by the worst floods this year.
 
Ever since monsoon rains began lashing Kerala on May 29, a total of 417 people have died. The flood fury that lasted till middle of August caused unprecedented destruction and forced more than one million people to take shelter in relief camps.
 
"We have sought two separate assistance, one for Rs 5,616 crore and another for a special package of Rs 5,000 crore. All what we have got so far is Rs 600 crore. And during the floods when we asked for excess rice and kerosene, we were asked to pay Rs 266 crore," said Vijayan.
 
He said agencies such as the World Bank and the UN have also made an assessment of the damage and it is put at Rs 36,000 crore.
 
"So even if we assume that the Centre gives us all what we have asked for, there would still be a shortfall of Rs 26,000 crore. We have sought Rs 2,500 crore as loan from NABARD and also from World Bank and ADB. Yet another demand from us was to increase the various Centrally sponsored schemes by 10 per cent, but even after repeated requests, nothing has happened," said Vijayan.
 
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Kerala CM meets Governor, pledges to improve amenities for Sabarimala pilgrims

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday met Governor P. Sathasivam and pledged to improve amenities for the pilgrims visiting the Sabarimala temple, as the two-month season to pay obeisance to Lord Ayyappa peaks.
 
"During the half-an-hour meeting that began at 12.30 p.m., they discussed the measures taken to address complaints regarding lack of basic amenities like drinking water, toilets and restrooms at Nilackal, Pampa and on way to Sanidhanam," according to a statement released by the Governor's office. 
 
The need to improve transport facility between Nilackal and Pampa was also discussed. The Governor also highlighted the grievance expressed by Pon Radhakrishnan, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping, said the statement.
 
The two dignitaries also discussed complaints about police action and the possibility of lifting the restrictions imposed through Section 144. 
 
"The Chief Minister has assured the Governor that all these issues will be looked into and acted upon as soon as possible," added the statement.
 
The Governor had received written petitions from Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala, Sabarimala Karma Samithy and a delegation of the Kerala Congress on Wednesday.
 
An uneasy calm prevails in the temple town as Hindu groups and devotees have been protesting against the September 28 Supreme Court order that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, ending the practice of not allowing girls and women aged 10-50.
 
The apex court on November 13 refused to stay the September verdict, three days before the temple opened this season.
 
The Left Democratic Front government led by the CPI-M has been trying to implement the apex court's verdict even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and several Hindu groups are up in arms against it.
 
On Wednesday, 72 pilgrims who were sent to jail for breaching prohibitory orders and protesting against the entry of women in the menstruating age, were released on bail.
 
A week after the Sabarimala temple opened for a two-month pilgrimage season, the number of pilgrims has touched a new low due to the protests as well as tight security.
 
According to official figures, while five lakh pilgrims visited the temple during the opening week in the last season, this time the figure is just 1.42 lakh.
 
IANS
 

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Congress MP from Kerala M. I. Shanavas passes away

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M. I. Shanavas, Congress Lok Sabha member from Wayanad in Kerala and the Working President of the party's state unit, passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Wednesday, a party leader said.
 
He was 67. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
 
"The party has lost a stalwart. I have lost a dear brother," Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said.
 
Shanavas, a two-time Member of Parliament (MP) , was ailing for sometime and was admitted at a hospital in the Tamil Nadu capital. 
 
"His body will be brought to Kochi today. It will lie in state for the public to pay their last respects and the final rites will take place tomorrow," said Chennithala.
 
A long-time close aide of former Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunakaran, Shahnavas along with Chennithala and former Kerala Speaker late G. Karthikeyan in the 1980s parted ways with Karunakaran and formed their own faction, 'the reformist'.
 
Shanavas won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad, which he retained in 2014.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues condoled the passing away of Shanavas.
 
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Kerala shutdown called by Hindu groups largely peaceful

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The dawn-to-dusk Kerala shutdown called by a few Hindu groups on Saturday was peaceful, barring a few clashes, police sources said.
 
The shutdown was called following "detention" of a few religious leaders the previous night from the Sabarimala temple premises.
 
