THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An indefinite fast by the BJP over Sabarimala issue in front of the State Secretariat got a new twist, when a man set himself on fire, right in front of the tent where BJP leader CK Padmanabhan's has been on an indefinite fast, on the wee hours of Thursday.
With the 49-year-old man Venugopalan Nair, succumbing to injuries by Thursday evening, the saffron party called for a state-wide hartal, terming him an Ayyappa devotee who committed suicide over the state government's Sabarimala policies. However, the Police are of the view that Venugopalan Nair chose to end his life due to turbulent personal life.
Reports about his dying declaration also indicate that the act was due to personal reasons. However, reports have come out showing his nephew Binu has links with the RSS.
As both sides stick to their positions, the death has suddenly given fodder to the saffron party that's been locked in a pitched battle with the police and the Left government over Sabarimala stalemate.
Nair committed suicide here on Thursday in front of the tent before the Secretariat where BJP leader C K Padmanabhan's has been fasting over Sabarimala issues. Nair immolated himself around 1.30 am before the makeshift tent, where Padmanabhan has been fasting, after pouring kerosene over him. Witnesses said the man had first come to the tent and then went across the road. He spilled kerosene from a bottle he was carrying and set himself on fire.
The man then crossed the road and tried to barge into the tent, but was blocked by the policemen who were stationed to provide security to the fasting leader and the BJP workers using chairs.
Nair suffered grave burns and was shifted to the Medical College Hospital where his condition grew worse. He finally breathed his last by Thursday afternoon. The BJP leaders were quick to call a state-wide hartal in protest against the suicide. They said Nair was a staunch Ayyappa devotee who took his life for not being able to withstand the state government's activities in the hill-side shrine.
BJP state general secretary MT Ramesh said that government is ignoring all protests in the Sabarimala issue and is scoffing at the devotees. He said that a devotee has committed suicide following this attitude of the LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan and BJP is conducting the hartal on this.
The state government has been endorsing the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of young women to the shrine, while the hindutwa organisations are up in arm against the move.
However, the police counter the BJP narrative. Special Branch top officials said Nair had no political affiliation and was having a troubled personal life.
He was living with his mother and brother at his house in Muttada. Working as a plumber, Nair had married twice but the affairs did not last long as he was an alcoholic and had a history of domestic violence, said a police officer.
"He was into alcohol and drugs. His wives and children have moved out of his house and his personal life was suffering. He regularly visited Sreekandeswaram temple and after visiting he used to loiter around in the city and return home at odd times," said a top cop with the State Special Branch.
BJP's claim is anchored on the comment of Nair's nephew Binu, who police identified as a RSS worker. Binu had said that his uncle was a Sangh Parivar activist. The police thought otherwise. "His sister's son is a BJP worker and that's why he gave such a statement," a senior officer said.
The police tried to confirm this with Nair's brother with whom he was living. His brother emphatically told that Nair was not working for any political party, the officer added. Nair used to visit Sabarimala every year, but this time he chose not to go. Police suspect this decision was due to prevailing tension at the shrine and not because he was incensed over the Supreme Court's verdict on women's entry or the police action. The Magistrate has recorded his statement before death which is expected to provide the exact reason for suicide.