A 55-year-old man, said to be an Ayyappa devotee, died after attempting self-immolation near the protest venue of the BJP in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram early Thursday.

The BJP has been staging a protest to demand lifting of prohibitory orders in Sabarimala.

The man, identified as Venugopalan Nair, was a native of Muttada near Thiruvananthapuram, police said.

Chanting Swamiye saranam Ayyappa, Nair set himself ablaze after pouring petrol over his body and tried to run to the makeshift tent where senior BJP leader C.K. Padmanabhan had been staging an indefinite fast demanding the lifting of prohibitory orders at the Sabarimala hill shrine, they said.

BJP activists and the police, who were present near the venue, doused the fire using drinking water and rushed Nair to the Government Medical College hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Nair suffered burn injuries all over the body, but was able to speak when they took him to the hospital, the police said.

BJP leader C.K. Padmanabhan has accused Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of being responsible for Nair’s death and said that he was “playing with fire”.

The BJP is opposing any move to allow women in the 10-50 age group to trek the holy hill for darshan at the Ayyappa temple.

The apex court has twice refused to stay its September 28 verdict, lifting the centuries-old ban on girls and women in the 10-50 age group from entering the shrine.

However, the court said a five-judge Constitution bench will hear all the 49 review petitions on January 22.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Misra had junked the age-old tradition of the Lord Ayyappa temple by a majority verdict of 4:1.

The temple which opened its doors for monthly poojas in October and November, witnessed massive protests by various devotee groups and Hindu outfits against the Pinarayi Vijayan government’s decision to implement the apex court order without going for any review petition.

Though attempts had been made by some young women, including an activist, to enter the temple of the ‘Naishtik Brahmachari’, the eternally celibate deity, the devotees backed by priests stood their ground, saying they would not allow the tradition to be breached.

(With PTI inputs)