Among the detained on Friday night was Hindu Iykavedi (HI) President and senior BJP leader K.P. Sasikala, who was proceeding towards the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
 
Following her detention, Hindu Iykavedi leaders called for a shutdown backed by the state BJP.
 
Sources said Sasikala, carrying the customary holy kit 'Irumudi Kettu' on her head, was stopped by the police near the temple and was told not to proceed further as the temple had closed at 10 p.m. But she refused.
 
She was taken into preventive custody and till Saturday afternoon she was lodged at the Ranni police station, sources said.
 
Over a thousand of her supporters cordoned off the police station and chanted Lord Ayyappa's hymns as conciliation talks progressed.
 
Shops and other businesses were forced to down their shutters by HI, BJP and Sangh Parivar activists.
 
Barring private vehicles, public transport vehicles stayed off the roads. Schools and educational institutes were closed for the day.
 
At Kozhikode the husband of a woman TV journalist, who is also the son of a top CPI-M leader, was injured in an attack allegedly by Sangh Parivar supporters.
 
In another incident, angry CPI-M and Sangh Parivar supporters clashed in a village near the state capital.
 
The intensity of the shutdown came down by late afternoon after Sasikala was given bail, and as per her demand, the police dropped her back to the temple town.
 
Kadakampally Surendran, State Devasom Minister, said it was "shameful" that a shutdown was called on an important day of the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
 
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"Generally, protestors during the festival season of the Sabarimala temple spare Pathanamthitta district (where Sabarimala is situated) from the shutdown because it causes difficulties for the pilgrims. This shutdown was called by those who are trying to create trouble in the temple town," said the CPI-M Minister.
 
State Congress president Mulapally Ramachandran alleged the CPI-M-led government had a secret deal with Sangh Parivar forces.
 
"Sasikala has a few cases involving inflammatory speeches registered against her. The police chose to arrest her at Sabarimala to glorify her. The Sangh Parivar successfully used the Ayodhya issue and is now trying to exploit the Sabarimala temple on similar lines," said Ramachandran.
 
State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai told the media in Kozhikode on Saturday that no one knew why Sasikala was detained.
 
"Things are becoming clear that the Pinarayi Vijayan government wants to destroy Sabarimala by coming out with rules that will affect the traditions of the temple," said Pillai.
 
"We are talking with leaders of other states. There will be a huge protest against this, not just here, but everywhere else," warned Pillai.
 
The Sabarimala temple opened its doors at 5 p.m. on Friday for two months.
 
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since September 28 when the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.
 
The apex court this week refused to stay its earlier verdict.
 
IANS
 

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Hindu group calls for shutdown in Kerala

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A Hindu group on Saturday called for a shutdown in Kerala following the "detention" of few religious leaders the previous night from the Sabarimala temple premises.
 
The most prominent among the detained on Friday night were Hindu Iykavedi (HI) President and senior BJP leader K.P. Sasikala. She was detained while proceeding towards the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
 
Carrying the customary holy kit 'Irumudi Kettu' on her head, Sasikala was stopped by the police near the temple. She was asked not to proceed any further as the temple had closed at 10 p.m, but Sasikala refused to do so.
 
She was taken into preventive custody and is lodged at the Ranni police station.
 
Protesting their president's detention, the Hindu Iykavedi leaders called for the shutdown backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit.
 
Shops and other businesses were forced to down their shutters by HI, BJP and Sangh Parivar activists.
 
Barring private vehicles, all other public transport vehicles stayed off the roads.
 
Schools and educational institutions are closed for the day.
 
State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai told the media in Kozhikode on Saturday that no one knew the reason why Sasikala was detained.
 
"Things were now becoming very clear that the Pinarayi Vijayan government here wants to destroy Sabarimala by coming out with rules that will affect the traditions of the temple. Vijayan is using the arrogance associated with power to achieve their mission and this will be strongly resisted. 
 
"We are talking with leaders of other states and there will be a huge protest against this, not just here, but everywhere else," said Pillai.
 
The Sabarimala temple opened its doors at 5 p.m. yesterday for two months.
 
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.
 
The apex court this week refused to stay its earlier verdict.
 
