Protests in India after Women Enter Hindu Temple


An umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups has called for a state-wide shutdown on Thursday, amid protests at several places after entry of two women into the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds on Wednesday.

India's Supreme Court in September ordered the lifting of the ban on women or girls of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala temple, which draws millions of worshippers a year. A few policemen were injured after protesters targeted them with stones. Despite the ruling, demonstrators including Hindu priests and conservatives continued to block women of menstruating age from entering the centuries-old temple.

The temple was shut down for ritual "purification" for sometime before reopening, NDTV reported.

Opposition Congress party activists burn an effigy of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reacting to reports of two women entering the Sabarimala temple, one of the world's largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

Young women who have done online booking should also be allowed to go to the shrine and pray there, she said.

The result has been a ban on women ages 10-50 from entering the temple.

The BJP's leader in Kerala described the women's visit as "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples", vowing to "support the struggles against the destruction of faith by the Communists".

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On Tuesday, millions of women formed a human chain more than 375 miles long from Kasargod in the northern part of the state to Thiruvananthapuram, the southernmost city and the state capital, to support gender equality. According to reports, two women, Bindu and Kanakadurga, successfully completed their trek and worshipped the deity inside the temple.

The Supreme Court had refused to stay its verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the shrine, but agreed to hear in open court on January 22 a batch of review petitions in the matter.

At 12 Ayyappa revealed his divinity when he emerged from the forest riding a tigress.

After this period many devotees, wearing ritual bead necklaces, walk barefoot for dozens of kilometres including, and especially, the final steep climb. For the first time in the history the temple has been closed due to the breaking of tradition. Their entry at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991.

But efforts by women to enter the temple in recent months have been angrily rebuffed by Hindu devotees, with police having to step in to escort the women away to safety.

The incident prompted officials from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to call for protests.

Indira Jaising, a lawyer who argued against the ban before India's Supreme Court, said that Wednesday's visit marked "a historic moment".