Clashes After 2 Women Enter Sabarimala, Stun Grenades, Tear Gas Used
03 January, 2019, 04:21 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
Two women in their 40s entered the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala early on Wednesday and offered prayers at the shrine, where women of menstruating age are traditionally not allowed.
News of the visit triggered protests in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, where police fired teargas and used water cannons to disperse a large crowd of demonstrators.
The Sabarimala Temple on a hill has become the venue for clashes between Hindu traditionalists and supporters of September's court ruling which ended a longstanding ban on women aged between 10 and 50 years.
September's verdict was the latest progressive ruling from the court, with judges also overturning bans on gay sex and adultery previous year - posing a challenge to Modi's traditionalist BJP. Protests were reported in several other cities.
Earlier, the Kerala state president of the BJP described the women's visit as "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples".
Pillai said that the two women who visited the temple were not devotees but Left activists, who have helped the ruling party in implementing its agenda in Sabarimala. The group consisted of six men in addition to the two women, who had covered their faces.
"We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps, but went through the staff gate", one of the women, who both remain under police guard, later told reporters. "We walked two hours, entered the temple around 3.30 a.m. and did the darshan", the woman said, referring to a ritual of standing in front of the temple's Hindu image.
Almost three months after the Supreme Court verdict opened the gates of women of all ages at Sabarimala, two women, escorted by police officials in plain clothes, offered prayers at the temple.
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A number of Muslim women also took part in the campaign and they carried banners with messages like "neither we are impure nor second rate citizens". They argue that the court has ignored their belief that the deity Ayyappa was celibate.
In October, devotees clashed with police in a town near the temple leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.
Traders' organisations have said they will not cooperate with the shutdown and sought police protection to open their establishments.
The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on January 22.
"Of course, I support the move to allow women of all ages into the temple".
Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party spearheaded the local protests against the Supreme Court ruling in Kerala, India's only communist-led state and considered one of the most progressive in the country.
The BJP is not in power in Kerala.
Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala slammed the state government for facilitating the women's entry in Sabarimala, saying the priests were right in closing the temple for purification rituals.
India's Supreme Court ordered a lifting of the ban in September.
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