IANS
 

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All-party meet fails to end Sabarimala deadlock

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An all-party meeting called by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday ahead of the Sabarimala pilgrimage season starting on Friday failed to end the temple row, with the Congress-led UDF and the BJP walking out.
 
After the meeting, Vijayan met representatives of the Pandalam royal family, the Sabarimala Tantri and the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB).
 
The opposition accused Vijayan of sticking to his original stand that the government would abide by the apex court directive.
 
The all-party meeting was called soon after the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay its September 28 verdict which allowed all females, including those in the hitherto banned age group of 10-50, to pray at the temple.
 
The meeting ended after when United Democratic Front (UDF) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders announced they had to walk out as Vijayan insisted that his government had to abide by the apex court ruling.
 
Both in his opening and closing remarks, Vijayan insisted that the law of the land was above issues of faith.
 
"The state government is not at all prejudiced. The Supreme Court on two occasions has made its point very clear. Hence the state government has to abide by the verdict," said Vijayan.
 
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala told the media: "This was a golden opportunity for the Kerala government to see things in perspective as the temple opens tomorrow (Friday). But Vijayan was adamant that the temple tradition will have to be breached.
 
"We just cannot agree to anything that affects the emotion of the Sabarimala devotees. So we felt there was no point in continuing with the meeting," he said.
 
State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai the meeting was a waste of time.
 
"The meeting was just dramatics. Its script was done at the CPI-M headquarters. The attitude of the government is now clear. It is to thrash the devotees who come for the pilgrimage. We will continue with our protests," said Pillai.
 
A fresh two-month festival season at Sabarimala starts on Friday at 5 p.m. It ends on January 20.
 
Speaking to the media, Pandalam royal family member K. P. S. Varma said there was no change in their stand on the entry of women into the temple.
 
"The meeting was very cordial and the CM presented his views. We said we will have to talk about it in detail," said Varma.
 
Sabarimala Tantri Kanteraru Rajeeveru said his plea to women was: "Please do not come to the temple."
 
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra reached the temple town on Thursday morning to oversee the security arrangements. Around 5,000 police officials will be posted in and around the town.
 
According to the temple authorities, more than 800 women in the banned age group have already registered in the virtual Q online system and have taken their time for visiting the temple.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala cop accused of causing man's death kills self

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A senior Kerala Police officer, who was eluding arrest after allegedly causing a man's death a week ago, was found hanging in his home in Kollam district on  Tuesday, police said.
 
The deceased, B. Harikumar, who was the Neyattinkara Deputy Superintendent of Police, has been on the run since November 5 night when he pushed electrician Sanal Kumar, following an altercation.
 
Kumar fell on the road and was crushed by a speeding car. Harikumar was eluding arrest for the past eight days since the incident on the outskirts here.
 
Kumar's wife, Viji, who was on a day-long protest seeking justice at the spot where her husband came under the vehicle, reacted to Harikumar's suicide: "God's verdict has come" and ended her agitation.
 
Harikumar's bail plea was supposed to come up at a lower court on Wednesday. There were widespread allegations that the police was helping Harikumar to dodge arrest.
 
People questioned how could Harikumar reach his Kallambalam home while the police were trying to nab him.
 
The deceased electrician's wife had earlier demanded a CBI or court-managed probe because she feared that there would not be any justice as Harikumar's colleagues would turn the murder into a road accident.
 
Kumar's sister Sajitha said though the prime culprit was dead, but all those who tried to help Harikumar must face punishment.
 
The incident occurred at Neyattinkara when Harikumar was in civilian dress and reportedly visiting a woman friend. Kumar was trying to take out his vehicle. It was a parking row that led to Kumar's death.
 
Eye-witnesses and Kumar's kin alleged that the injured electrician was not immediately rushed to the hospital. He died as police was dropping off officers to police station instead of taking Kumar to the nearest emergency.
 
Kumar was declared brought dead.
 
 
IANS

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Widow to move Kerala HC against police officer

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With a senior Kerala Police officer charged with murder eluding arrest, the victim's widow said on Sunday that she will move the High Court on Monday seeking a CBI or a court-monitored probe into the case.
 
B. Harikumar, a Deputy Superintendent of Police at Neyattinkara on the outskirts of the state capital, has eluded arrest since November 5 night when he, after an altercation, pushed an electrician, Sanal Kumar, who fell on a road and got crushed by a speeding car.
 
The 32-year-old victim's widow, Viji, 26, told the media here that the Crime Branch was trying to turn a murder case into a road accident case.
 
"I don't have faith in the Crime Branch probe. We have been waiting for almost a week now and the officer is yet to be even arrested," she said. 
 
"So tomorrow (Monday) we are filing a petition before the Kerala High Court seeking either a CBI probe or a court monitored probe."
 
The incident occurred at Neyattinkara when Harikumar was in civilian dress and reportedly visiting a woman friend. Sanal Kumar was trying to take out his parked vehicle, leading to a row with the police officer.
 
Harikumar and his aide escaped from the spot and since then has been on the run. He has been suspended from the police force.
 
What has caused widespread anger is that the police took a badly injured Sanal Kumar to the hospital only after dropping off a police officer at his station.
 
With valuable time lost, Sanal Kumar died even as he was being taken to the Medical College Hospital.
 
IANS

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Kerala: CPI-M Minister's wife quits post after allegations

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The wife of a CPI-M Minister in Kerala on Sunday quit her post in the University of Kerala following criticism that her husband played a role in getting her the job.
 
Jubilee Navaprabha, wife of Public Works Minister G. Sudhakaran, told the media that a section in Kerala University was out to malign her husband after she applied and got selected for the post.
 
"I retired as Vice Principal of SD College at Alappuzha. I saw the (University) advertisement and applied. Then our detractors said the post was tailor-made for me," she said. 
 
"My husband has a very clean track record and we have been together for the past 36 years. After hearing all the allegations, I decided to dump this job in the dustbin. I am quitting. For us, it is not the job that matters but my husband's credibility," said Navaprabha.
 
After her retirement as Vice-Principal, she was appointed the Director at the Directorate of Management Technology and Education that oversees the functioning of autonomous colleges under Kerala University.
 
Earlier, Industries Minister E. P. Jayarajan had to quit in 2016 following reports that he had appointed his relatives in state-run organisations. Early this year, he was reinstated after the court gave him a clean chit.
 
IANS

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Sabarimala protesters target women, police book 200

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Sabarimala protesters on Tuesday raged, intimidated and sent back at least one woman from the hitherto banned age group of 10-50 years as they refused to allow them to break the tradition. Police registered cases against 200 protesters.
 
The Kerala unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the way the pilgrims had to go without water and other basic facilities.
 
After the Lord Ayyappa temple opened on Monday at 5 p.m for the special one-day session amid tight security, there were violent protests by devotees late in the night and early on Tuesday as they saw women from the banned age group approaching the shrine.
 
Two women on Tuesday were apprehended on their way through Pamba and threatened after devotees found they were without the holy kit (Irumudi Kettu).
 
Shouting Ayyappa slogans, the protesters stopped them from advancing any further. This was despite the fact that they were above 50 years, the police said.
 
It was not until their leaders announced on megaphone that the protests ended. Later, the women were helped to complete their darshan and perform puja at the hilltop temple.
 
Speaking to the media, senior RSS activist Valsan Thillenkeri from Kannur who was seen speaking on the megaphone standing near the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, said he came here as a pilgrim.
 
"When I went up 18 steps to the temple and prayed, I heard a noise and saw a commotion. Someone handed me a megaphone and I appealed to all not to create any trouble as no tradition of the temple would be broken," said Thillenkeri at the temple town.
 
The first protests were witnessed late on Monday, when a 30-year-old woman along with her husband and children was stopped. Following the violent outbursts, the woman retreated.
 
She was sent back home along with her family early on Tuesday under police security.
 
Although the Kerala Police has literally taken over Sabarimala posting a dozen women officials over 50 years of age near the shrine, there has not been any woman devotee inside the sanctum sanctorum from the hitherto banned age group despite the Pinarayi Vijayan government promising to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict.
 
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The police have registered cases against 200 people for creating trouble in the temple compound.
 
According to the available figures, close to 15,000 pilgrims had taken the pathway to the temple hilltop, compared with less than 1,000 devotees the same day last year.
 
The temple had witnessed massive protests between October 17 and 22, after it opened for the first time following the apex court's ruling allowing the girls and women between 10 and 50 to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
 
The temple town is witnessing one of its most stringent security arrangements. There were more than 2,300 police officials posted at various points up the pilgrimage path after the state took over the shrine's security on Saturday.
 
Several metal detectors have been kept at a various points and crowd combating arrangements are also in place.
 
The Kerala government has announced it would implement the apex court's ruling, pitting it against the BJP and numerous Hindu groups, which have been up in arms against the verdict.
 
State BJP president P S Sreedharan Pillai told reporters Tuesday at Pathanamtitta -- the district where the temple is located -- that they have already filed a petition at the NHRC, stating that the devotees over the past 24 hours have been suffering.
 
"The basic facilities have been denied to the pilgrims and purposely haunting the pilgrims and they are being denied even the basic things like water, toilet facilities and even food. This is not acceptable and hence have approached the NHRC," said Pillai.
 
Seven-time Independent legislator P. C. George, whose Poonjar constituency includes part of the temple town, said he fails to understand what has happened to the Chief Minister.
 
"I have been supporting him all through, but he has goofed up on the Sabarimala issue very badly and has hurt the devotees very badly just because of his adamant stance," said George.
 
Vijayan, however, said that things are under control in and around the temple town.
 
"Some vested interests are trying to scuttle peace and tranquillity in the temple town, but the police have been doing their job and everything is fine," Vijayan told the media on Tuesday.
 
IANS
 

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India drub West Indies by nine wickets, clinch series 3-1

India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates fall of Marlon Samuels' wicket during the fifth and final ODI match between India and West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 1, 2018. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates fall of Marlon Samuels' wicket during the fifth and final ODI match between India and West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 1, 2018. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
India thrashed the West Indies by nine wickets in the fifth and final One-Day International to clinch the series 3-1 here on Thursday.
 
India had won the first and fourth matches. The second match ended in an exciting draw while the visitors outplayed India in the third ODI to claim their first and only victory of the tour.
 
India played brilliantly in this match as both bowlers and batsmen did their job.
 
First the bowlers restricted the visitors to a paltry 104 and then the top-order batsmen played handsomely to wrap up the issue in just 15 overs.
 
Chasing 105, India lost Shikhar Dhawan (6) in the second over. Pacer Oshane Thomas clean bowled the Delhi batsman with just six runs on the board.
 
Unperturbed by the fall of Dhawan's wicket, Rohit Sharma (63 not out) and skipper Virat Kohli (33 not out) played sensibly and guided India to a comfortable victory. Rohit also completed his 37th half-century.
 
Rohit slammed five boundaries and four sixes in his 56-ball innings while Kohli played 29 balls and hammered six boundaries.
 
Earlier, a brilliant bowling effort saw India bundle out West Indies for 104.
 
The Indian bowlers were on the mark right from the start. Some good line and maximum use of the conditions at the Greenfield International Stadium combined with some poor judgement by the West Indies batsmen helped the hosts create havoc in the visitors batting line-up. 
 
Apart from skipper Jason Holder (25) and experienced all-rounder Marlon Samuels (24) no other West Indies batsmen applied themselves and went back cheaply.
 
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For India, Ravindra Jadeja picked up four wickets while Jasprit Bumrah and Khaleel Ahmed took two wickets each. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav scalped one wicket each.
 
Opting to bat first, the visitors suffered their first setback in the opening over when Bhuvneshwar Kumar produced a fine outswinger to claim his 99th ODI wicket in the form of Kieron Powell (0).
 
Jasprit Bumrah struck in the very next over when Shai Hope (16) misread the line of a delivery which came in sharply after pitching. 
 
With the scoreboard reading 2/2, all eyes were on Samuels and the in-form Shimron Hetmyer (9). But after adding 34 runs for the third wicket, Samuels, who was looking good at the crease, was caught by skipper Virat Kohli off Jadeja in the 12th over.
 
After three overs, Jadeja then picked up Hetmyer. The West Indian was adjudged leg before wicket when the scoreboard was reading 53.
 
Holder then arrived at the crease and played sensibly with Rovman Powell (16), who was also playing cautiously from the beginning. 
 
Just when things seemed good in the middle, Powell was dismissed by pacer Khaleel Ahmed.
 
With five top players back in the pavilion, lower-order players -- Fabian Allen (4) Keemo Paul (5), Kemar Roach (5) and Oshane Thomas (0)-- failed and went back one after another.
 
Holder also went in the 26th over and West Indies got bundled out for 104 in just 32 overs.
 
Brief scores: 
 
West Indies: 104 (Jason Holder 25, Marlon Samuels 24; Ravindra Jadeja 4/34) vs India: 105/1 (Rohit Sharma 63 not out, Virat Kohli 33 not out; Oshane Thomas 1/33).
 
IANS

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India thrash West Indies by nine wickets in 5th ODI, clinch series 3-1

India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates fall of Marlon Samuels' wicket during the fifth and final ODI match between India and West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 1, 2018. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates fall of Marlon Samuels' wicket during the fifth and final ODI match between India and West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 1, 2018. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
India thrashed the West Indies by nine wickets in the fifth and final One-Day International to clinch the series 3-1 here on Thursday.
 
India had won the first and fourth matches. The second match ended in an exciting draw while the visitors outplayed India in the third ODI to claim their first and only victory of the tour.
 
A brilliant bowling effort saw India bundle out West Indies for a paltry 104 after the visitors opted to bat first.
 
The Indian bowlers were on the mark right from the start. Some good line and maximum use of the conditions at the Greenfield International Stadium combined with some poor judgement by the West Indies batsmen helped the hosts create havoc in the visitors batting line-up. 
 
Apart from skipper Jason Holder (25) and experienced all-rounder Marlon Samuels (24) no other West Indies batsmen applied themselves and went back cheaply.
 
For India, Ravindra Jadeja picked up four wickets while Jasprit Bumrah and Khaleel Ahmed took two wickets each. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav scalped one wicket each.
 
The visitors suffered their first setback in the opening over when Bhuvneshwar Kumar produced a fine outswinger to claim his 99th ODI wicket in the form of Kieron Powell (0).
 
Jasprit Bumrah struck in the very next over when Shai Hope (16) misread the line of a delivery which came in sharply after pitching. 
 
With the scoreboard reading 2/2, all eyes were on Samuels and the in-form Shimron Hetmyer (9). But after adding 34 runs for the third wicket, Samuels, who was looking good at the crease, was caught by skipper Virat Kohli off Jadeja in the 12th over.
 
After three overs, Jadeja then picked up Hetmyer. The West Indian was adjudged leg before wicket when the scoreboard was reading 53.
 
Holder then arrived at the crease and played sensibly with Rovman Powell (16), who was also playing cautiously from the beginning. 
 
Just when things seemed good in the middle, Powell was dismissed by pacer Khaleel Ahmed.
 
With five top players back in the pavilion, lower-order players -- Fabian Allen (4) Keemo Paul (5), Kemar Roach (5) and Oshane Thomas (0)-- failed and went back one after another.
 
Holder also went in the 26th over and West Indies got bundled out for 104 in just 32 overs.
 
IANS

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India bundle out West Indies for 104 in 5th ODI

India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates fall of Marlon Samuels' wicket during the fifth and final ODI match between India and West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 1, 2018. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
India's Ravindra Jadeja celebrates fall of Marlon Samuels' wicket during the fifth and final ODI match between India and West Indies in Thiruvananthapuram, on November 1, 2018. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
A brilliant bowling effort saw India bundle out West Indies for a paltry 104 in the fifth and final One Day International (ODI) here on Thursday.
 
The Indian bowlers were on the mark right from the start. Some good line and maximum use of the conditions at the Greenfield International Stadium combined with some poor judgement by the West Indies batsmen helped the hosts create havoc in the visitors batting line-up. 
 
Apart from skipper Jason Holder (25) and experienced all-rounder Marlon Samuels (24) no other West Indies batsmen applied themselves and went back cheaply.
 
For India, Ravindra Jadeja picked up four wickets while Jasprit Bumrah and Khaleel Ahmed took two wickets each. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav scalped one wicket each.
 
Opting to bat first, the visitors suffered their first setback in the opening over when Bhuvneshwar Kumar produced a fine outswinger to claim his 99th ODI wicket in the form of Kieron Powell (0).
 
Jasprit Bumrah struck in the very next over when Shai Hope (16) misread the line of a delivery which came in sharply after pitching. 
 
With the scoreboard reading 2/2, all eyes were on Samuels and the in-form Shimron Hetmyer (9). But after adding 34 runs for the third wicket, Samuels, who was looking good at the crease, was caught by skipper Virat Kohli off Jadeja in the 12th over.
 
After three overs, Jadeja then picked up Hetmyer. The West Indian was adjudged leg before wicket when the scoreboard was reading 53.
 
Holder then arrived at the crease and played sensibly with Rovman Powell (16), who was also playing cautiously from the beginning. 
 
Just when things seemed good in the middle, Powell was dismissed by pacer Khaleel Ahmed.
 
With five top players back in the pavilion, lower-order players -- Fabian Allen (4) Keemo Paul (5), Kemar Roach (5) and Oshane Thomas (0)-- failed and went back one after another.
 
Holder also went in the 26th over and West Indies got bundled out for 104 in just 32 overs.
 
Brief scores: 
 
West Indies: 104 (Jason Holder 25, Marlon Samuels 24; Ravindra Jadeja 4/34) vs India.
 
IANS

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West Indies opt to bat first in 5th ODI

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West Indies captain Jason Holder won the toss and decided to bat first in the fifth and final One-Day International (ODI) against India here on Thursday.
 
India are leading the series 2-1 thanks to their victories in the first and fourth matches. 
 
The second match ended in an exciting draw while the visitors outplayed India in the third ODI to claim their first victory of the tour.
 
West Indies made two changes to their playing XI with Devendra Bishoo replacing Ashley Nurse who has been ruled out of the rest of the tour. Chanderpaul Hemraj has been replaced by Oshane Thomas.
 
The Indians have decided to go ahead with an unchanged combination.
 
Teams: 
 
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni(w), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, K Khaleel Ahmed, Jasprit Bumrah.
 
West Indies: Kieran Powell, Shai Hope(w), Marlon Samuels, Shimron Hetmyer, Rovman Powell, Jason Holder(c), Fabian Allen, Devendra Bishoo, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas.
 
IANS

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Kerala: BJP observes protest against police high-handedness at Sabarimala

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The state BJP on Tuesday observed a state-wide protest against the manner in which devotees were allegedly "roughed up" in and around the Sabarimala temple town last week when they did not allow a woman devotee in the age group of 10-50 to enter the temple.
 
Tuesday's protest is the first in a series of protests to ensure that Sabarimala's tradition of keeping away women in the age group of 10 to 50 is kept intact.
 
Over 3,500 protesters have been arrested till now and around 100 are still in judicial custody for the strong position they took against the September 28 Supreme Court ruling that allowed all women to pray at the temple.
 
Leading the protest in the state capital, a few hundred metres from the office of the state police chief, was Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state President P. S. Sreedharan Pillai.
 
Similar protests were held by the BJP in all the 13 district headquarters of the state.
 
The temple closed after five days of monthly puja on October 22 and the strong protests of the devotees stopped 12 women who tried to go up to the temple with police security.
 
The temple will now open at 5 p.m. on November 5 and close the next day at 10 p.m. and Pillai has said that they will be out in full strength and will support the devotees' wishes when the temple opens.
 
The Kerala High Court on Tuesday failed to intervene in a petition demanding a judicial probe into the police action at the temple town last week.
 
The court said it cannot prevail upon the state government to order a judicial probe as it can only be done by the state cabinet.
 
Later, the petitioner said he is withdrawing his petition and was allowed to do so.
 
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Milan, a Class 11 student of the daughter of veteran Communist leader M.M. Lawerence, joined the BJP at the protest venue.
 
"Since Milan's mother is a government employee she cannot take part in protests, so she sent her son," Pillai told the media pointing towards the boy. 
 
Milan told the reporters that in their family no one except his grandfather (Lawerence) is a Communist.
 
"The decision to join the protest was my own decision," Milan said.
 
IANS
 

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Over 3,345 Sabarimala protesters arrested

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More than 3,345 protesters who prevented women from entering the Sabarimala temple have been arrested since since October 26 while 517 cases have been registered at various police stations across Kerala, authorities said on Sunday.
 
On Sunday morning, Sabarimala tantri family member and activist Rahul Eashwar was arrested here taking the total number of arrests 3,346. He has been taken to Kochi.
 
Eashwar was arrested after the police received a complaint stating that he had made provocative remarks over the issue at a press conference in Kochi last week.
 
Meanwhile in the last 12 hours, over 500 arrests was recorded at police stations in Pathanamthitta district -- where the Lord Ayyappa shrine is located -- as well as Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Ernakulam.
 
So far only 122 are in remand, while others have been released on bail, according to the police.
 
However, Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra has directed that no arrest should be made of those people who protested by taking part in singing hymns and prayers.
 
These arrests have been made for defying the September 28 Supreme Court order that overturned a ban on women of menstrual age (10-50 years) from entering the hilltop temple where celibate deity Lord Ayyappa is worshipped.
 
Defending the arrests, state Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Sunday told the media that this wasnormal police action when the rule of law is breached.
 
"During the previous Congress-led UDF rule, over four lakh cases were registered against our workers. Is it not natural for the police to act when rules are broken?" asked Balakrishnan.
 
On October 17, the temple opened for the five-day monthly puja. 
 
However, the protesters ensured that no women in the barred age group could enter sanctum sanctorum until October 22 when the gates closed.
 
IANS
 

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Sabarimala verdict supporter's ashram attacked in Kerala

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An ashram run by a supporter of the Supreme Court's Sabarimala verdict came under attack early on Saturday here, Kerala Police said and announced a probe by a special team.
 
While Swami Sandeepananda Giri accused the BJP-RSS combine for the attack, a Sabarimala tantri family member said the monk himself set his property ablaze to implicate the saffron brigade, who in their turn named the Left party for trying to frame them for the religious fallout. 
 
Two cars and a two-wheeler parked outside the ashram were set on fire around 2 a.m., said Giri, who was present on the premises at the time.
 
Giri has been taking a strong stand against the BJP-RSS combine in the state that has criticised the apex court's September 28 verdict opening the gates of the Lord Ayyappa shrine for all women.
 
The attack coming amidst an ongoing crackdown on protesters who prevented women between the 10-50 age group from entering the temple between October 17 and 22, saw Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan immediately by Giri's side.
 
Vijayan was accompanied by Finance Minister Thomas Issac and State Devasom Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
 
"The Sangh Parivar is trying to silence me for my position taken against them," Giri told Vijayan, fearing for his life. 
 
The Chief Minister who has taken a strong stand against any breach of the court's verdict asked Director General of Police Loknath Behra to take immediate action. 
 
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The security at the ashram has been taken up by the police, Behra said, adding that a special team headed by Trivandrum City Commissioner P. Prakash would be investigating the attack and "nothing will be left to chance".
 
Vijayan told the media at the ashram that the secular minds of Kerala were fully behind Giri. "Kerala knows the stand that the Swami has taken and is known for his secular outlook. 
 
"Those behind this attack will be taken to task and the criminals who have done this will be brought before the law," he said.
 
Rahul Eashwar, a member of the Sabarimala tantri family, who had come under attack from Giri said that it's for the police to find out who was behind the arson.
 
"If the police finds out that I am responsible, then I should be arrested and if it's found out that the Swami himself started the fire, he should be taken to task," said Eashwar.
 
Senior Congress legislator K. Muraleedharan under whose constituency the ashram is located dismissed Eashwar's statement. "I know what the Swami stands for and he will never do such a thing. This is nothing but a baseless allegation," said Muraleedharan.
 
However, state Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson A.N. Radhakrishnan told the media that it's the Communist Party of India-Marxist who has attacked the ashram.
 
"The CPI-M is behind this attack and propagating that we are behind it. We have no role in this," said Radhakrishnan.
 
IANS

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